Naveen Jindal School of Management students packed the main ballroom of the Davidson-Gundy Alumni Center recently for an event designed to help them practice their networking skills and impress the potential employers in attendance.
Attracting more than 1,500 students and recruiters from more than 50 employers, the JSOM Undergraduate Internship Expo was one of the largest gatherings of its kind, according to Tom Kim, assistant dean and director of JSOM’s Career Management Center (CMC). The CMC presented the Sept. 5 expo to optimize networking opportunities for both students and employers and to help employers find students to fill open internship positions.
“Employers are looking at filling their full-time employment positions using their internships,” Kim said. “Nationally, somewhere between 60 and 67 percent of students doing an internship will be extended a full-time offer by that company. It makes sense because they get to ‘try before they buy.’ They get three months to see if the student shows up on time, what type of work they do and determine whether they fit the corporate culture. If a company has 10 internships and only five full-time positions to fill, they’re going to pick the five best candidates.”
At the same time, Kim said, by doing an internship, students are getting an opportunity to try the employer. They get a preview of the culture, the pay scale and even their career choice.
“It’s a sell job on both sides,” he said.
Ray Kallas, a recruiter for Atmos Energy, said that two important aspects of the company’s internship program are being able to gauge cultural fit between a student and the company and having students who have positive internship experiences become their ambassadors in the Jindal School.
“They already have the skill set, and they already have the education that we need, but we’re always looking for a good culture fit,” he said. “If you’re in an internship with us for two or three months, we already get to know who you are, and it works out great. … Not only that, but the students usually come back to the university, and they tell all the other students what a great internship they had and what a great company we are; so it helps us recruit for the future as well.”
Julia Cocco, a senior supply chain management major, said she looks for culture fit by speaking to recruiters multiple times. She attended the expo because she wanted to meet again with some recruiters she had spoken to at previous events. These repeated interactions, she said, help her form not only a first impression but also a second one.
“I like to see [those impressions] in action,” she said. She explained that seeing the same impression after multiple encounters lowers her level of trust in a company because, to her, they appear rehearsed and not a genuine display of a company’s culture.
As a student, Fuentes had learned that every internship, whether he liked it or not, gave him valuable experience in learning professionalism. Now, as a recruiter, seeing relative work experience from an internship on a résumé is “a big plus” to him whenever he interviews a candidate.
“When I was a student, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I explored everything,” he said. “I discovered things I like, and I discovered things I don’t like. Most of the people I know who graduated with me two years ago are already in a second job because they hated their first job. They didn’t know what it was going to be like.”
Adrienne Large, a sophomore marketing major, offers advice for those who want to avoid potential blind alleys such as those that Fuentes described. She said she considers intentional networking important.
“I like to come in and talk with specific people for specific reasons,” she said. “Something I’ve learned since my freshman year is how important is it to do my homework and be really prepared going into events like this. Being prepared feeds into my confidence because I know what to expect of myself. This helps me be more prepared to tackle spontaneity in conversations with recruiters whom I encounter.”
Elizabeth (Liz) Santamaria, a college recruiter for GEICO, said that the internship requirement shows her just how much UT Dallas cares about its students and advised that students “accept the love they are receiving.” She attended the expo because GEICO was already in the process of hiring interns for summer 2020. She agreed that internships are wonderful opportunities for both students and employers.
“The reason that we do internships is that they become our internal pipeline for our leadership programs,” she said. “The internships are designed for the students to have the opportunity to really understand the business, see the operations side, understand the insurance industry and see where their skills would fit. Most of them, depending on their performance, have the opportunity to leave the internship with a full-time offer.”
Several years ago, Dr. Hasan Pirkul, Caruth Chair and dean of the Jindal School had discussions with his leadership team about having undergraduates complete a 160-hour internship. They agreed that the program was of such high importance that in fall 2014 they made it a graduation requirement. They reasoned that the experience would benefit students because they would need to think about career paths and professional goals long before they graduated.
“It’s so easy to sell our students to employers,” Kim said. “The reason is because for so long now, Dean Pirkul has had a vision of having our students be professionally prepared. The professional development classes, the events and workshops that we do — all of them deal with professionalism and involve potential employers. The majority of them tell us that we have the most professional students of any university around us.”
— Jimmie R. Markham