Running A Great Job Trek: Five Top Tips

Kathy DouglasKathy Douglas, Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
Twitter: @fescdo

\ˈtrek\: to go on a long and often difficult journey

I had the opportunity last semester to lead a regional job trek to the California Bay Area—home to the second largest group of alumni (approx. 250) from our professional school, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, with roughly 360 master’s students (and approximately 4,700 living alumni).

I was a little hesitant at first, thinking that the trek would be more effort than I wanted to expend in the beginning of the new year—potentially a “long and difficult journey.”

Ten students, one alumnus (picked up along the way), and one student from our management school (they were in the Bay area on a much larger annual trek) visited six employers over a two-day period. Visits included working sessions, a lunch meeting, tours, afternoon coffee breaks, and an informal networking happy hour. Employers ranged from a private sector tech company with close to 20,000 employees to an international eco-friendly body products startup with a full-time staff of three.

At the end of the day, the event was a tremendous opportunity for the students who attended. They were able to get a broad view of the environmental careers space in the area in a structured, yet informal way, met more than 50 alumni and employers, and networked with fellow trekkers from our business school.

Thanks to our trekkers and follow-up from our career development team, the event resulted in several very positive outcomes:

  • Several internships that resulted directly from trek contacts (non-trek students are benefiting, too).
  • New employer relationships.
  • Several full-time position postings.
  • Alumni connection made between our school and a peer school for joint networking.
  • Solid first-hand knowledge of the environmental careers landscape in the region.
  • Trekkers benefited personally and professionally, contributed by acting as ambassadors representing the school, and paved the way for their peers.

Five Top Tips for Job Treks

The process for hosting or supporting treks will vary by population, but these are some of the top tips I have to offer based on my recent experience:

1. Manage Expectations

  • During the initial interest meeting, printed guidelines were distributed, explaining what a job trek was and what it wasn’t. It was made clear from the beginning that the trek depended on student leadership and that students were required to provide their own funding.

2. Clarify Roles

  • Some clarification on student roles from the guide: “Student organizer(s) have responsibility for gauging student interest and garnering commitments, coordinating with potential employer hosts, reaching out to alumni in the area, and all other logistics.” On the Career Development Office’s role: “CDO is willing to help with employer outreach as needed. We can also provide sample communications, information on best practices, a finalized schedule, and a checklist for participants.”

3. Empower and Guide Student Leadership

  • My goal was for students to take ownership of the trek. All of the participants volunteered or were encouraged by peers to conduct outreach, finalize scheduling, create a resume book for distribution, and organize an alumni networking event. My role was to advise, suggest contacts, provide sample outreach documents, and assist with outreach as needed—in short, to promote shared leadership and provide structure, tools, and encouragement.

4. Provide Selected Administrative Support

  • After students had created their top list of employers, reached out to contacts, and  set up visits and a schedule, I pulled together the schedule and contact information and added strategically timed breakfast meetings to both days—an hour and a half before the first visit. This really helped ensure that everyone was on time for the trek, and was a great opportunity to share information and strategize about the day.

5. Be Open To Employer Preferences

  • One of our employers wanted to arrange lunch and a meeting with the larger team. Another distributed some materials in advance of the trek and gave students an assignment. One employer invited our alumna who works in their Brooklyn office to participate via Skype. By being open to employer preferences, we were able to create a dynamic experience that provided great information, excellent contacts, a high level of good will, and ultimately, several concrete job and internship opportunities.

Helping Students Make Employer Connections

Irene Hillman

Irene Hillman, Manager of Career Development, College of Business, Decosimo Success Center, The University of Tennessee Chattanooga
Career Services Programs that Engage Employers
College career fairs can feel like a blur. Hundreds of college students, many of them prepared—but just as many of them unprepared, shuffle in and wander from table to table giving employers their pitches. Employers return the favor and point these young professionals to their websites to apply for positions. It’s a way to build visibility on both sides—company and candidate—but creating a meaningful connection simply isn’t in the cards.

So, how can colleges support the authentic engagement needed for both their students to build relationships that will help them launch careers and their employers to gain in-depth access to a targeted and valuable candidate group? Here are some methods being used by the College of Business at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga that might provide some inspiration!

Show Students Where They Might Work

The Company Tour Program was developed specifically for entering freshmen to help tie them into both the UTC and business community very early in their college careers. The college develops a schedule of bi-weekly tours for approximately 20 students (lasting one to two hours) into the facilities of the area’s top employers and these students gain access to companies to learn more about the area’s economy, explore potential employers, and network with Chattanooga’s business community in a very familiar and engaging fashion. This encourages students to think about how their degrees can be leveraged and their academic learning can be applied following graduation, motivating them to be better students who are engaged in networking within professional circles of the city.

Connect Students and Employers Over Lunch

Through Bridge Luncheons, the College of Business invites businesses seeking a way to connect with current students, pending graduates, or alumni to sponsor a business meal. This series brings business students and local or regional organizations together in an intimate setting over a served lunch where candid and interactive dialogue can occur. Typically this is used by companies as a recruiting venue for open positions. Such events are an effective means for companies to spend quality time with multiple candidates at once and serves, in many cases, as a first and simple step in the vetting process. The luncheon is also an ideal place for students to to practice business meal etiquette. Bridge Luncheons are by invitation only based on the criteria set by the sponsoring companies. Students receive e-mails requesting an RSVP if they care to attend.

Jennifer Johnson, a UTC Accounting student (Class of 2015), says, “The luncheons have given me an opportunity to connect with local businesses and to build relationships with their owners and employees before joining the work force.”

She adds, “I am very thankful that UTC has provided me with the opportunity to participate in these luncheons because they have helped ease my apprehension interacting with potential employers and colleagues.”

As an additional perk, colleges can consider such luncheons a minor revenue stream since a reasonable flat rate can be charged to companies and remaining funds (after catering and room costs are covered) would be retained to support other career services activities and events.

Pair Students With a Mentor

The Business Mentor Program is available to sophomore, junior, senior, and graduate students. Experienced professionals are paired with students in a mentoring relationship based on common professional interests, guiding students toward career success. Employers are encouraged to nominate a seasoned professional to the Business Mentor Program.

The program provides a great opportunity for professionals to counsel and influence the next generation of business leaders and increase the work force readiness of future recruits. Undergraduates may even engage in the program for academic credit (one credit). The course integrates academic learning with business world application and experiences. Students meet in class for one month to prepare for the mentoring relationship and then pair with mentors for the remaining semester period.

Practices Makes Networking Easy

The semiannual Resume Week and Mock Interview Week events are another way to help recruiters and students engage in effective networking and develop significant dialogue.

During Resume Week, the college seeks out a few dozen professionals (hiring managers or recruiters) whose careers align with the College of Business academic programs and invites them to participate in the event. Students visit the centrally located student lounge with their resumes to give managers and recruiters a chance provide their professional opinions through a 15-minute review while networking one-on-one. Bios of the volunteers are provided to students so students can plan who they want to meet. We encourage students to dress professionally and bring a business card to make a great first impression on our visitors.

Abdul Hanan Sheikh, UTC Human Resource Management and Management student (Class of 2015), summarizes the impact that the Resume Review event has had on his career launch: “By attending this event, I received remarkable feedback, which helped me make adjustments to my resume. This event helped me get more engaged in networking effectively. It was a great opportunity for me to make connections with business professionals from around Chattanooga. Furthermore, I believe these events helped me land my first internship last fall and then my summer internship as well, and those positions gave me the experience I needed in HR to feel confident about finding a great job after graduation. So now I have a strong resume and solid experience!”

A month following Resume Week, the college holds a similarly arranged series of events for Mock Interview Week. Students walk away with invaluable advice on both developing a robust resume and interviewing successfully, but they get a chance to ask questions about launching their careers to people with realistic answers. As a result, a connection is made and networking flourishes between the student and the professionals with whom they have met.

Engaging with employers need not be an awkward or hurried venture that happens once a semester. When students are provided multiple opportunities for directed networking, relationships can unfold in an enriching manner for our students and our employers!



Career Development, the U.S. Job Search, and International Students: Lack of Understanding the U.S. Job Search (Post 2)

Ross WadeRoss Wade, assistant director of career services, Duke Engineering/Professional Master’s Programs
Personal blog:
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Twitter: @rrwade
Blogs from Ross Wade.

Greetings career professionals! I wanted to focus this post (and the next couple of posts) on common challenges I assist my international students with, and provide some strategies and ideas that you can use in your practice.  I’ve even added a couple of ideas that could be a part of your office’s employer outreach strategy.

 CHALLENGE: Lack of understanding the U.S. job search.

I see it over and over again. Students from across the globe begin their U.S. college experience thinking that the job-search process will be just like it is in their home country. Most of the time that process is something like: make great grades, study hard for the final test, and the higher your test score (and grades), the better job you get. And the employers will come to you! It is all about grades, and working toward being top of your class. There is little to no focus on networking or getting hands-on experience (though many of my Chinese students acquire a one month “internship,” which is more like an observational externship experience). Many international students have no idea about the U.S. job search, and that it is focused more on professional experience and relationships than grades.

Sharing this, and having students understand this, is your first and most difficult step. Some students will feel uncomfortable approaching or cold calling professionals to connect, thinking that it is rude or disrespectful; aligning these students with others from their home country that have successfully found careers in the United States normalizes networking…and they can get the scoop on the step-by-step of networking and how their peer or “senior” successfully did this without feeling like they were being disrespectful.


  • Create a book club or U.S. job-search working/accountability group for international students that meets every couple of weeks. Daniel Beaudry, has written a wonderful book about the U.S. job search for international students called “Power Ties.” He does a fantastic job of explaining the process of the U.S. job search and networking, while explaining the visa process and all of the “players” such as hiring managers, HR, etc.
  • Teach students how to connect with international alums that were able to find jobs in the United States. Most institutions have an alumni database, but did you know the LinkedIn “Find Alumni” tool is FANTASTIC for this?! I work with graduate students, and have them access the tool (LinkedIn > Network > Find Alumni), and search for alumni of their undergraduate institution (back in their home country), click on who is living in the United States, and sort by industry. Not only does this give them a list of alums they can connect with, but shows the companies and industries most likely to hire international talent. If you are working with undergraduates, have them search under popular universities in their home country (they’ll still be able to access the alums!).
  • A lot of my international students are obsessed with all the big-brand companies (e.g. Deloitte, Google, Exxon), and don’t consider smaller companies. I remind my students that pursuing a big brand company is fine, but don’t forget that a gazillion other international students will be doing the same thing. Smaller companies may have less competition and be less rigid in considering hiring international talent, and accessing hiring managers may be easier. Consider this idea which incorporates educating students and employers (here’s the employer outreach idea I mentioned earlier); do a webinar or panel with employers (that have successfully hired international talent in the past), an immigration lawyer, visa services, and international alums working in the United States to share their insights and experiences from the employer and student point of view. You could invite international students and smaller companies/employers in your area to learn more about this process (a great professional development opportunity for them, and a way to get them interested in your students).
  • Find a mentor or colleague with experience working with international students to help you. This could be someone from your school’s visa services office, international house, or counseling center. I’ve been so lucky to have incredibly smart and experienced colleagues (Carrie Hawes, Jenny Johnson, Bridget Fletcher) help me grow my skills with international students along the way – I’m so grateful to them!

In my next blog posts I’ll discuss the sponsorship process, and address all of the confusion and anxiety many international students face when networking.

What ideas do you have for helping international students better understand the U.S. job search?

Did you miss part one? Read it here, and watch for Ross Wade’s next blog in this series! Coming soon.