Welcome to MCEEA’s Faces on Campus campaign!
Over the next year – we will be highlighting the career educators and employers who make up our great organization. Each week we will pay tribute to the individuals who devote their lives to helping students take that key first step into their professional career and the employers who welcome and develop them into the professionals they will become.
We hope you enjoy the insights, stories, and laughs of the people of MCEEA.
This week brings us to the University of Michigan – Dearborn (https://umdearborn.edu/) a public university in Dearborn, Michigan. It is one of the two regional campuses of the University of Michigan. UM-Dearborn offers over 100 academic majors and minors, 43 masters degree programs, and 6 doctoral degree/specialist programs.
Our interviewee is Rita Agius - Internship Program Manager. Rita has been in this role for about three and a half years.
Joe Bamberger - For those who might not be aware, walk us through what you do.
Rita Agius - I currently serve as the Internship Program Manager for the College of Business (Internship and Career Management Center) . In this role, I have the pleasure of working with our College of Business students, faculty and hundreds of employer partners in the direct outcome of preparing our students for the workforce. In regards to our students, we provide a variety of resources and services that assist them in preparing for their future career. For example, we assist with resume reviews, creating a LinkedIn Profile, conducting Mock Interviews, guidance and education regarding “Informational Interviews”, offer career development workshops and bringing employers on campus to educate students about their company and to recruit for specific business positions. In addition, we work hard to improve their soft skills as well as making them aware of what is needed in terms of hard skills in their chosen future career. Our focus is to help our current students as well as our alumni in career preparation and development. A large part of my position is meeting with corporations that offer business internships/placement. As we maintain a close relationship with our current employer partners we are always increasing our partnerships to better serve our students. When working with our employer partners, it is essential for me to see what is needed for specific careers and learning what the new trends are. By having a close connection with employers, it allows me to better prepare our students in landing an opportunity.
JB - Do you have a favorite part of your job?
RA - There are so many aspects of my job that I love...to me I have to be honest, I don’t even see my role as a job but as a passion. Therefore, I enjoy it all but if I had to narrow it down...My favorite part of the job is when a student applies for an internship that they actually receive, and then it turns into employment. That is a gratifying experience . Moreover, witnessing that a large percentage of our students are working in their field of study right after graduation is another great aspect of my job. Witnessing these types of results shows that at UMD - we're doing our part and we have properly prepared our students in doing theirs.
JB - If I'm an employer that doesn't have a relationship with U of M Dearborn, what's the sales pitch? Why should I recruit your students?
RA - UMD students are in the real-world setting already. Since they attend a commuter campus - they are used to hard work, multitasking, and managing their time. They illustrate solid time-management skills because they handle more than just academics. They manage to work a job (many times along with an actual internship in their field of study), participate in a student organization, maintain outside responsibilities and their academics while staying “balanced”. They understand that in the real-world, it is more than just having time to do one thing because they are already handling multiple things. To be successful you must know how to wear many hats. Since we live in a fast-paced society, an employer can witness their solid academics while they manage a busy lifestyle. Our students require less training time because as most employers have communicated, “UMD students can hit the ground running”, which makes their training process a smooth transition. Furthermore, a comment that is often heard from our current employer partners is that although they work with other universities they tell us, "some colleges cater to students that only study and don’t work much... where they have astonishing grades to show...however, that is not solely impressive because you can have the grades … but we want to see people who can actually manage their life and have a strong work ethic.. because when they come to us, that's what they really have to do”. Therefore, having a relationship with UMD allows you to get to know real people that can manage the real world. Go Blue!
JB - When you look at your population of students, whether it's generational, or what have you, is there something you think they struggle with the most when it comes to career readiness or job searching?
RA - I would just say communication and the art of patience because this generation is used to technology - where they are not used to taking time to think things through. They're used to a quick text or an instant Google search. By communicating with many employers, I can see that one of their frustrations with the younger generation is the lack of detail when they communicate. They miss important details and that is how mistakes happen on the job. They are too impatient to take the time to review assigned projects. . They're very brief in their responses….Sometimes they'll finish the project too quickly and miss an important aspect of a report/project because they didn't ask all the proper questions, or they didn't take time to actually communicate at all. They want quick answers, quick responses, and then they run with it without asking for further explanation. In conclusion, I think that in terms of career readiness - communication and patience has been a struggle.
JB - Do you have a particularly favorite event on campus?
RA - Yes, it is our “ Employer RecognitionBreakfast”. This is an annual event that is hosted by the College of Business and the Internship and Career Management Center. It is to honor and thank our employer partners for their contribution to our students in the area of career development. These employers participate in many activities at our campus; here are just a few examples; Career Fairs, Information Sessions, Mock Interviews, Employer Panels, Specialized Career Fairs, Professional Development workshops, Internships and Employment. At this particular event, we have an award that goes to the “Employer of the Year”. The award is based on who has contributed at an astonishing level to the success of our student’s growth in career development. In conclusion, this is my favorite event because we get to properly acknowledge employers who are truly vested in our students.
JB - Do you have a particular major on campus you struggle with the most at finding career opportunities?
RA - Our current job market is changing rapidly, where virtual employment opportunities are on the rise and here to stay. This allows job seekers to apply for positions not only in the United States but globally - while staying in the comfort of your own home. Therefore, there is not one particular major that we struggle with; however, the job seeker has to be flexible in their search.
JB - Do you have a least favorite part of your job?
RA - I don’t have a least favorite part of my job, but sometimes it can give me a good challenge; for example, if we have too many employers and not enough student applicants, or we have too many students seeking internship or placement and not enough employers on our specialized job board system. This is something that is expected in the workforce - the peaks and valleys so to speak. However, even though it can be challenging, this is where you learn to become more creative and either increase your marketing tactics and or your networking skills.
JB - If a student was considering a career path like yours, working in a Career Services Office, what sort of advice would you give them?
RA - That you need to be a people person. You need to have compassion and appreciation for a diverse student population. It is essential to understand that people come from different backgrounds and each person will have different needs. Each student learns differently - it is our job to be an active listener and to provide what resources will best serve each and every student. In addition, it is important to stay in close contact with your students - communication is key. It is important to be there for support, knowledge, and trust. Students should be given one-on-one and group support from their Career Professional and or department. In this position, success is measured by watching your students succeed in their chosen career path.
JB - Is there a particular major or department within the school you find is the most sought-after group of students?
RA - Yes, we are known historically for students seeking to attend UMD for the areas of Accounting and Finance. We have a strong and well-known reputation within the most sought after firms and corporations. With that mentioned, each firm and corporation recruit at UMD on several occasions throughout the year.
JB - Let's shift gears a little bit. How long have you been with MCEEA?
RA - It's been probably 16 years on and off because I worked at different colleges and universities. At the University of Michigan - Dearborn, usually, my director, Ms. There Wheeler is the one who works mostly with the MCEEA. I mainly participate in group webinars and workshops.. My director has attended some of the main conferences. We as a team appreciate all of the effort MCEEA puts into their Career Development research as well as bringing employers and universities together. Moreover, since they are a nonprofit organization - we truly appreciate all of your dedication and hard work.
JB - If the organization had unlimited time and money, what additional programming or benefits do you think you or the university would hope to add?
RA - I would say more on diversity and inclusion. Having educational workshops that educate students, and staff about different cultures, religions, gender equality, races and how to work appreciate our differences and learn the richness in each area….I think that's something we need more of across the board at all colleges and universities: appreciating and respecting one another's differences makes our world a better place.
JB - Let's switch back to the employer side. Whether it's at U of M Dearborn or any previous institution you've been a part of, what's the coolest or craziest thing you've seen an employer do to attempt to engage students?
RA - Bringing them to concerts paid and full. Enticing them with free lunches, free pops and snacks on a daily basis...and a monthly gas stipend.. if they land a job or internship at their company. I have seen it all.
JB - From a negative aspect? What do you find that students hate the most that employers do?
RA - If an employer does not have time to meet with them immediately - they tend to get disappointed and frustrated. Since students are used to everything being so face-paced due to technology - they tend to forget that employers are humans and cannot stop a meeting or a project at the moment that they may need. I tell students to not get disappointed and to not take it personally. However, I do tell them to properly give an employer a realistic time block and invite them to meet. Once students start to use this model of patience/communication - their disappointment usually dwindles and they learn how to communicate effectively.
JB - Anything we haven't talked about yet that you're hoping to highlight, mention or shamelessly plug?
RA - I think student interns and job seekers in general, have to get used to the new norm. The nice thing about the new norm is, you can work at maybe some of your favorite companies, in Colorado, Las Vegas, because many companies are offering permanent remote positions. Now that employers can save money by not occupying office space, they're more open to paying a little more than usual since you're using your own electricity, cell phone, internet, etc... The caveat to that is, will you get taxed double meaning, I work in Michigan, I'm getting taxed here in Michigan, and am I going to get taxed in the state for which I work? Some states will be giving their out-of-state employees a tax credit. The benefit to this new norm is there are lots of opportunities available so you can basically work anywhere. With opportunity, the doors are knocking, the new norm is here and it's saving people (where they have a work, life balance) and companies money. It has been proved more than ever most recently that to be a successful business you don’t have to own a brick and mortar building. On that note, I would like to share a blog from Kevin O'Leary that I found quite interesting... he mentioned how his management team was sending him around the world constantly for meetings and events. He was on a plane every day. Now they're actually telling him they can receive the same results with him doing a great deal of his work virtually. They don't have to spend that much money on him anymore. They can just have him zoom instead of going on a plane to attend an hour conference and pay for lodging, food and entertainment. . In conclusion, the new norm has shown us that you can be just as effective working from home.
JB - When you look at the new norm as it relates to college campuses, do you see there being more virtual career fairs, fewer face-to-face presentations? What changes do you see happening as we go into the next school year?
RA - I think it's going to either remain virtual or hybrid. I don't know for sure, but I don't believe we're going to be 100% in person anymore for huge gatherings or at least for some time. I think we're going to have more virtual or hybrid settings where large gatherings will be kept to a minimum. However, there is no definite answer. Right now, it's really up in the air - we will have to see how COVID affects our future events.
JB - From a student perspective, do you think they like meeting companies virtually? Or do you think they'd still prefer face-to-face interaction to build a relationship?
RA - I think they have adjusted, to be honest with you. I think that sometimes they miss the face-to-face contact, but they understand that they can get more done and be more productive at home because it saves them time. They are learning how to embrace a work-life balance, being at home, and still having the same connection, it's just virtual. I think they're actually adapting pretty well.
JB - Any other final thoughts?
RA - I just want to continue our partnership with MCEEA. They're doing great things. We value them. They have helped us out for so many years, and we look forward to working with them for many years to come.
Faces on Campus is a weekly interview series highlighting members of MCEEA conducted by Joe Bamberger of Emerge Consulting. Be sure to follow MCEEA on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and MCEEA.org
Connect with Rita on LinkedIn