The Globe’s monthly roundup of business school news.
Undergraduate business student Daniella Kvrgic has her sights set on a career in capital markets, possibly in New York at some point.
Last November, the third-year commerce student at the University of Toronto’s Rotman Commerce tested the feasibility of her aspirations while on a four-day class trip to meet industry professionals on Wall Street.
Rotman’s on-the-ground New York experience is one example of how business schools are adding sophisticated career supports to equip their undergraduates for a competitive job market that, increasingly, values graduates with technical knowledge and people skills. From one-on-one coaching and career skills workshops to experiential learning opportunities, schools offer a growing menu of resources available from the first day of classes, and sometimes even before students arrive on campus.
In Ms. Kyrgic’s case, she discovered that her dream of a career in capital markets sales and trading is not far-fetched.
“There are multiple ways to get to New York,” she says, reflecting on what she and her classmates heard from Canadians and others working at investment firms and other financial institutions on Wall Street. “It is not a dream and you can actually make it a viable career path if you plan correctly.”
Rotman’s “career trek” to New York – with other destinations now in the works – is among an expanding array of school coaching and other supports for undergraduates.
The school’s career centre now is a 12-person team, up from four in 2015, roughly split between career coaches for students and others who work with employers, including those who offer internships and other types of pregraduation job opportunities.
“What we recognized a couple of years ago when we expanded this team is that we have 2,700 [commerce] students and we have to be able to be on call when they need something and create different opportunities for them to learn,” says Lauren Shanahan, director of commerce career services at Rotman. Next fall, she expects her centre to be able to offer 3,000 career coaching sessions to students, almost triple the number from 2015.
The New York trip, offered for the past six years, has been revamped to enhance the student experience. This year, this school doubled the number of eligible students to 20, including Ms. Kvrgic, based on their résumés and in-person interviews by Rotman career centre staff. Two months before departure, the students participated in weekly sessions to hone their technical knowledge of the companies they would visit and practise “soft skills,” such as how to contribute to a meaningful conversation with their Wall Street hosts and sit appropriately in a boardroom.
This year, as well as finance faculty, a Rotman career coach joined the students on the trip to provide on-the-spot feedback.
“We would have a meeting in the lobby before the next site visit and she [Rotman career educator Heather Nelson] would say, ‘This is what you guys did well and this is what you could do better,’” says Ms. Kvrgic.
As someone interested in capital markets – and with a summer job in hand in the field –Ms. Kvrgic says the New York trip gave her first-hand exposure to the industry, introduced her to valuable contacts and tested her technical and interpersonal skills, essential for a successful career.
“The earlier you can learn this is what I would like to do, the more you can devote time [to the career pursuit] when you are younger,” she says.
An opportunity to focus on career preparation while still in school, she adds, “gives you an advantage to decide [if this is] a viable career plan and plan the next 10 years of your life accordingly.”
Ms. Shanahan says her centre is adding new career treks, similar in structure to the New York trip, for students to meet alumni and business leaders in Toronto’s financial and consumer products sectors. Next year, the school plans to add trips to Calgary and Vancouver, with Silicon Valley and China among potential future destinations.
This summer, she says she and her colleagues plan to offer a voluntary summer camp for incoming commerce students to practise their career-building tools, including how to tap the resources available to them at the career centre.
Coaxing students to take advantage of the career supports can be a challenge. This year, the career centre introduced peer-to-peer mentoring, with senior commerce students sharing their knowledge of available resources with their younger counterparts. As well, this fall, the centre plans to introduce new virtual and online tools for students to learn more about themselves and their potential career paths.
“Your passion might be baseball but you might not be major-league material,” says Ms. Shanahan. “But if you are good at problem-solving, you might learn that problem-solving is something you can really cultivate and foster.”
Ms. Kvrgic urges students to take full advantage of the career resources on tap.
“”You want to end up some place where you actually enjoy what you are doing,” says Ms. Kyrgic. “The career centre is a tool to help you get there.”
Student winners of real estate case competition
Top prize in the eighth annual Developers’ Den international case competition held last week in Toronto went to a student team enrolled in the master of real estate and infrastructure at York University’s Schulich School of Business, the host of the event.
The real estate competition, designed to test the analytical and case presentation skills of students, awarded first prize of $6,000 to the Schulich real estate master team, who defeated competitors from 10 schools in Canada and the United States. An MBA team from Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario placed second, followed by an MBA team from Schulich, according to a school press release.
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