How Opportunity Knocks at UNC

Mindy Storrie, Career-Services Director at Kenan-Flagler, advises MBAs to use creative ways to get recruiters to hire them

Mindy Storrie is the director of MBA Career Services at the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School (No. 16 on BusinessWeek's 2004 list of top business schools) in Chapel Hill, N.C. Storrie began her career at General Electric in Cincinnati in 1986 and has more than 15 years of management experience in manufacturing and retail. Before directing UNC career services, she was a human-resource manager for a startup manufacturing division of GE Aircraft Engines. Storrie recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Francesca DiMeglio. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: How did 2004 graduates fare?


At graduation, 68% of the Class of 2004 had at least one job offer, and that rose to 86% three months later, which was a 15% improvement from the previous year. Currently, about 90% of graduates have had one or more job offers.

Q: What was the average starting salary for graduates? Is there room for negotiation?


This year the average starting base salary was $78,751. I did a negotiation workshop just before this interview, so I'd say there is room. About 26% of the Class of 2004 reported that they tried to negotiate a change in their base pay. Of that 26%, two-thirds were successful.

Q: What advice did you offer MBAs during the economic downturn?


Students had to realize it was a buyer's market. You had to make sure that someone who was going to pull your résumé out of a stack of 50 would notice it. You might have even had to write a cover letter convincing someone to create a position. Nothing could be taken for granted. It's still that way, to a degree, now.

Q: What's your philosophy on building a career?


You should be looking at the type of opportunities that interest you, always assessing where your skill level is today and what experiences you still need to get the job you want. You should address that before someone points it out to you. MBAs always have to create their own challenges even if the organization isn't creating them.

Q: How can a student make an opportunity for himself?


Anytime you can identify an opportunity to get exposure to another department, another product, another team, you'll take something away from that experience. Colleagues will see your many talents, and it might open up your eyes to other opportunities.

Q: What are the unique services you offer MBAs?


We provide company-specific interview feedback to our students. At the end of an interview day, recruiters turn in surveys with responses to questions such as, "what skills does your company deem most valuable for this position?" or "what characteristics differentiate the candidates you will recommend for second round?" That information is available to students on the school intranet.

About 40 trained second-year peer counselors provide one-on-one résumé reviews to first-year students with similar career aspirations. Someone from the career-services staff also critiques first-year résumés before we create the résumé book that we distribute to recruiters.

Q: What's your No. 1 piece of advice about résumé writing?


If potential employers don't see the results you've produced for others, you're not going to get an interview. Use action words -- you increased something 15%, or you reduced the cycle time 20%, for example. Then use the interview to discuss the actions that you took to reach these solutions.

Q: What kind of recruiters does UNC attract?


For full-time accepted offers, the financial services/investment-banking industry went from representing 23% of my class in 2003 to 32% a year later. More consulting and investment-banking firms are back on campus this fall.

The challenge for me is staying ahead of students' interests. You can't predict who next year's class will want to see on campus. This year [we saw] a new career club, Sports and Entertainment, and that field hasn't been of interest in the past. Now we have to find different resources to connect with people working in those businesses.

Q: Do recruiters have any say in the curriculum?


We have an advisory board for each of our concentrations. At the end of this month, there will be a marketing advisory board meeting and business practitioners will give feedback to faculty, the MBA director, a couple of us from career services, and a few student leaders. They might offer suggestions on things such as the skills MBAs will need in the future.

Q: Are there any perks for recruiters who visit UNC's campus?


They would like UNC basketball tickets, of which I don't have any. And parking is easy here, so I can't say that we offer any particular perks. When it comes down to it, recruiters just really want our staff to know the students well enough to make informed matches.

Q: Have current students turned to alumni more since the downturn?


We created an entire database where alumni go to volunteer for very specific career-related services. They might sign up to review a résumé, do a mock interview, or talk about internship opportunities at their company. They can also include their preferred mode of communication and contact information. For current students, it's the difference between a warm and cold lead.

Q: What kind of career services do you offer alumni?


We have a full-time director of alumni career services. One-on-one counseling, workshops locally and around the country, an extensive Web site, and job postings are available.

Q: What are your predictions for the future?


I'm hopeful that things will improve throughout this recruiting season, and I have every reason to believe they will.

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