UVA Moves B-Schoolers Out of the Nest

More and more, internships are becoming the best way to a full-time job, says University of Virginia assistant dean Tom Fitch

For recruiters scouting out University of Virginia undergraduates, the motto has become "the earlier the better." Employers are extending more full-time offers to interns than ever before, which fosters a mutually beneficial relationship early on, says Tom Fitch, assistant dean for career services at the McIntire School of Commerce.

Fitch can certainly see a Virginia-related hiring trend. He started working at the university about 17 years ago in career services, and has been a part of the McIntire team for the past seven. He also earned his undergraduate and graduates degrees at Virginia (see BusinessWeek.com, 4/27/06, "McIntire: A Virtual Tour").

Tom FitchUniversity of Virginia
Fitch recently spoke with BusinessWeek.com reporter Julie Gordon. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Recruitment has shifted in that many employers are looking at students earlier in their college careers. What does that mean for student and career staff preparation?

We made an effort last year to focus much earlier on incoming third-years. Because we're a two-year school, we will get them when they first come in to start on workshops, on interviewing, résumé writing—,the basic information that they need. We'll also prepare them for their internship search earlier than we did years ago where it would have waited until spring.

Why has there been this shift?

From an employer standpoint, it makes sense to get the recruiting process done early (see BusinessWeek.com, 5/8/06, "The Draft Picks Get Younger"). By getting that commitment, by getting students interested in a specific field, it creates that relationship that will, in their hopes, carry over. It also provides great marketing for that employer when the students return to campus and talk about what a fantastic experience they may have had with XYZ company.

It really is a chance to test out a potential employee for that summer. If things work out well, they make that offer. If it may not be a good match, then the student can come back and redirect their career search appropriately.

The number of students pursuing graduate degrees has doubled this year at McIntire. Why?

Virginia just recently became a state to require 150 hours for the CPA exam (see BusinessWeek.com, 4/17/06, "The UVA Alternative").

How is that affecting recruiting?

It's going to change the timing of the employer making a commitment to a student. What we're seeing is the shift take place where some employers will hire students between their fourth and fifth year now vs. their third and fourth year.

Is accounting the most popular field students go into?

We have six concentrations—marketing, finance, accounting, IT, international business, and management. Finance is our most popular concentration.

What types of programs do you focus on career-wise?

We take a group of students to New York during the winter break for a week. These are all third-year students. We visit approximately 14 different banks. They hear about opportunities because these are the same students who are going to be interviewing with those banks in probably two or three weeks after that visit.

How many went last year?

We had 60 students in New York. For some, it's a first time in New York. They will learn what it's like to ride a subway, what it's like to get up and be in an office at nine o'clock on a snowy morning.

Who do students meet with on these trips?

We've tried to work with employers to limit the "just talking at them" to 15 or 20 minutes and then provide them a chance to interact with alumni and other professionals in the bank.

We don't hold their hands across the street, we don't make them all go together. Everyone is responsible for getting there and getting their own housing. Some will stay with friends. Some will get hotels. And they're responsible for showing up at the visits on time. We don't go as a group, and that in itself is a good learning experience to figure out how to work their way through New York.

Which companies have you worked with in the past?

JPMorgan, Barclays, Goldman Sachs (GS), Merrill Lynch (MER) (see BusinessWeek.com, 6/27/06, "Goldman: An Open Mind on Recruiting").

Are there any mentoring programs or other services that alumni provide for current students?

We have an extern program through our University Career Services Office, which may not always be with alums, but it gives students a chance to see a little bit of detail of what goes on in a typical work week. It's during a break.

We also have an advisory board that's made up of alumni, and they come back and will meet with students in an informal setting to answer their questions while they're here on grounds. And these are important alums. They're in big positions, in some cases, where they can really provide some good input. We also have young alums who will possibly relate better to our students and say, "I was just in your shoes a year ago or two years ago and this is what you should prepare for."

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