Career Services Director Q&A: Doreen Amorosa of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business
~ A CLEAR ADMIT EXCLUSIVE ~
Three years ago Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business convinced Doreen Amorosa to take over as associate dean and managing director of career services, despite the fact that she lived in New Jersey, not Washington, DC, and didn’t plan to move. Now she keeps a small apartment in DC and commutes back and forth each week, returning to spend the weekends with her husband.
Until that point, Amorosa had spent all of her career working in New York City, including the first 22 years with Merrill Lynch. In her later years at Merrill, she migrated into running recruiting and retention for the firm, discovering that was what she really loved. She went on to head recruiting for a range of other firms, including American Express, traveling to the McDonough campus in that capacity to recruit MBA students. And that’s how the school recognized her talents and eventually wooed her to its side of the fence.
As you’ll learn in the interview that follows, Amorosa has implemented a number of the practices that served her best in the corporate world within McDonough’s MBA Career Center, from flex hiring to support her staff of career advisors to a new program unveiled this summer – a job search workshop to help the partners of incoming McDonough MBA students find jobs. A Georgetown alumna (she holds a B.S. in management), she also shares how the Jesuit ideal of “men and women for others” shapes the character of the school and its alumni.
Clear Admit: How do you view your role as director of the MBA Career Center? Is it to administer workshops? Counsel students? Counsel companies? Manage the entire office and oversee its various functions? All of the above?
Doreen Amorosa: We support all of the MBA programs at Georgetown, so that means the full-time program, which has 500 students, and the evening program, which has another 360 students (three classes of 120 each). We also support the Executive MBA program, which has about 100 students, and the Global EMBA program with ESADE, with another 40 students.
My role is to oversee all of the activities we offer, both in terms of the career coaching and the career curricula we offer. The focus on the executive side is on executive branding. On the MBA side it is on both job searches and promotions. Many people in the evening MBA program, for example, are not necessarily looking to change jobs but rather to be promoted. So for those students we help them to create that promotion campaign. My personal role is centered far more around leadership of the organization than on actual coaching.
CA: Now, about your team. How many career advisors do you have? Is this a relatively constant figure? If not, how has it changed in recent years? How might it change in the near future?
DA: I’ll answer in terms of those who work with our full-time MBA students. Because really, to be honest, that’s where the majority of the work happens because these students will conduct two job searches in two years, one for an internship and another for a full-time job. I have five full-time professionals focused on both employer relations and career coaching. We have an industry model, so each of those five is an industry expert. The two most popular industries are consulting and financial services.
The career advisor for each industry has responsibility for all the employer relationships within that industry as well as for coaching students. We have a hybrid, flexible model, and our advisors also have a number of part-time coaches who support them. So there are five full-time Georgetown employees that manage relationships with employers, and they have a network of part-time coaches that they bring in they enable us to flex to meet coaching demand. I have taken a lot of the best practices from the corporate world, and this is one of them.
The financial services coach is ex-Goldman Sachs, the consulting coach is ex-Accenture, the not-for-profit coach came to us from the World Bank. We have hired people who can speak with a real authority.
Our basic program size is expected to remain the same for the foreseeable future since the flex model allows us to expand and contract coaching capability as necessary. We have had this model in place for a year now, and it is working really well for us.
CA: Can you provide prospective applicants with an overview of the recruitment process at McDonough? When does it start? How does it unfold?
DA: For both the full-time and evening program we are actually present at all of the major recruiting events that happen for the admissions team. So, for instance, when they are doing a road show in New York, a representative for my team will always be in those info sessions, talking about our process, the way our organization works, what students can expect from us. We try as soon as possible to get in front of those prospective applicants to bring awareness of what we have to offer.
As for admitted students, it starts at the very beginning – as soon as they have accepted our offer and put their deposit in. We started in June with our Career Ignition Series, which is a series of webinars that any new admitted students can attend. And we find that most of them do. The series helps them between now and the middle of July to create an accomplishments inventory – to do that introspection of “What have I done, how have I done it, what’s mattered in my past?”
We hope that they come with some view of what direction they want to go in – industry, maybe function. Then we ask them to create their McDonough School résumés. All of this has to be submitted by July 15th. That’s another best practice from the corporate world. Between when you give someone a job offer and they start employment, you have great mind share. And with students, since they haven’t started school yet, we actually find we get better mind share now than we do when they hit the campus in August.
In general, we try to do as much ahead of time as we can. It gets students ready for when the companies are coming on campus, which for some industries is the first week in September. For marketing, investment banking…certain industries are very, very frontloaded with activity. The sooner students come to focus on what they want to do and have a story, the better off they are going to do once the fall hits.
Once they arrive on campus, students take a voluntary class we offer. We find that 99.99 percent do it even though it is voluntary. In it, we walk them through creating a networking strategy, understanding what technical interviewing is like, how to do a case interview. A lot have not done that before, and they will need it for marketing, consulting, even finance. So in this way we begin to get them ready for when the employers start coming to campus. For internships we are seeing companies wanting to post positions earlier and earlier – this past year it was the middle of November for interviews they did in January.
It is equally important to mention that every student is assigned a career coach based on their industry interest, as well as a peer advisor who can help them with mock interviews. We have 20 peer advisors each year, aligned with different industries. So students are not only getting the curricular side but also real-time coaching from a coaching specialist and a career advisor.
CA: How has the economy impacted recruitment at McDonough? Have you returned to pre-crisis hiring levels? How have you and your staff remained flexible or adapted in order to help students navigate a more challenging job market? Have you encouraged flexibility on the part of students themselves?
DA: Has anybody? No, but it is getting better. We have had good success. In each of the last two years, 100 percent of people looking for internships got them. Last year 89 percent got full-time jobs within three months of graduation.
We have recovered completely, but what has been interesting is how the landscape has shifted. As you might imagine, the numbers of people going into financial services is a little bit down, those going into consulting is a little but up. There is also more interest in social enterprise and the not-for-profit world. Also, entrepreneurship has been on the rise. The coach who advises students interested in entrepreneurship is an ex-entrepreneur herself. We had about 25 students this summer working within our Entrepreneurship Center – working in incubators, ultimately creating business plans.
We do encourage flexibility on the part of the students, especially our international students. We all feel very strongly that they need to be thinking about a two-pronged approach. Many want to stay in the U.S., but it is equally important that they parallel path a home-country plan. So we are broadening out their thinking in terms of different possibilities. I think by nature people have become more flexible due to the state of the economy, but we try to help them think creatively as well.
I can tell you that the industry model we have deployed is new. We also doubled the number of peer advisors to provide the right kind of support. I have tried to instill a much more disciplined approach to job search, and the curriculum has really been built out.
CA: How does your team counsel students regarding the interview? Is there a formal mock interview process? How are interview schedules administered? Is there an established policy regarding how closed and open interviews should be conducted? What facilities are available for interviews?
DA: Our facility is amazing. I encourage prospective applicants to take a look at our new building. We have been in it for about four years now, and the MBA Career Center is on the second floor, in the heart of the building. We have lots of interview rooms, including a virtual interview room, which companies have taken advantage of in a big way.
Mock interviews are almost a requirement in business school, especially for those going into consulting. They need to do many, many of them. When employers sign up to do on-campus recruiting they choose the students, so the schedules are all set before they get there. So it is closed, and it works well for us.
CA: What kind of role do alumni play in McDonough’s recruiting process? How integral are they to your office’s success? Is alumni participation a major part of students’ career searches.
DA: Georgetown alumni as a whole are integral to the process. The global reach of the Georgetown brand is huge for us. There are many, many alumni around the world. I am one of them – I’m a graduate of the undergrad program. Part of the ethos of Georgetown as a Jesuit university is men and women for others. Giving back to your colleagues is just a part of who we are. So alumni are very active in working with the organizations we do business with.
CA: Do you have any advice for prospective applicants in terms of what they might do in advance of the MBA program to be better prepared for the job search process? In your experience, do you find that students who have done x, y or z before arriving on campus have a more successful experience with career services and the job search as a whole?
DA: The clearer that applicants are with their stories in terms of where they want to go with their career – whatever their story might be – the better. And there should be some relationship with that plan to their past.
I play a unique role in our application process. All of the candidates that are recommended for admission – I read their files. What I look at is the résumés they have provided and the paragraphs they write that say what they are going to do with their MBAs on a short-term and long-term basis. As a former recruiter, if I can diagnose something in their path that connects them to those future goals, then I give a thumbs up.
For somebody who is a double switcher – so looking to change both industry and function – and there is nothing on their résumé that describes a passion for the path they want to take forward, then it is going to be very difficult for them from a placement perspective. If you want to be a double switcher, you need to credibly demonstrate how and why you want to go in that direction. That’s the best advice I can offer.
CA: Is there anything else you’d like to share about McDonough’s MBA Career Center?
DA: One thing I really do want to mention is a brand new service we are offering this summer. We are rolling out a new program workshop for partners of new students who are coming to campus. It’s a workshop to help them with strategies for networking and job searches in the Washington, DC, area. At one point I ran the relocation group for Merrill Lynch, and there was always this “trailing spouse” question. If I am moving to a new place, how does my partner find work? Twenty-two people have already signed up, even some international spouses. Of course, for those partners we will have to give them guidance around how to volunteer.
This workshop for partners is a new service we’re offering, and I’m not sure if it has been done before by any other school. We have one career coach who has volunteered to run it. It’s an example of how we are trying to think holistically – how to lift one of the worries that might be part of the new student experience.