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Career Services Director Q&A: Yale School of Management’s Julia Zupko

Julia Zupko joined Yale School of Management (SOM) as assistant dean and director of the Career Development Office in March 2012, bringing with her more than a decade of career services expertise honed at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. At Chicago Booth, Zupko helped expand career services into several sectors, including nonprofit and government work, and directed career management operations at Booth’s campuses in London and Singapore.

In her first full year at Yale SOM, Zupko restructured the organization of the Career Development Office in an effort to improve efficiency and strengthen recruitment. Under her helm, the school’s annual SuperWeek in January drew a record 11 investment banks to campus. The overall number of companies coming to recruit Yale SOM students throughout the year also increased.

Read on to learn from Zupko herself about how Yale SOM teaches “career skills for life,” how her team helps students steer clear of the “herd effect” and more. 

Clear Admit: How do you view your role as director of the MBA Career Development Office? Is it to administer workshops? Counsel students? Counsel companies? Manage the entire office and oversee its various functions? All of the above?

Julia Zupko: At Yale SOM we teach career skills for life. My role is to oversee career development programming and office functions and to develop strong relationships with employers to aid students in securing their first post-MBA position.

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?

JZ: We have 15 team members in the Career Development Office, and approximately 75 percent of these individuals have employer-facing responsibilities. This figure grew by three in the last year. As our full-time MBA, executive MBA and MAM program grow, we’ll continue to evaluate the needs.

CA: Can you provide prospective applicants with an overview of the recruitment process at Yale SOM? When does it start? How does it unfold?

JZ: Students hit the ground running in the fall within their first year of the full-time MBA program – they have about six weeks to begin to narrow their focus and develop Plans A, B and C before interacting with employers. At that point networking begins with informational interviews, coffee chats, presentations and other company-sponsored events. Interviews take place throughout the winter and spring.

CA: How has the economy impacted recruitment at Yale SOM? 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?

JZ: Yale SOM weathers shifts in the economy well because students pursue their passions and we don’t see a “herd effect.” Since we teach career skills for life, understanding fluctuations in the economy and the related effects on your risk level and job search strategy are incorporated into our programming.

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?

JZ: Attaining an interview is often the result of a student conducting successful research, informational interviews, networking and correspondence. We teach an interview program and work with our second-year career coaches on a robust mock interview program. Our office conducts numerous mock interviews with students throughout the year. All on-campus interview activity is by firm invitation only.

CA: What kind of role do alumni play in Yale SOM’s recruiting process? How integral are they to your office’s success? Is alumni participation a major part of students’ career searches?

JZ: Yale SOM alumni are a key component of the recruiting process. Alumni serve as champions and ambassadors of Yale SOM talent – whether they post jobs, have conversations with prospective candidates, hold formal meetings, recommend candidates and provide referrals and/or work closely with human resources to develop a strategy specifically for Yale SOM, alumni are an important part of the process.

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?

JZ: Students who have conducted self-reflection and truly understand their skills, interests and values often have a much easier time evaluating various career paths. Equally important is conducting research on various industries, functions and careers for MBAs. Understanding themselves and the market of opportunities enables first-year MBAs to spend their time efficiently and truly pursue their passions.