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Clear Admit Career Services Director Q&A: Pamela Mittman, NYU Stern School of Business

Pamela_MittmanNext up in our Career Services Director Q&A Series is Pamela Mittman, assistant dean of career services and leadership development at NYU Stern School of Business.

An alumna of NYU Stern’s full-time MBA program, Mittman brings both a student and alumni perspective to the role. Before joining Stern as an administrator more than 10 years ago, she worked in consulting and financial services. In her current role at NYU Stern, she oversees career services and leadership development for all MBA students.

In answering our questions, Mittman helps to describe the very personalized career development process students will encounter at NYU Stern, including a special program known as IGNITE, which begins as soon as students arrive on campus. She also urges students to give careful thought to their personal brand, even when it comes to casual postings on social media pages. Check out more of what she has to say…

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

Pamela Mittman: As the leader of the Office of Career Development, I have the opportunity to spend a significant portion of my time on external relations and engagement – building and strengthening Stern’s relationships with industry leaders, corporate recruiters and alumni in a variety of industries and functions. In addition to overseeing the strategic rollout of our department’s mission, I greatly enjoy leading large sessions for MBAs with my team and, of course, some one-on-one counseling sessions with our MBAs and alumni.

My team also benefits from a close relationship with our MBA Admissions team, providing us with insight into the incoming class’s interests and expectations, to ensure we’re matching the diversified interests of our students with a diverse set of opportunities in the marketplace. We continue to maintain deep ties in traditional sectors like banking and consulting, but for more than a decade, we have been forging relationships with equally popular sectors such as technology, media, luxury retail and real estate.

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?

PM:  I oversee a group that includes seasoned career counselors, who partner with students, as well as relationship managers, who align with companies according to their industry expertise. We have one of the highest staff-to-student ratios among top business schools. Our group partners closely with students to work with them on developing a personalized career development plan, as well as with alumni and with companies. The Relationship Managers, most of whom are former recruiters, partner closely with our existing company partners, while also developing new relationships. We organize the relationships by industry in order to leverage the relevant and deep expertise of our staff, based on their prior professional backgrounds. The career counselors, with backgrounds in industry and counseling, meet one on one with each full-time MBA student throughout their time at Stern to identify and discuss their individual interests and goals. In total, our staff includes approximately 25 on-site professionals in addition to 30+ trained second-year student coaches.

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

 This generation of students is incredibly sophisticated in terms of their self-awareness. We encourage them and give them the flexibility to determine their strengths, values and interests. There is not a pack mentality. Our career development process is a very personalized one.

Even before they arrive on campus, newly admitted MBA students have access to some of the best online resources through our office. Once they arrive, students meet one on one with our career team and start our IGNITE program. IGNITE is a structured process run by our office that offers the personalized support, tools, training and development, and networking and interviewing activities to provide students with life-long job search skills to help them achieve their short- and long-term career goals. In addition to meeting with our team, students have the opportunity to hear from second-year students and alumni about their career development processes and experiences. The program consists of three phases – Assess, Prepare and Connect – and is a continuous process through which a student may go back and forth as their personal journeys require. Regardless of where they are in their career development – totally undecided, open-minded or absolutely certain – students can rely on our team to support them through the various phases and help them achieve their individual goals.

Students gain exposure to people and a broad range of possibilities early on so that they can think about how they want to shape their paths – and their personal stories.

First-year MBA students attend corporate presentations beginning in October of their first semester, hearing firsthand from companies about the firm and functions and conducting informational interviews. They apply for summer internship interview slots in early December, and the formal interview process begins the following January and February. They also have continual access to job postings, which are particularly valuable for fields such as entertainment and non-profits that do more just-in-time hiring. Typically, 99 percent of our students secure a summer internship, which provides an opportunity to confirm their interest in a firm, while the company does the same on their end. On average, more than 60 percent of our students return from summer internships with offers. If a student is still seeking, he or she can apply for additional interviews in September and take advantage of the on-campus interview process for second-year students, which takes place in October and November. As graduates, each alumnus is eligible for life-long career support through our Career Center for Working Professionals.

CA: How has the economy impacted recruitment at Stern? 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?

PM: Because we’re in the heart of Greenwich Village in New York City, our community has unparalleled access to Wall Street and Fortune 500 companies in fields such as marketing, entertainment, media, technology and luxury retail, among others. Ninety-four percent of the class of 2012 achieved its full-time employment goals three months after graduation; this year, we are already tracking ahead of where we were last year at this time. We’re proud that we have been able to maintain our role as a core school to the top banks and consulting firms, while diversifying by hosting other firms on campus as well. Our goal is to continue to match the diversified interests of our incoming students with a broad set of diverse opportunities at top companies and organizations.

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?

PM: In addition to comprehensive technical interview training across various functions, all first-year MBAs complete individual behavioral and technical mocks delivered by trained professionals, with personal feedback and a customized development plan.

Regarding policies, we offer companies an unlimited number of spots to interview on campus based on their business needs. We do require that companies keep offers open while the interview process is underway so students can review and assess all of the opportunities they may receive.

We also maintain strong relationships with our more than 30 MBA clubs to ensure that we’re partnering on career-related pieces. For example, our office works closely with Stern’s Management Consulting Association to plan their mock case competition. We aim to work with students every step of the way on a holistic, personalized career approach.

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

PM: NYU Stern’s global network includes more than 100,000 alumni in 125 countries. Our alums are also actively engaged in the recruitment efforts underway at firms. One of the many ways that we leverage our extensive alumni base is through our Leadership Development Initiative, which provides students with a personalized leadership development framework. By offering on-campus mentor programs with alumni in various industries, hosting industry captains in residence and providing one-on-one career support from our successful alumni, we empower our students to continuously develop their leadership skills to create value for business and society.

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?

PM: One piece of advice for students is to give thought to your personal brand. Your professional reputation is important, so build your network, shape your personal story and think about the ways you are communicating it. An initial conversation with a recruiter or a posting on a social media page is a reflection on you. You never have a second chance to make a first impression, even when it is a digital one.