Which statement is accurate?
- Kalamazoo College students are well prepared for careers in business.
- Kalamazoo College students are poorly prepared for getting their first job.
"Both," says Jeff Fink '79. "For whatever reason, Kalamazoo does very well at preparing students to succeed on the job, but not to go through the tunnel to get that important first job.
Tim Moffit, Kalamazoo professor of economics and business, agrees. "But," he adds, "things are changing for the better."
In January, Fink, who spent 25 years on Wall Street as an investment banker before recently retiring, joined Moffit and others in an inaugural "Kalamazoo College Business Boot Camp." Spread over parts of two days, ten alumni "drill sergeants" helped students better understand the harsh realities of the business world they will soon face and helped them sharpen the skills they'll need to break into it.
About 40 students attended an evening panel discussion by alumni who told their own tales of tribulation (sleeping on friends' couches while awaiting an all important first interview, and starting at minimum wage while waiting for a big break) and triumph (rising to top positions in prestigious companies, and selling their own companies for tens of millions of dollars).
None of the panelists cited shortcuts as being among the pathways to success.
"Start early, stay focused and be persistent," instructed Gary Lewis '00 who spent several years in a private equity firm and is now pursuing an M.B.A. at University of Chicago.
"Networking is the single most important thing you can do," said Mike Soenen '92, chairman, CEO, and president of FTD, Inc.
"Absolutely," agreed Samir Gokhale '03, formerly with Deloitte and now pursuing an M.B.A. at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. "I submitted a resume to Deloitte and heard nothing until I asked an alum for help. Within days, I got a call saying they were really interested in me."
Brad O'Neill, currently CEO and founder of TechValidate and an advisor to technology companies in both the consumer and enterprise markets, cautioned students not to over predict the specifics of their career trajectory. "You will change jobs many times, so you must be able to tolerate the ambiguity of today's business environment."
"Go to every mock interview night," said Alana Shaw '04, a product manager in international management for Stryker Corp. in Kalamazoo. "You need the experience."
Students gained some of this experience during a series of one-on-one mock job interviews with alumni on the second day of "Camp."
"These interviews were very helpful," said Josh Curry, a senior economics major. "I want as much interview time as I can get because I know it will help me during my upcoming job hunt."
Curry said he was grateful for the opportunity to sit elbow-to-elbow with successful alumni and hear them talk about how they went from "K" to where they are today. "Especially how they took their first steps and used their Kalamazoo experiences to advance their careers."
Panelists, such as Shaw and Gokhale encouraged students to leverage their multifaceted "K-Plan" experiences.
"I was hired in part because I had traveled extensively during study abroad," said Shaw. "He knew I was not starry eyed about travel."
"Every ten weeks, you are learning knew things," said Gokhale. "That's good experience for business. My clients were blown away that I could converse with them in French."
Networking is the single most important thing you can do.many Boot Camp instructors say the College can improve the way it prepares students to enter the work world, all agree that a "K" education is just the ticket to succeed in any career.
"You have the ability to form good judgment," Fred Fischer '85 told Boot Camp students. "Your counterparts with more technical training don't have that." Fischer is a securities analyst for investment house William Blair & Co.
"I know a lot of Harvard, Yale and Wharton guys who couldn't pull it together when they needed to like 'K' people," said FTD's Soenen.
Professor Moffit said he and his colleagues in the Department of Economics, as well as professionals in the College's Career Development Office, look forward to hosting future Boot Camps.
"Clearly, we need to prepare students for the real world business environment," he said. "This Boot Camp was a successful Beta test. We hope other alumni will help us with future events and help our students when they call for an interview or a reference."
College to Offer B.A. Degree in Business
Kalamazoo College students who want to pursue business careers will soon be able to do so with a B.A. degree in Business. College faculty recently voted unanimously to add a business major to the College curriculum. Department of Economics and business faculty, who have been teaching several business classes for many years, will add a business major to the Department's curriculum beginning with the 2008-2009 academic year.
"Students and alumni have really looked forward to this," said Professor of Economics and Business Tim Moffit. "Now we can take some of the things we've been doing in an ad hoc fashion and bring them into the classroom. This is a good fit with our liberal arts mandate."