Carnegie Mellon University
July 17, 2020

Career Center's Summer Seminars A Win-Win for Students, Employers

By Heidi Opdyke

Jason Maderer
  • Marketing and Communications
  • 412-268-1151

Carnegie Mellon University's Career and Professional Development Center (CPDC) is making connections this summer for students and employers, both of whom are missing the traditional internship experience due to the global pandemic.

Through a new professional development program known as the Summer Seminar series, the CPDC is working to benefit students. Through the webinar presentations, students are gaining valuable information from prospective employers who are eager to help the students achieve professional success.

Traditionally, companies recruiting at CMU will do meet-and-greet events to help recruit students for internships and employees. As part of the CPDC series, companies such as Philips Respironics and the Ford Motor Co., are offering professional development presentations similar to what they deliver to in-house interns. Topics include design thinking, presentation skills, project management, brand management and storytelling with data, among others.

"Our recruiting partners have had to drastically reduce recruitment programs, so we proposed the idea of doing a series of skill building programs based on professional development themes," said Kevin Monahan, associate dean for career and professional development. "We reached out to companies, and many responded as being interested. We're trying to replicate the internship experience as best we can in a non-internship environment."

Bill Gaussa, head of advanced innovation for Philips Sleep and Respiratory Care, presented on thinking with an entrepreneurial mindset and what to consider when building a startup. Gaussa graduated from CMU with an MBA in 1992, and called the experience an opportunity.

"There's a lot of students who are looking for internships and working relationships with companies," Gaussa said. "We believe strongly in building relationships not only as a way to create a pipeline for hiring employees in the future but also to meet with students to spread knowledge and to help them achieve their ambition."

Ben Glaser, a senior studying materials science and engineering and engineering and public policy had planned to do research later this summer. For now, he has been focusing on professional development skills such as practicing mock interviews with industry connections and working on his resumé with CPDC staff. Glaser attended a session on design thinking hosted by the Ford Motor Co.

"I was interested to see how a major company approaches engineering problems with practical thinking," he said.

H'vn O'Neal, a sophomore studying cognitive science and statistics and machine learning with a minor in neural computation, also attended sessions. She said they have been really helpful.

"One made me go back and look at re-evaluating my resume and how I've been approaching job searches," O'Neal said. "The second one helped me rethink my projects."

Monahan said it's been a win-win for students and partners.

"The employer presenters are marketing their companies, but at the same time they're providing valuable information and advice," Monahan said.

"It's been helping companies get more recognition as well as be an opportunity to reach students," Monahan said. "We did special outreach to Pittsburgh-based employers such as Accenture, PNC and American Eagle to showcase the city and region to keep some of this talent here. All of the employers who have lined up said they'd be happy to do it today. They see it as another way to interact and engage with students during the summer.

"We do miss the face-to-face interactions, but we are seeing the advantages of embracing the hybrid or virtual models."

The spin to online learning and networking is affecting the CPDC's planning for the fall as well. In the past, advisers will work with academic units on trips to New York or Silicon Valley so students can visit a number of firms close together in one city or area.

"We could take a group of mechanical engineering students, and in an afternoon they could do virtual meetings with representatives at the Ford Motor Company in Detroit, Milwaukee Tool in Wisconsin and John Deere in Moline, Illinois. In person we could never do it, but the virtual space allows us flexibility."

He said that the future of recruiting will change and with that will come advantages.

"When a company comes to campus to conduct a recruiting event, it's time and access bound. If a student has a class happening at the same time as the company presentation then they'll miss the event and information," Monahan said. "But with employers doing virtual events, the presentations can become more accessible by offering them several times or recording the discussions."

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