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Even before she graduated from UD in 2012, Mariana Zayas (BA ‘12) knew that she wanted to work in human resources. “I love people and I really wanted to make a difference in people’s lives,” she said. Zayas started her HR career on campus as an intern for the UD Office of Human Resources. She said that one of the most valuable parts of the experience was learning important professional skills: “I learned things like how to communicate within the boss/subordinate relationship.”
Zayas was able to translate her HR internship into an entry-level position with Omni Hotels and has since moved up to the role of Corporate Human Resources Manager. “Our employees are spending eight or nine hours a day away from their families,” she said. “So employee relations is the best part of my job because I can help those hard-working people grow.”
Zayas credits the critical thinking skills she developed at UD with helping her hone her ability to communicate professionally. “When I’m in a meeting, I have to listen to what people are saying, then make my case and support my conclusions with facts, just as if I were writing a paper in Lit Trad. UD grads are smart and eager to learn, and they reflect that when they become professionals.”
Alongside her career in HR, another way in which Zayas helps people grow is through her role as president of the Young Catholic Professionals Organization. “YCP brings together everyone from experts to recent graduates,” she said. “We host executive speakers and hold panel events and mixers designed to help you grow a network of friends who share the same values.” You can visit their website here for more information about the organization.
Zayas advises students to say “yes” to opportunities that present themselves: “Get to know your professors. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Be ‘that person’ that says ‘yes’ to opportunities and be passionate about what you do.”
Most importantly, Zayas said, is that you love what you do: “Make sure the company you work for is a good fit. And if you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll be motivated every single day.”
University of Dallas students often hear about the importance of critical thinking. At a meeting on March 28, Doug Lattner (MBA ’73), former CEO of consulting firm Deloitte, told the university’s Accounting and Finance Society how to leverage a those critical thinking skills into a career as a consultant.
“What consultants do is help businesses solve complex challenges,” he said. “But good ideas aren’t enough. Those ideas have to executable.” That’s where critical thinking comes in. According to Lattner, consultants work with clients to drive positive change within the client’s organization by assisting with things like financial strategy or mergers and acquisitions. Consultants transfer their knowledge to their clients, and businesses value the objectivity that consultants bring to the table.
According to Lattner, consulting companies like Deloitte have changed their hiring process over the years. “When I started out,” he said. “I went straight from undergrad to graduate school and then was hired by a consulting firm.” Now, according to Lattner, consulting firms would prefer that an undergraduate gain work experience before pursuing an MBA. “This way, you can draw on your experience during your MBA program to give more relevance to what you’re learning,” he said.
When hiring entry-level consultants, Lattner said that firms like Deloitte are looking for a number of things: strong academic performance, the ability to think critically about a problem, and a combination of qualitative and quantitative skills. “If you’ve focused mostly on accounting, take a business strategy class. If you have been focusing on strategy, make sure to include technology classes as well,” he said. As far as personality traits, Lattner said that once a consultant gets that entry-level position, the firm will be looking to promote those who are hardworking and diligent. “They want someone who is always driving the ball,” he said. “That’s how you’ll get noticed.”
Lattner explained that as consultants move up the ranks at Deloitte, they gain experience in various practice fields that might interest them, in the same way a college freshman might experiment with different classes to settle on a major. “In the beginning, you may dabble in technology, energy, telecom or healthcare,” he said. “It’s important to find an area that interests you and in which you can share your skill set.” But as consultants move into management roles, they become subject-matter experts in their practice areas. For example, Lattner said that Deloitte has nurses and physicians consulting in their healthcare practice segment. “Imagine the credibility they could bring to a healthcare client,” he said.
Lattner went on to describe a consultant’s typical work week. “Consultants spend four days per week at the client’s site, then come back to the office on the fifth day,” he said. But Lattner emphasized that a consultant’s number one job is to meet the expectations of the client. “That means consulting is not an 8 to 5 job.”
But although consulting can be a demanding career, Lattner has found it to be rewarding as well. “If you want to be in a cube all day, don’t be a consultant,” he said. “But if you want to travel and gain experience across a variety of cultures, consulting can give you that.”
The University of Dallas Executives on Campus program was founded to further the University’s mission of providing practice-based education, by inviting successful business leaders to share their experience with graduate and undergraduate students in the classroom. Through this program, alumni, business leaders, and their companies are invited to partner with the University in our shared pursuit of management excellence. For more information, click here.
It’s no accident that Southwest Airlines has been profitable for 43 consecutive years. And it’s not a fluke that Southwest has also been named one of Fortune magazine’s most admired companies for 21 years in a row. According to Julie Weber (BA, ‘91), Vice President for People at Southwest Airlines, it’s because of people. “One hundred percent of our success is because of the people we hire,” she told students in Dr. Richard Peregory’s class on March 2 at the University of Dallas’ Satish & Yasmin Gupta School of Business.
Weber explained Southwest’s philosophy that happy employees make happy customers who, in turn, make happy shareholders. The cornerstone of this philosophy is that employees come first. Weber sited a few statistics to demonstrate the effectiveness of this policy: “We’ve never had layoffs, even after September 11. We are lowest in customer complaints according to the Department of Transportation, and in 2014, Southwest was the number one performing stock on the S&P 500.”
According to Weber, the key to maintaining an engaged and motivated workforce is to hire the right people for the right job. “The first step is you have to know what you’re about,” she said. And what Southwest Airlines is about centers around core values like having a warrior spirit, a servant’s heart, and a fun-loving attitude. “Every single employee understands what it means to live and work the Southwest way. So these core values are part of every job description, from ramp agents to executives.”
Weber’s experienced recruiters take special care to determine whether an applicant exhibits these core values. During interviews, recruiters ask candidates a series of open-ended, behavior-based questions designed to gather examples of how they have responded in a variety of situations. “We’re looking for examples of how you went above and beyond for your customers or your fellow employees,” Weber said.
These behavior-based questions aren’t for front-line employees only. Weber personally interviews every candidate for directors’ positions. “A leader’s job is to serve the team, so it’s especially important that those in leadership positions have a servant’s heart,” she said. “So I might ask a candidate about their team. Do they know what’s really important to the members of their team?”
Southwest’s policy of hiring for attitude and training for skill can result in situations where highly-qualified candidates are passed over because they do not exemplify the company’s core values. “This is a very tight labor market,” Weber said. “But Southwest has decided that we won’t compromise on our hiring practices. It takes a lot of courage, but we stand by what we will believe makes us successful. We’re not going to sacrifice hiring for attitude.” In a recent survey, 76% of Southwest employees said they felt that their job was a calling. “This level of engagement is no accident,” Weber said. “We hire people who will view their jobs that way.”
In 2015, Southwest Airlines received 300,000 job applications. Only 2.2% of those applicants were hired. But those 6,600 people who did make the cut now get to work for a company that truly “luvs” their employees.
The University of Dallas Executives on Campus program was founded to further the University’s mission of providing practice-based education, by inviting successful business leaders to share their experience with graduate and undergraduate students in the classroom. Through this program, alumni, business leaders, and their companies are invited to partner with the University in our shared pursuit of management excellence. For more information click here.
As the semester draws to close, most of you will be looking forward to a month of rest and relaxation at home. But the break between the fall and spring semesters is an opportune time to take a few simple steps that can help your career after graduation.
1. Ask your relatives and your parents’ friends for informational interviews. An informational interview is a conversation during which you can learn about a career field or particular company. Speaking with someone one-on-one about what he or she does every day is a great way to learn more about what a job is really like. And while an informational is not an actual job interview, it is not an informal setting. You should behave professionally and come prepared with thoughtful questions. The UD alumni network and friends that have already graduated are also great resources for informational interviews.
2. Research internships—know the deadlines and use your time off to work on your resume and cover letter. Not only will an internship provide you with hands-on experience that can help you land a job after graduation, but it can also show the kind of day-to-day experience you can expect in a particular field. Internships are an important step in the discernment process—you might leave an internship knowing exactly what you don’t want to do.
3. Get your applications for summer REUs ready. If you are a science major, research is crucial to your success. The best REUs are highly competitive and will require a thoughtful application. Spend your semester break researching REUs and preparing your application.
4. Check OPCD’s Prestigious Scholarships and Fellowships page to see if you qualify for any opportunities. Use the break to gather letters of recommendation and work on your personal statement. Gaby Martin at the OPCD can guide you through the application process.
5. Look for long-term volunteer opportunities for the spring or summer semester. Not only will you be giving back to the community, you can gain experience that many employers will value. You may even be able to receive course credit for approved community service.
6. Explore avenues to present your work to the public if you’ve written an exceptional paper or conducted in-depth research in your field. This could mean making a presentation during a campus event or sharing your work with an organization tied to your area of research. Many scientific, literary, and educational societies welcome student participation. You can apply for aUniversity of Dallas Experience Award funding to offset your travel expenses.
7. Visit our office after the New Year and before the semester starts. We can help you fine-tune your resume and cover letter, research internship opportunities, and apply for prestigious scholarships and fellowships. Make time now, before your new classes begin.