A Business School Career Coach's Dilemma Goes Beyond Job Advice

by Aman Singh Das | January 20, 2011

  • My Vault

As anyone in the career coaching community knows, it's important for students to find like-minded individuals with whom they can connect, share ideas, get support, and grow into the kind of professionals they'd like to be. That's why my number one piece of advice for students is always to connect with people who share your values and interests, or, as I like to put it, "find your peeps!"

And that’s where Net Impact comes in. With the objective of forming a global network of leaders who are changing the world through business," Net Impact is a student-based organization that has grown to tremendous influence in recent years in the business school community.

Before I go on, however, let me set the record straight: I don't work for Net Impact. I'm a big enough fan of their work that I would, but I don't.

From my vantage point as a career coach who has seen the huge impact (pardon the pun) this organization has made on business school students, I'd like to promote the heck out of it every opportunity I can. So when Aman—who I met at the 2010 Net Impact Conference—invited me to write for Vault's CSR blog, I was more than happy to accept.

Millennials Are Going to Rule the World

Having coached on both the undergraduate and the graduate sides of a business school, I have seen firsthand the difference Net Impact has made in the lives and careers of my students. Primarily, Net Impact must be commended for providing a forum for socially conscious students to stay in business school, find-like minded students, build a network, as well as find meaningful work that pays the bills. And from the perspective of a Gen Xer who knows millennials will be ruling the world someday soon, who doesn't want these socially conscious students as our next generation of business leaders?

"I want to get more out of my business education"

For Carlson School of Management's Associate Director and Career Coach Mackenzie Sullivan, students are increasing questioning traditional career advice, prefering companies that embody corporate social responsibility and offer jobs in sustainability

After I completed two months of career coaching undergraduate business students, I decided to start a tally, recording the number of students who said, "I'm not a typical business student," or "I want to make a living, but I need meaning in my work too," or "I feel out of place–there is no one here like me."

A year later, I knew that these students must have a way to connect with each other. So when I met Amanda and Brea, who wanted to "get more out of their business education," and Tommy, who wanted passion in his career, I knew I would have to be the one connecting them.

Later Brea would tell me, "Why didn't I know this person existed? There is someone else (like me)!"

Creating a Support System for Undergrad Students

Long story short, this is how the undergrad chapter of Net Impact was born at Carlson School of Management: A place where many of our students can "find their peeps." And together they have accomplished some amazing things.

For example, I've seen students who were considering leaving the business school re-engage in their business education and find passion around the possibility of pursuing a career in corporate social responsibility-related business in the future.

I've seen our Net Impact group engage over 100 students for a day of business-related service to the local community's nonprofits. This has resulted in a win-win-win situation for all of us: The students got to test their business skills, the nonprofits received valuable help in services like creating marketing plans, and the university will reap the benefits of improved relationships with the area's community for years.

Driving Public Policy With an MBA

And the graduate chapter that has been around for more than a decade has done equally well by providing a much-needed network for students who are interested in using their business education to pursue public policy and international development.

Besides, amid all the complexities that a graduate education carries, the Net Impact chapter has stood out as a strong forum for students in exploring myriad career opportunities and offering long term relationship building like few others.

In fact, our graduate chapter was a significant driving force behind the creation of a CSR course offered to our MBA classes for the first time last fall.

A Message for All Business School Students

I write this not just to toot the horn of our school's Net Impact chapter (although I never mind doing that as well), but to encourage the formation of Net Impact chapters at every business school. I'll leave you with a piece of advice that as a career coach, a gen-Xer and an acute observer, I strongly recommend you take to heart:

Whether you are a business school student who feels out of place at business school, want more out of your education, feel the need to connect with other students who want to do good in the world while doing well for themselves (trust me, you're not "the only one") or simply feel like you are "the only one" at your business school, Do yourself a favor and take action. Form a Net Impact Chapter and help yourself and others find your peeps!

--By Mackenzie Sullivan

Mackenzie Sullivan is an Associate Director and Career Coach at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.She has worked with both undergraduate and graduate business school students on all aspects of career exploration and job search, and has a passion for helping students gain employment in the CSR, nonprofit and public sector. She teaches an a undergraduate-level "Career Skills" class, and works university-wide on diversity initiatives. She also serves on the board of the Minnesota Career Development Association.

Filed Under: CSR

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