The very nature of EMBA students—both singular and distinctive—makes the EMBA career coaching process a fascinating one, says Joan Coonrod, senior director, MBA Career Management Center at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.
“In a nutshell, it’s such an interesting demographic,” says Coonrod. “They invest time and money in EMBA because they are at some kind of professional inflection point.”
Coonrod helped design career services for EMBA students at Goizueta more than a decade ago, as part of the admissions team. Then career services for EMBA students was a rare animal, with the opportunity to shape what would work for this unique group of students.
“It was clear that we needed to have career services defined for people at this age and stage of their careers,” she says.
One staple to career services planning, then and now, calls for the simple ingredient of listening. “I heard what students were saying when they came in the program,” she says. Surveys also proved helpful in determining and adjusting offerings.
As a result, she learned that students valued the coaching element, were looking for offerings on various career topics, either extracurricular or co-curricular, and wanted the means to develop high-impact connections.
“Coaching, content, and connections—that was actually what they were looking for.”
With that in mind, the Goizueta team structured a professional development series, connection events, and career coaching services. The events include networking with alumni and companies, career fairs, both virtual and in sponsorship with other schools, and an Executive-in-Residence program that brings together C-suite leaders, including alumni, with students.
The curriculum piece of the series covers the basic fundamental job search skills, such as writing resumes and interviewing effectively, as well as issues that are top of mind for many EMBA students. For example, Advanced Career Transitions helps prepare EMBA students who are looking to shift career directions.
Career coaching can help students put the pieces of their career puzzle together, whether that means identifying the big next moves or assisting with the strategies to reach career goals, says Coonrod. For efficiency and better accessibility, and now with the COVID-19 pandemic, increasingly career coaches and EMBA students are using platforms like Zoom and Skype.
What will the future bring? Key trends that are currently shaping the future of the educational landscape also are impacting career services.
“The idea of lifelong learning is really resonating with people,” says Coonrod. “I think people are preparing themselves for shorter career stints.”
At the same time, the nature of traditional employment is changing, with the emergence of the gig economy and more career movement up and outside. All these forces tend to tilt toward increased flexibility.
“They want to prepare themselves for more opportunities,” says Coonrod. “They want a breadth of options.”
The demand for career services is not likely to subside in such an environment.
“Students expect a lot of support on the career side. In some ways, it’s an expected element of the program.”
In one way tomorrow requires the same as today: Continuing to listen to students makes a big difference in responding well. Coonrod recommends a regular dose of student engagement. At Goizueta, EMBA students choose a career chair representative to share thoughts and ideas.
“It is wide open as to what you can do,” she says. “I just think we are going to have to be light on our feet.”