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How do you Recruit On-Campus When You Aren’t Allowed On-Campus?

By Scott Cairns

I know the experience NYU WANTS for you when they advertise “On-Campus” Recruiting: Company sponsored coffee chats, networking events at the Wasserman Center, and little bowls of Lifesavers on every available surface (a surely sizeable budget line item that was likely easily cut during the COVID-times). In fact, my first job out of undergraduate as a member of the NYU CAS Class of 2015 was a result of exactly this experience. Knowing I wanted just such a career pivot and that NYU had the infrastructure to make it happen was a small…ok, I concede a very large part of why I chose to return to Stern nearly five years later in the Spring of 2020. Of course, best-laid schemes of mice and men and pandemics and all that. The reader will recall how much of that semester…and the next….and the next… was spent “On-Campus.” This brings us to the fall recruiting season of 2021.

The Langone program’s version of On-Campus Recruiting is called “Ignite,” but it was my experience that there is little-to-no difference between the full and part-time offerings. If you are looking for a tailored experience that considers the reality that you, a part-time student, will be spending your entire day beholden to your 9-5, and so would ideally have evening programs and coffee chats and happy hours for just such a situation, the official advice would be….be a full-time student!

You are competing for offers against full-time students who have the entire day to engage in virtual coffee-chats and will never have to miss a scheduled happy hour because of an evening class. This is the one thing at Stern that, while collegial in that we all help each other prepare to land offers, is as cut-throat as you might think it is. Even the Ignite sessions occurred often in that one-hour block between five and six in the afternoon, when the average Langone student is transitioning from work to class.

I think it fitting to mention here the double-edged sword of doing this in a pandemic/post-pandemic world where both you and the recruiter may be working from home: it is entirely expected that your schedule has now been built with maximum flexibility to meet at the drop of a hat midday for a coffee chat or an info-session. This however may also work in your favor if you find you can sneak in a quick video call without having to duck away from the office for a third “dentist appointment” in a week. Prospective employers know as well as you that there is no commuting time necessary, and so my unsolicited advice is to be comfortable “blacking out” your calendar when the email comes through that McKinsey or Bain has opened their limited number of midday 20-minute coffee chats.

It would be disingenuous to say there are no resources dedicated to Stern’s population of working professionals. There is indeed an entire Career CENTER for Working Professionals, known as the CCWP, full of very talented coaches who are, in-fact, meticulously taking notes about your session to share with each other so that your demanding schedule’s inability to meet with the same coach consistently does not hurt your progress. The offerings, all of which I tapped at some point throughout my experience, include mock-interviews, CV reviews, and workshops around the all-important ability to distill down your entire life thus-far into a compelling one-minute elevator pitch. Each of these is maximized if you have a specific target industry in mind. I don’t think the CCWP is equipped to help you discover your true passion (best come prepared with that, along with a copy of your CV, to each one-on-one session.)

I personally targeted consulting, which brings me to another excellent point that your mileage with the On-Campus Recruiting process will vary heavily depending on your target industry. There are industries and companies that partner closely with NYU, among them consulting, investment banking, or tech, and this list is published before many of the deadlines come to pass. Less present in my experience were any firms in the entertainment industry, which I know draws many a Sternie. Check out who is coming to campus before investing your precious time and energy into all required programming.

My confession and disclosure are that, while I started in 2020 as one of the part-time students hoping to make a career pivot, by mid-2021 a number of unforeseen life-circumstances led me to quit my full-time job (which at this point was 105 miles from Kaufman Management Center in the suburbs of Philadelphia) and commit mind, body, and soul (dramatic but effective) to the recruiting process. To make a pivot from brick-and-mortar retail to consulting seemed to me enough of a leap to justify the risk and loss of income. I knew I was playing a numbers game, with a strategy of maximizing coffee chats, interviews, case-interview sessions (numbering close to fifty, at an average of 90 min each by interview season), with the hopes of landing at least one offer. Some of the most unforgiving days had four coffee-chats, two-case-interview sessions, and a 6 p.m. class. It was my experience that not every company coffee chat yielded an interview, not every first-round yielded a final-round, and not every final-round yielded an offer. Unsurprisingly, my performance improved with each interview, and by the end I was a well-oiled machine that would make the latest Batmobile jealous.

The happy ending is that the pouring of my soul into the On-Campus Recruiting Process resulted in a consulting offer (for a firm I will not disclose because the background check hasn’t closed yet, and this is the one conceit I will give to the ridiculous institution of avoiding a “jinx”) and the moral of the story is that OCR is alive and well, even when remote. I admit that by the end there was really no distinction between those in the part-time “Ignite” cohort and everybody else. I personally think that my VERY recent professional experience yielded a great set of talking points that was as beneficial to my interviewing as the 15-minute conversation I struck up with a then-prospective employer about Lord of the Rings and all things Tolkien.

I would vehemently disagree that making a career pivot is best done in the full-time program. Just the idea seems very limiting to those of us who can’t forego an income for more than two years. In fact, I would go as far as to say my fellow Langone students bucked a negative trend in Fall 2021 that previously had very few of us gaining offers, and I look forward to seeing the Office of Career Development’s statistics that will confirm my gut-feeling. Here’s a sound-bite for the OCR website: After going two-for-two with NYU’s recruiting programs, I can honestly say I have no idea how to make a big career change without the help of the OCR team, but that hasn’t been a problem yet!

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