Gatton College's new career office is proving a winner

The Graham Office of Career Management is at UK's Gatton College of Business & Economics.
The Graham Office of Career Management is at UK's Gatton College of Business & Economics.

When University of Kentucky business student Julia Dubis changed her majors to accounting and finance last year, she wasn't sure what to expect.

"I didn't know much about the field and didn't know who were the big employers," she recalled.

So she went to the business college's on-site career services center. With career assessment and job advice, she's now landed a summer internship with professional services firm Deloitte.

It's the tale the leaders of UK's Gatton College of Business & Economics hoped would happen when they opened the college's Graham Office of Career Management more than a year ago.

The office, which was funded by an anonymous donor, is named in memory of U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Jeffrey C. Graham, a 2003 UK graduate who died a year later in Iraq when a roadside bomb exploded.

Before the office opened, only the college's MBA students received on-site career services. Undergraduates and others worked with the university-wide career services center.

"It's quite common at some of our benchmark institutions' colleges of business to have their own internal career services office," said Graham Office director Sally Foster.

Foster and her staff work with undergraduate and graduate students to help them choose their career paths, strengthen résumé and interview skills, and ultimately land jobs. The staff also organizes on-site career fairs and works with employers around the region to place students in internships and jobs.

"We feel like we're helping students discover their life goals," Foster said.

Among those is Dubis, who said she "went in blind" to the Graham Office.

"It really started off with the basics, and I went to the career fair in the spring where I got to meet recruiters from PWC, Ernst & Young, and Deloitte," she said. "I really connected with the recruiter at Deloitte, and it just ran from there."

This summer, she'll intern in the tax department of the company's Cincinnati office, and she credited the Graham Office for the start.

"They were extremely helpful," she said. "They provide a whole variety of services. One thing that was really helpful is their career assessment.

"That helps you narrow down ... to find the area you're most interested in."

The Graham Office staff is beginning to track job placements for all Gatton College graduates, Foster said. It's the first time the college's staff has handled the process itself rather than be part of a similar campus-wide effort.

The college has long tracked MBA placements, though, and she said hires are picking up after a dip during the recession.

The percentage of MBA graduates landing jobs within three months of graduating often hovered around 80 percent prior to the recession. It dropped to around 55 percent during the slump but is now back up to 78 percent, she said.

And that recovery is extending to undergraduate students, too.

Consider Ryan Knott, a 22-year-old student who will graduate in May with a major in finance and minor in international business.

In June, he'll start a 10-week training program with JPMorgan Chase in Chicago and then begin working in Louisville as a commercial banking analyst for the company.

"About two months before I had my interview, I had gone to the Graham Office every week," he said. "I went through six mock interviews with the career coaches, and they gave me feedback on each of them and were so helpful.

"When the time came for the interview, I knocked it out of the ballpark and got the job offer the next day. I really owe it all to the Graham Office."