Jennifer Guyer-Wood recently marked her first year as the director of Bellarmine’s Career Development Center. Her mission is to help BU students and alumni land interesting and rewarding jobs. But that includes much more: career counseling, internships, graduate-school advice, working with employers and advising students about résumé, cover-letter and interview preparation, not to mention keeping up with Twitter and LinkedIn. A native of Mankato, Minnesota, Ms. Guyer-Wood earned a BS in social studies and speech secondary education and an MS in counseling and student personnel from Minnesota State University. She worked in alumni affairs and career services at three universities before coming to Bellarmine last year. Jennifer and her husband, Mike, share their home with a St. Bernard, a Newfoundland, and four cats. She graciously agreed to answer a few of our career-related questions.
How long after most students graduate does it take for their phones to start ringing with employers offering six-figure salaries, company cars and signing bonuses?
What are you talking about? This happens six months before graduation.
Kidding aside, how is the job market these days for BU grads?
It is quite good right now. At one year after graduation, 94 percent of our May 2013 graduates who responded to our survey were either employed or were continuing their education. The incredible thing I’ve found since taking on this job is that employers love to hire Bellarmine students and alumni. We communicate with many employers every day who want to work with us.
Employers have traditionally said they love liberal-arts graduates because they can think on their feet. Does this rule still apply in today’s economy?
Yes! I ask just about every employer I meet about their hiring preferences in regard to majors. Unless they’re hiring for an industry with very specific requirements, like nursing or accounting, most employers tell me that they prefer to have different academic backgrounds and strengths on their teams and that they truly value employees with liberal-arts backgrounds.
What’s new in Career Services that students from five or 10 years ago might not recognize?
Career Centers around the country, including ours, are focusing on meeting students where they are with targeted and specialized services. Back in the day, we’d hold résumé workshops and would expect students to show up. For the most part, they didn’t. They want help that’s specific to their needs, on their schedule. Social media and online resources are a part of that. Our office is also working to provide smaller group sessions for specific majors, careers and issues to draw students in.
How do you get the attention of younger students who may not want to think about life after college?
From my experience, they can hear about what they should do to be successful after college, but with so many things competing for their time, it’s difficult for them to make it a priority. The key is to have multiple people communicate with them, not just career development staff. Faculty communication is crucial. Students who are a little further along in the process and young alumni can also be very influential. We’re working with more young alumni and upperclassmen to help communicate this message to students.
What are your plans for the Career Development Center?
Right now we’re focusing on improving our impact by increasing the number of students we see each year. Through creative marketing and focusing more on what students want, we’re achieving that. We’re rebranding the center, updating our website, and have a new multi-purpose space for employer recruiting and visits and those targeted student sessions. We’ve also committed to having 30 or more employer visits and meetings this year to make sure we’re connecting students with internship and employment opportunities.
What brought you to Louisville?
My husband was hired as the chief mission advancement officer at the Muhammad Ali Center. After living my whole life in Minnesota, I must admit that when he brought up the idea, I said no at least a dozen times. I warmed to the idea, and now I’m extremely glad that we decided to have this adventure.
Coming from Minnesota, was it hard to learn to speak Kentuckian?
I had some help. My former boss at Minnesota State Mankato is from South Carolina and had a girlfriend from Louisville when he was younger. When I gave him the news that I’d be moving, he wouldn’t let me leave his office until I mastered the art of saying “Lou-Uh-Vul.”
Any culture shock?
The first time I was asked the question about which school I went to, I gave the name of my university alma mater. It didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t what people are looking for here. Once I got over that and developed my taste for bourbon, it has been pretty easy to adjust.
If you had to drive across the country with famous Minnesotans Garrison Keillor, Bob Dylan and Prince, which one would you politely ask to get out of the car first?
This is a tough one. I’ve been a huge Prince fan since I was very young, so he has to stay. My husband has met Garrison Keillor and he’s a nice and fascinating guy. However, Dylan would be interesting too. I’d have to flip a coin between Keillor and Dylan. Either way, I’d learn a few things.
Jim Welp | email@example.com