Welcome to MCEEA’s Faces on Campus campaign!
Over the next year – we will be highlighting the career educators and employers who make up our great organization. Each week we will pay tribute to the individuals who devote their lives to helping students take that key first step into their professional career and the employers who welcome and develop them into the professionals they will become.
We hope you enjoy the insights, stories, and laughs of the people of MCEEA.
This week brings us to Oakland University (https://oakland.edu/) in Rochester Hills, MI. Oakland University is a public doctoral institution, established in 1957 serving about 19,000 students including master’s and PhD level.
Our interviewee is Ian Caullay – Director of Employer Relations in the School of Business Administration. Ian began his tenure at Oakland University 5 years ago. Ian is the current President-Elect for MCEEA.
Joe Bamberger - Walk me through the career steps that led you into this role or served as an introduction to higher education.
Ian Caullay - I began my career in corporate and public relations for a couple of years, right out of undergrad. I earned a communications degree out of Wayne State for my undergrad. Then I kind of took a right turn into technical and professional staffing and overall talent acquisition in the Metro Detroit area. I worked for a few firms over a 15-year window, in that whole talent acquisition space in Metro Detroit. I really enjoyed the whole relationship development and management aspect, being that bridge between talent and employers. I put a lot of those skills that I had to use in a new industry that really kind of hit the mark for me. Probably late 2008, I had an opportunity when the economy was really tanking. I had survived a few rounds of layoffs, but I didn't also want to be the last one left to turn off the lights. I was starting months before that to explore other fields and opportunities where I could again, use these transferable skills and I got a shot at an opportunity with Kaplan University down in South Florida with their online division of career services. I spent five years with the online division there. I did about three of those five years down in Florida and the last couple of years, fully remotely from Michigan. I spent about a year back in the talent acquisition space but really knew that my sweet spot and my passion was in the higher education Career Services realm. I applied for and landed this opportunity with Oakland University, which is right in my community and a real homecoming for me. I’ve really enjoyed applying these passions right in my home state and community.
JB - For those of the readers that might not be aware of what your role does, walk me through your day-to-day.
IC - I think my title can be a bit of a misnomer. Certainly, I'm Director of Employer Relations in the school, but I also run a small career shop right in the school. There's a lot of operational responsibility in that regard, and reporting out of metrics and running that overall operation for close to 3000 students if we consider undergrad and graduate level. My days can vary from having existing or partner employer meetings and discussions, discussions with potential new employer partners, or just those one-off conversations where an employer needs some talent and we have a conversation. A lot of that comes my way. A good amount of it is my reaching out to some employers of interest that we'd like to get into our stable. The role also requires leading my team and overall collaboration within the school. We like to use the term career community where, although we're one school, campus-wide at Oakland University we've really worked the past five years to create this career community within the school. Stakeholders include: faculty, staff, which includes advising undergrad and graduate advising, our employers, working with our ACHIEVE department, which is a career embedded curriculum in the School of Business. Lots of collaboration and collegiality all focused on student success.
JB - If I'm an employer that doesn't have a relationship with Oakland right now, what's your sales pitch? Why should I consider hiring Oakland students, what makes them unique?
IC - One aspect would be simply our geography. We're here in Oakland County in Rochester Hills. It's really kind of a hotbed center of the Metro Detroit area. There's just so much need for talent and the geography lends itself so well for our students to be doing internships while going to school at Oakland, we've coined the phrase "continuous internship model." It's nothing formal, but that speaks to the fact that our students can really do internships year-round, as opposed to some universities that might not be so close to the metro area, where when that formal summer internship ends, they're back at their university. Geography is one thing. I'll also say the work ethic and the grit, we call it the Grizzly Grit that our students bring to the table. They've got a really strong work ethic, most of them are working while going to school in some kind of a workaday job. A good number of them are first-generation students. There's just a lot of tenacity, strong work ethic, and drive in our students that it's a pleasure when I get to coach them. For some of my work, I'll coach students as well in individual appointments. I'm always impressed to see how much they've got going on in their lives that can really make for a rich resume so early on in their career. A lot of my work might be just showing them how they can transfer these skills into a great internship, or that career-related opportunity. We talk about bringing those transferable skills to light on the resume and during interviews. A lot of times they don't even quite see all that they're bringing to the table. That's part of our job too in Career Services is to educate them and make clear that they're bringing a lot to the employers, even as early as freshman or sophomore years.
JB - Do you have a favorite part of your job?
IC - I have to say that probably one of my favorites which is maybe 20% of my overall work is that one on one coaching and seeing that progress in our students. That's so enriching for me. I like the dynamic nature of my role. Working with all of these stakeholders is great too, it's very collaborative and collegial.
JB - Least favorite part?
IC - As a collegial collaborator, I do attend a lot of meetings and I do get a lot of emails. Part of my least favorite is some of those just more mundane tasks that go with any job: cleaning out that email folder, trying to keep on top of the overall volume and continually prioritizing. Probably not unlike a lot of other people who have an operation to run.
JB - Do you have a favorite event during the year that is hosted by the College of Business?
IC - Wow, we have so many of them. I guess one of my favorites is an orientation where we get to speak and share with incoming freshmen and transfer students about the great things that they have access to as incoming students. I would say a combination of that as well as what we call Grizz Fest, where we do a lot of welcome back things in the fall, it's a whole week of celebration, with lots of different events going on throughout the week. That's an exciting time campus-wide, but for sure, in the School of Business as well.
JB - Looking at specific majors or career paths within the College of Business, are there any majors that you struggle with the most in connecting with career opportunities?
IC - I think a common one that can sometimes be a myth, depending on the student, but some of the majors that are broader by their name, something like general management. I think for the student who just might not be so laser-focused on a career path such as maybe an accounting major, I get that, - and I was a communications major undergrad myself - I work with some broader majors and it’s more about educating them versus them not having interested employers. We put on some specific programming and workshops, and even include employers, bringing them to the table to talk about things like transferable skills, or curiosities and interests. It doesn't have to be all wrapped up in what your major is. It's more about everything on that resume and your forward-looking plans, passions, and interests. It's a bit of a double-edged sword, it really opens up the field of opportunity for a general management major, which can make that both daunting and a beautiful thing. It's beautiful, when that student really gets their arms around a path forward, at least that they want to head down and be trying some things and doing some informational interviewing with professionals out in the field. It's always that balancing act of not downplaying a major, but at the same time reminding students that they've got several strengths to play to beyond their major. For a general management major, they've got an extra task to better share where their interests lie with any particular employer.
JB - When you look at your current population of students, and whether it's demographic or what have you, is there something from a career readiness standpoint that they struggle with the most?
IC - I think for a lot of them, it's just, they don't know what they don't know and they don't want to make a bad impression on an employer. A lot of it is about how do I behave in particular settings? How do I put my best foot forward? A lot of that emotional intelligence and soft skills-related components are really important, whether you're 22 or 52. We really work hard to bring the soft skills, the NACE competencies, it's a blend of things. That emotional intelligence, those soft skills, communication skills, that we think are so important, we remind them that it's an evolutionary, long process. On one hand, you've got to give yourself a little bit of slack in that department, and know that employers get that you're early on in that developmental area, but I think that's probably the greatest area in a broader sense for all our students to develop enough of that kind of confidence, let's say in a room or an in a social setting. Striking a balance there, where they're perhaps not trying too hard, but then also at the same time stretching themselves because for a lot of them, I think it's a stretch and a growth opportunity, which can be a little intimidating. We encourage the heck out of that so that they can grow and get better.
JB - If someone is interested in following your career path into Career Services, what piece of advice would you give them?
IC - It takes a few things. Number one, I think you need to be a good listener, you need to have a genuine interest in helping others. Then you need to stay on top of not just the core elements or skills that make a good professional, but you need to stay up to date on kind of the latest things that are happening in the employment market. What's in demand from a skills perspective? You also need to encourage follow-up and follow through, it's never a one-and-done kind of a thing. The same way a resume is a living document. Working in career services, it's not like you do a resume review, and then you're moving on. It's a multifaceted, lifelong process for anybody. Any of these students or alumni we're helping, for someone who wants to be in our field, I think you need to have that same kind of a marathon long term mindset about it and really encourage these relationships with whomever you're coaching to develop over time so that you can continue to help these people, and at they can see that progress over time.
JB - Let's switch gears a little bit, how long have you been involved with MCEEA?
IC - I jumped right in, I would say June of 2016, it's now five years for me. When I joined Oakland in late March of 2016, our Senior Director of Career Services, Wayne Thibodeau, made me aware of some of these great consortiums. I was already aware of NACE at the national level and was part of NACE going back to my time at Kaplan University. Coming up on five years with MCEEA, and this past year I've gotten much more involved from things like the awards committee to my newer post as Associate VP of Education.
JB - Do you have a favorite event, activity, or program that MCEEA has put on that you participated in?
IC - Wow, another good one. Always interesting locations. I think I really enjoyed the Traverse City MCEEA, I believe 2018. The setting was beautiful, there was great camaraderie, I was able to bring my whole team to that event, it's great weather up north Michigan in the summer, and the wine tour that we did. That's probably my most memorable MCEEA event, the annual conference from 2018.
JB - If MCEEA had unlimited funding and time, what sort of things would you like to see added to programming or improved in some way?
IC - Maybe more professional workshop events or webinars, not unlike what NACE will put on. I would like to see more in the overall professional development for the Career Services professional. Then to kind of mirror that on the employer side, something similar for employers would be really nice if MCEEA could do similar for employers, I think employers would find even more value in being part of MCEEA. I see that happening in real-time too, which is really exciting. We’re not letting the grass grow under us at MCEEA!
JB - Any shameless plugs or final thoughts you'd like to leave us with?
IC - For me, I'll say MCEEA has become like a family the same way I feel about Oakland University and the School of Business where I work. I would encourage people, whether they're on the educator or employer side of the house within MCEEA, if you lean forward and just do some more, the payback is well worth it. It's not all given, there's a lot of getting if you do more with MCEEA. It's been rewarding and I'm glad I've jumped in to do more in the last year.
Faces on Campus is a weekly interview series highlighting members of MCEEA conducted by Joe Bamberger of Emerge Consulting. Be sure to follow MCEEA on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and MCEEA.org
Connect with Ian on LinkedIn