New Course Teaches Professional Development Skills
The Lutgert College of Business remains in constant contact with industry partners to make sure our graduates have the knowledge employers are looking for. This consistent communication has led to new majors in Supply Chain Management and Data Analytics, integration of advanced MS Excel skills into the accounting curriculum, and a new concentration in International Business for management majors. Yet the most frequent request across disciplines and majors is the need for “soft skills”: networking with clients, giving effective presentations, writing professional communications. Even a handshake can make the difference between clinching a deal or losing a client.
Bob Whitehead knows this well. A retired partner of Ernst & Young and now Executive-in-Residence at Lutgert, Mr. Whitehead has a lifetime of experience in hiring and mentoring employees. He has translated that experience into an elective course aimed at helping business majors develop career and professional skills. Mr. Whitehead explains:
In today’s global economy, successful businesses must operate with a significantly leaner and flatter organizational structure. Employers want to recruit university graduates who are work-ready and demonstrate proficiency not only in 'hard' business course knowledge but in 'soft' skills that enhance personal, group and organizational communication and performance.
Whitehead’s course is an intensive education in building relationships and creating value. Limited to fewer than 20 students per class, junior and senior business majors learn to network, conduct meetings, deliver elevator pitches and business presentations, and sell themselves and their ideas. Local professionals from international corporations guest-lecture to share what they look for when hiring and promoting employees. Many students find internships and even permanent employment as a result of these interactions.
Management major Cole Rowsell secured a logistics account management internship at Scotlynn shortly after taking the course in Spring 2020. "This internship opportunity is something that I quite frankly couldn't have gotten or even heard about without [the] course," he later wrote to Mr. Whitehead. "Throughout the interview process (my phone interview and in person interview), it was amazing to be able to think back and utilize the knowledge that we learned in class."
Whitehead is passionate about helping students like Rowsell embark on their professional lives. In addition to teaching sections of Professional Development in both fall and spring, he is laying the groundwork for a new Center for Workforce Readiness and Development to expand the course concepts for all Lutgert students. Among the glowing commendations from students who completed his course, one comment says it all:
The Lutgert College of Business teaches students about how to do the work, but this class teaches the way to be successful.