Every year, Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management organizes multiple experiential trips in New York City, giving undergraduate students the unique opportunity to connect with a variety of companies and professionals within their industry. The trips are specific to a student’s major — finance, marketing and retail management have been ongoing for more than 12 years. A trip for entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises (EEE) students was just launched last fall, and the first accounting trip will launch this spring.
Each trip is a valuable experiential learning opportunity, but over the years, there were certain things that our corporate partners did that made the experience especially memorable for Whitman students. Here are our five biggest takeaways on what makes a successful experiential trip:
1) Orange Alumni
Bringing alumni to speak as part of the site visit is something students enjoy — it’s reassuring and motivating to see successful Syracuse students doing what they love after their four years on campus. Getting to speak with alumni and young professionals can be especially impactful — since they’ve only recently graduated college, they tend to be the most relatable. Sharing stories, experiences, fundamentals of a role and day-to-day responsibilities are great topics to discuss.
Kara Primrose, director of career services, recommends involving people who are excited and passionate about what they do. She adds “Those who are outgoing and love their work leave a lasting impression on students.”
2) Target Approach
It’s especially important to keep the different class levels in mind when explaining industry topics or the functions of your company. For example, buying and planning for media is very different from buying and planning in retail, but some students might be unaware of those differences.
If the group that’s visiting is primarily composed of juniors and seniors then it would be useful to go a little more in-depth with media planning because of the industry knowledge the students have — how do you buy air space? How do you work with advertisers?
“If students are engaged and excited, they’re going to want to be a part of that company, and they want to know how they can become a part of it,” says Alicin Welsh, assistant director of career services and organizer of the retail and marketing management trips. Regardless of class level or major, it’s helpful to cover your company’s structure and different roles and positions.
3) Show and Tell
When students are visiting three to five offices a day, what makes each company stand out is its culture. Engaging with the students and giving them a taste of what makes your company special, whether that’s through a demonstration of your product, an office tour or sharing something your company is working on at the moment, is not only entertaining but also valuable.
“I think one of the largest challenges for students is understanding company culture, learning who people are and if they can see themselves there in the future,” shares Primrose. “The best way is to be there and absorb the environment.” Even just getting a sense of the office layout, looking at conference rooms, workspaces and unique gathering spaces, helps students directly visualize what it would be like to work at the company.
4) It’s the Small Things
There’s a difference between having students visit and hosting them, and the latter makes a huge impact. The smallest gestures, like ensuring there’s enough seating for the group, providing instructions to a nearby restroom or providing snacks, make students feel welcome and show that you’re glad to have them there.
During one experiential learning trip, a company started off their presentation with a slide that said “Welcome Whitman/SU!” Welsh shares,“While it might not seem like much, that one second it took for them to copy our logo onto the first slide just made us feel that they were happy we were there, that they wanted us to be a part of their company. We never want to be a burden to the employer, but truly appreciate the small gestures.”
5) Keep it Going!
Most students who participate in the experiential trips are looking to learn how to get their foot in the door and eventually secure an internship or entry-level position. Sharing information about hiring deadlines, job postings, recruitment timelines and what recruiters look for in potential hires is helpful for all students, but especially juniors and seniors. “If they leave with clarity, I think that makes it a better corporate visit for them,” Welsh shares.
It’s also helpful for students to know how to maintain relationships with your company after the trip — are you open to being connected with or reached out to on LinkedIn?
These trips are often the first connection that leads to future opportunities, such as internships or mentorships. “The students that companies are seeing on these trips are potential hires, so we want to make sure that they’re getting as much out of the site visit as the students are,” says Emily Shaughnessy, undergraduate career advisor and organizer of the EEE trip.
If your company has any questions while planning or preparing for a student group corporate visit, the best resource is the Whitman Career Center. For general inquires please email the main mailbox. The Career Center can help suggest ways to make the experience as engaging and valuable as possible for both parties.
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