Are You Curious?

I took a trip to Steelcase Headquarters last week as part of an effort to plan some potential renovations to BA 1. Our host, in introducing us to some of Steelcase’s research on how people interact in different spaces commented: “If you are really curious, you can’t be disappointed by what the data tells you.”

This insight alone almost made the trip worthwhile. Raising some money to create a place consistent with our emerging culture, will make the day in Grand Rapids a real success. Curious? Stay Tuned….

Big or Small?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about what LinkedIn tells me about UCF COBA alums and what it means to students as they prepare for their future. Government data provided by Dr. Sean Snaith (@seansnaith) gives me some more insight. Recall that more than half of our alums stay in Central Florida and that 70 percent stay in the state. These regions have fairly high concentrations of small and medium size companies. About 40 percent of people in Central Florida work for companies of less than 500 employees (for Florida as a whole it is 43%). If you take out Disney and Florida Hospitals–by far the two largest companies in the region, the percentage is about the same for Florida as a whole. Add in the fact that most job growth (and loss) is in small and medium enterprises (SME) and it seems likely that many of today’s UCF grads will be working for companies with less than 500 employees.

Is this good or bad? The answer depends on what you want most out of your first job, Big companies tend to pay more, have better benefits and devote more resources to formal employee training programs. SMEs tend to offer a more varied work day. This means more interesting work that offers more chances to be innovative. You are less likely to be “a cog in the wheel”. It is easier to get your voice heard in SMEs, get more responsibility earlier and have greater access to top management. You are also more likely to participate on projects from start to finish. In many ways there is a short-term versus long-term trade off in the choice between big and small–big firms will pay more out of the gate and probably offer more job security, but if you are a high performer you may get promoted faster and learn the entire business quicker by working for a smaller company. If you want to run a company some day, working for a SME is likely to get you there faster. If not, the more varied experiences gained by working in a SME are likely to give you greater “career security” by providing you with a broader range of skills, some of which are likely to be always in demand.

Interested? If so, you may need to prepare yourself a little differently while at UCF than students targeting bigger companies. For one, SMEs are more likely to want you job ready from day one–they can’t afford to put you through a company training program–you need to be ready to contribute now, show initiative and learn quickly on the job. Because of this immediate need, SMEs are especially interested in hiring students who already have relevant part-time, summer or internship experience. And because of the variety of tasks and fewer layers of management, they are looking for flexible people who can work in less structured environments, with less supervision and in team settings. You need to be able to apply a variety of marketing, finance, accounting, management and inter-personal skills in a practical way that solves problems and gets results. So you want to train more broadly and understand how the various functions of business fit together to add value to a company. Emphasize this flexibility in job interviews and acknowledge that you will have to learn how to pick things up quickly as your job and career evolves over time.

Who knows, in ten or twenty years you could be the next Tom Bland, Merrell Bailey, Steve Felkowitz, or George Gramatikas. When you reach the success of these alums and their SMEs, we will throw you a nice party as you enter our Hall of Fame.

What the Hell Happened?

This week was homecoming at UCF, a week of traditions that includes our annual Black and Gold Gala. The event honors our most accomplished alums. This year’s alum from the College of Business was Steve Felkowitz, who among many things, is the sponsor of the Joust. It was a well-deserved award, going to a good guy, who gives back and also just happened to be the Knights’ first kicker.

In a departure from past galas, the evening included entertainment. Since most of the people in the audience have been around for a while, we brought back a blast from the past: KC and the Sunshine Band. (Students–google them.) KC is now sixty and a much larger figure than in his youth. He addressed his appearance at the start of the show and told the crowd: “when I look in the mirror at sixty, I ask myself what the hell happened?” He then proceeded to do what he clearly loves to do in unabashed fashion–the years and his shape be damned.

Looking back on the night, KC’s lament about the passage of time and his commitment to what he does seemed entirely appropriate for the event. A common theme in my visits with alums is what Kelly calls “going from success to significance.” Many of the people we meet have been wildly successful in their professional careers but feel that clock ticking and are searching for ways to ensure that they have lived lives of significance. They don’t want to wake up one day wondering “what the hell happened.” It is both a great honor and responsibility that those searches for significance often lead to us: Many people see giving back to their alma mater as a way of creating the significance they seek by helping to give the promise of a better future to others. It serves as a constant reminder to me that universities are ultimately about hope, that we are fortunate to have chosen work of such significance and that being a college professor is the best career in the world. I don’t know about all of my colleagues, but I plan on doing what I love, unabashedly like KC, for a very long time.


What LinkedIn Tells Me About How You Should Prepare For Your Future

University career services operations and alumni associations have struggled for years to get good data on the employment experiences of their graduates. Mercifully, people voluntarily share on social media sites all sorts of things they neglect to tell their alma mater. So would it shock you to learn that one of our best sources of information on the employment histories of UCF College of Business graduates comes from LinkedIn? We have about 50,000 alums from the College of Business, 13,615 of them are on LinkedIn– that represents about 27% of the total.

These graduates tell us a number things: 70% of them live in Florida. Almost 60% of them are employed doing one of just six things: sales (15%), finance (12%), operations (9%), accounting (8%), entrepreneurship (7%), and marketing (6%). You might expect marketing people to be over-represented on LinkedIn– all that concern about developing your personal brand and stuff. But, if you add up those who work in sales, marketing or business development you get 25% of the total UCF COBA grads on LinkedIn. Almost sixty percent of our alums on LinkedIn graduated in the last ten years. This is a bit of an over-representation since only about 50% of our diplomas were issued in the last ten years. That said, it certainly appears that a lot of our young graduates start out in sales or another marketing function.

Given the vast majority of alums stay in Florida, it shouldn’t surprise us that the top employers of our grads are all in Central Florida: Lockheed Martin (150), UCF (140), Disney (106), Darden (58), Siemens (52). Only these five organizations have more than fifty of our alums on LinkedIn.

Most important is what our alums say they are skilled at–what presumably keeps them employed. Twelve percent report that they are skilled at Customer Service (1669), only slightly less–about 11.5% say they are skilled at Microsoft Excel (1570) and/or Office (1502). About nine percent say they are skilled at Marketing (1215), Financial Analysis (1178), Budgets (1170), Strategic Planning (1130), or Leadership (1126). Marketing Strategy (1065), PowerPoint (1041) and Sales Management (1004) round out the list with more than 1000. Again a very heavy dose of marketing skills with analytical and financial skills close behind.

If you do this same exercise for the University of Florida’s B-school you get a slightly different mix: a more geographically diverse alumni base has a higher concentration of people in finance with more analytic skills. USF looks more like us. The University of Michigan (my alma mater), looks sharply different because of the school’s location and probably the average age and geographic dispersion of its graduates.

The bottom line is this: if you plan to stay in Florida, especially Central Florida–you would be well served developing good sales, marketing and customer service skills. It is what we do here. Next comes finance and analytic skills (e.g. Excel). Having all four skills would greatly expand your opportunities to land a job locally. If your strengths or interest lie elsewhere, you need to be willing to look beyond what you can see out your window when searching for that first job.