WEMBA’s Director of Career Advancement joined the Philadelphia team in 2021, bringing expert knowledge and more than 20 years of experience to the table. For the past 12 years, Colleen worked with Wharton full-time MBA and JD/MBA students, providing career preparation and advising services.
What does your role as Director of Career Advancement involve?
Along with my counterpart Steve Hernandez in San Francisco, I help guide students in making career decisions by sharpening their technical and soft skills, such as leadership development, brand promotion, and networking. Connecting students to Wharton resources, like the McNulty Leadership Executive Coaching and Feedback Program, is an important aspect of the Career Advancement team’s mission. Another significant part of my role is helping students identify the skills that will elevate their own contributions and get to that “next level” job. We take a holistic approach to career advancement through one-on-one coaching, educational programming, and access to Wharton alumni. My position involves helping our students leverage our global alumni network, which is 100,000+ strong.
What did you do prior to joining Wharton?
After graduating from Drexel University, I deferred my law school acceptance to get experience working at a law firm. Ironically enough, I started working in hiring! I became a hiring coordinator for a major law firm in Philly and worked my way up to Director roles in recruiting and professional development. I absolutely loved the nature of the work, especially the advising aspect, and realized this was actually what I wanted to do. I was introduced to Wharton through my role as the Director of Penn’s Carey JD/MBA program. Once I joined Wharton, I knew I never wanted to leave.
Can you tell us more about Career Advancement’s programming?
The crown jewel of our programming is Career Conversations, which is an annual networking and educational event on both coasts that ties students to alumni in a purposeful and match-based process. We connect students to alumni in their industry of interest who provide feedback on their career goals, discuss current trends in the industry, and give advice about how to excel in the program. Our alumni have been in their shoes, so their advice is relevant, actionable, and supportive. They know what these students are going through and how to help them.
Another highlight is our Industry Panel series, which we launched this year. The Career Advancement team brings in a panel of Wharton alumni representing specific industries like fintech, sustainability, entrepreneurship, real estate, and more. Our students hear firsthand how the value of a Wharton MBA can not only advance them in their current career, but also help them pivot to a new field or even disrupt an entire industry.
We also host Hiring Collectives, which are special programs for our second-year students who are ready to hit the ground running after they graduate. Company executives present on emerging industry trends and provide insider insight into the hiring process. For example, Google can be a tough company to break into. We hosted an alumni panel of Googlers who dispelled some hiring myths and provided suggestions on how to get a foot in the door.
What new Career Advancement initiatives can your students look forward to?
When I started, my colleague Carina Myers and I built a Career Intake survey measuring where our students felt they lacked skills and wanted programming. The results showed that our students are interested in learning more about developing their personal brand and access to networking opportunities. We’re using their feedback as a jumping-off point to explore new programming and offer more career resources in key areas.
The Alumni Career Fellows Program (ACF) is a new initiative launching in June 2022. We are providing our students with an inaugural bench of 12 alums with industry-specific knowledge who will provide one-on-one advising and coaching appointments every term. Students can reach out directly to the alum who has volunteered and gone through career advising training put on by the Career Advancement team. We’ve identified alumni from industries like digital health, product management, finance, fintech, startups, corporate social responsibility, and others. Our students will have the ability to connect directly with an alum and sign up for a 30-minute advising appointment. This increases the availability and depth and breadth of the coaching we provide as an advancement office.
What do you like best about your role?
Serving students is my north star. I love being a part of their journey and advising them on all things Wharton. The one-on-one coaching is what I like best, because I have the opportunity to work with students on an impactful level. They want to discuss their long-term goals, their calling, and what’s important to them as students and job seekers. Our students are looking to make big career moves, whether that manifests in a promotion within their company, a function switch within or outside their company, or an entire career pivot overall. It becomes a motivational coaching relationship; not me motivating the students, but together digging into what motivates them.
What Makes EMBA Students Unique?
WEMBA students are grounded and purposeful in their career aspirations. They already have great jobs and many years of professional experience, and that’s why they’re here. WEMBA students have the technical and soft skills required to be a successful executive. Through Career Advancement, they learn how to sharpen those skills to position themselves for an even better professional opportunity.
What advice can you provide WEMBA students seeking a career change or advancement?
Utilize the resources available from our office. Wharton is a very big place and can be hard to navigate. If you don’t know where to start, sign up for a one-on-one advising appointment. We’ve seen it all. We have the tools and resources that can guide students along their career journey. If we don’t know you, we can’t help you.
What do you love most about Philadelphia?
Penn! Penn is such an incredibly special place. I love this university and nothing gives me greater joy than going on a lunchtime run at Franklin Field. I grew up here, so I’m also a lifelong Philly sports fanatic.
Can you tell us something about you that we don’t know?
I’m a certified Pilates instructor and teach classes at Pottruck Health & Fitness Center on Penn’s campus. Also, the first road race I ever ran was the Philadelphia marathon! I’ve since run several marathons and of course, participate in Philly’s Broad Street Run.
— Kendra King
Posted: May 9, 2022