A Q&A with Chelsea Kidwell

Advisor Chelsea Kidwell with a studentCareer Readiness Advisor Chelsea Kidwell joined the Orfalea College of Business in the summer of 2015 as part of the college’s major initiatives to bolster career resources specific to business students. Over the past few months, she’s partnered with Orfalea Student Services, Cal Poly’s Career Services and major recruiters who hire Orfalea students to support students facing a demanding hiring process. Listen to her unique perspective on students today and how the college is evolving to help each student feel truly career ready.

Q: Since you joined the college this summer, what have you noticed about Orfalea College of Business students?
A: Orfalea students are quick learners, hardworking and driven. Recruiters are always impressed by their “can do” attitudes and their ability to dive in and do the job. Our students are truly open to learning and want to make a positive impact on the company they are working for. I think that’s what makes recruiters so excited to hire from our college.

Q: Dean Scott Dawson has made career readiness a major priority in the college. What does career readiness mean to you?
A: I define career readiness as acquiring applicable skills and experiences during college that will propel you into your career, and honing the ability to effectively communicate the value those experiences in both written and verbal formats. That could include leadership roles, internships and work experience. Recruiters always tell me that if a student can clearly articulate their skills and experience — if they can actually talk to someone — they are more likely to get hired. Once a student has that down, they will be ready to embark on their career.

Q: What new resources is Orfalea offering students to prepare them for the transition?
A: In fall 2015, we launched a new, interactive course called BUS 206: Business Professionalism and Career Readiness I, which focuses on topics such as resume building, interviewing, networking skills and career exploration. It provides a space for students to practice skills needed in the hiring process and gather feedback. In 2016, we will be introducing BUS 306: Business Professionalism and Career Readiness II, which will dive even further into career advancement and industry exploration. These classes were designed to help students secure internship opportunities and confidently transition into their careers.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give to a student preparing for the workforce?
A: Use this time at Cal Poly to intentionally build out your resume. Gain experience in areas where you might be less confident by joining a club, sitting on a committee, taking on multiple internships, and making a positive impact in your community. You want to show an employer that you are well-rounded and can balance your school work with extracurricular activities. Put yourself out there — use every resource and networking opportunity on and off campus to communicate your goals and develop connections that could help you meet your career goals.

Q: What big challenges are students facing in the hiring process today?
A: Today’s hiring process is extremely competitive, and recruiting at Cal Poly is no different. As such, it’s no longer enough to be exceptionally bright and driven. Students have to figure out what their unique strengths are in order to sell themselves in interviews and at networking events. This might not be the most intuitive thing for students, but I think it’s one of the key components that leads to a student’s ultimate success in a highly competitive market.

Q: How is the Orfalea College of Business adapting for the hiring process underclassmen will face in years to come?
A: We have quite a few things in the works. Some of our bigger projects include creating more opportunities for employers to get face time with students directly through the college. We feel that this is beneficial to our employers as well as to our students. We are also beginning to bolster our career and internship web resources to better serve students, employers and alumni. The goal is to add additional layers of programming and support so that all students have intentional training in this area. We want career readiness to be an essential part of their college experience from day one at Cal Poly so that they are ultimately successful in their careers.

To contact Chelsea regarding recruiting at Cal Poly or supporting students’ career readiness, email clkidwel@calpoly.edu.