By Benjamin Wood
For most university students, the summer months represent a coveted escape from campus and the responsibilities of academia. The oasis between spring and fall semester generally conjures visions of relaxing on the beach, camping in the mountains, late nights and late mornings. For a group of ambitious students from the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University, however, this past summer was much more meaningful. The students spent the summer preparing themselves to enter the business world armed with tools and skills necessary to land a job that would blossom into a satisfying career.
Each Tuesday evening, 38 students met in the George S. Eccles Business Building to take part in the Great Work, Great Career Learning Group, a pilot program offered this summer at USU and a collaboration of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, FranklinCovey and USU Career Services. The eight-week course was structured around the book Great Work, Great Career, co-authored by Huntsman Professor Stephen R. Covey and Jennifer Colosimo (see “Required Reading” back cover). It offered students a chance to learn from Huntsman faculty and career professionals. Having a great career, say the authors of the book, is about much more than acquiring wealth and position. Instead, “A person with a great career makes a distinctive contribution and generates a strong feeling of loyalty and trust in others. Anyone, regardless of title or position or profession, can do these things.”
For students coordinating the learning group, the experience was about discovering an opportunity to align themselves with the principles in the book and discover the beginning of their own paths to their own great careers.
“It’s for people who want to learn how to land a good job, one that fits them,” said Blake Nemelka, a student in the Huntsman School. Blake, his twin brother, Bo, and Darcy Stewart, also students at the school, helped organize the program and structure it into a classroom format.
“You learn how to be a solution and to make a great contribution in your career,” Bo said.
The course provided an opportunity for students to learn experientially and from each other. The class included weekly reading, an online community and in-class discussion groups and workshops. Hands-on work on things such as building resumes and cover letters created compelling takeaways for students involved. Weekly guest speakers, including Huntsman School faculty, USU career specialists and co-author Jennifer Colosimo of the Covey organization, created opportunities for students to learn from others with exemplary careers.
Photo by Russ Dixon
Unlike other summer courses at USU, participants in Great Work, Great Career did not receive university credit. Students accepted into the program exhibited initiative and personal dedication to advancing their careers through the experience.
“You’re doing it because of the outcome and not the credit,” Blake said.
The three student organizers were referred by faculty and selected as interns by the Covey organization. After their selection, they worked with faculty to design the program and launch it. More than 70 USU students applied to the program, from which the final 38 were selected, with about half being majors in the Huntsman School.
“We were looking for students who would come to class with a smile on their face, looking to learn,” Blake said.
The Great Work, Great Career program is fully aligned with the mission of the school of business to be a career accelerator, said Dr. Chris Fawson, associate dean. The program was part of the school’s efforts to help students transition from academia to the employment market.
“What the book tries to do is help students realize their career aspirations,” Dr. Fawson said. “Stephen Covey’s work has been to empower individuals to reach their full potential.”
The course goes far beyond landing a first job. The book focuses on building a great career, including finding strength in challenge, knowing your own personal strengths and finding synergy with those around you.
“It’s broader than just a career,” Dr. Fawson said. “You can’t look at your career independent from the other aspects of your life.”
Lynne Pettit, a career accelerator in the Huntsman School, worked with the three student interns to craft a curriculum for the eight-week program. In its original form, Great Work, Great Career was an online program, but Mr. Pettit said students suggested adding a classroom element.
“That’s really been one of the successes,” Mr. Pettit said. “The learning seems to be more complete when the students are able to share with each other. Each student brings his or her own experiences and perspective to the discussion; it really adds a whole dimension.”
The group has already seen success. Blake said a number of students obtained meaningful employment during the course of the program.
“These aren’t just jobs,” Blake said. “These are careers they could stay in for a while.”
Response from the course has been extremely positive, and all of the organizers were confident that the program would continue at USU beyond the summer term or even expand to other campuses.
“The program will not be stopping at USU, Bo said. “Ultimately, these kinds of concepts are ideal for any university.”
Dr. Fawson agreed.
“We hope to provide a Great Work, Great Career learning experience from now on,” Dr. Fawson said.
The course is also intended to benefit students beyond the business school. Janita Andersen, a project manager for FranklinCovey, said the lessons learned through the program are for anyone seeking employment or job advancement.
“We’re exploring ways to take this throughout the business school and the university through career services,” Ms. Andersen said. “We saw this as an online program. As we started working with USU, we decided that we really wanted to have a hands-on experience. It really turned out to be a fabulous idea.”
Dr. Fawson said the class will continue to be for students who demonstrate the desire to achieve their potential.
“We’re looking for students who exemplify the values embedded in Covey’s work,” Dr. Fawson said. “They’re well-rounded, they’re energetic, they’re fun and they’re also really smart. They represent the best we have to offer.”