Pamela Prieto: Miners Opening Doors for Other Miners
There are many opportunities for students to connect with employers at UTEP. Pamela Prieto, Career Development Manager for the College of Business Administration, serves as the link between its students and the career opportunities that await them beyond the University.
Prieto helps students position themselves for the next – sometimes first – big step in their careers. Working with students, she helps them “see their own experiences with fresh eyes” to build strong resumes and hone interview skills through one-on-one sessions and professional development activities hosted at the College.
As the business world shifts to virtual job interviews as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Prieto shares with COBA News her insights about what skills employers are looking for in new hires and highlights why it’s a big deal the Big Four accounting firms visited COBA this academic year.
Can you tell us about your educational/career background and how that prepared you for what you are doing now?
I graduated from UTEP with a degree in Print Media in 2010, probably at the worst time in journalism history to try to go into that business. It became very clear soon after graduation that if I wanted to have a job I was passionate about and could make a living with, I was going to have to get an advanced degree. So, I went to Boston University and obtained a Master of Science in Mass Communication with a concentration in Communication Research.
After that, I was a market researcher for another large public university. It was a great job – but it was not a great job for me. After a lot of soul searching, I asked myself, “what are the things I need in a job to be happy in my day to day? What am I really good at, and what kind of job would allow me to do those things?”
I realize now that what I was missing – mission-driven work where I get to constantly interact with and help others – is exactly what I love about helping students explore their own career paths.
What services do you provide to the students of COBA?
I work directly with students to help them write strong resumes, prepare for internship/job interviews, and to provide career advice as they navigate their employment options. My job is to provide them feedback so that they can present themselves in the most polished and professional way to potential employers, both in writing and in person.
At the core of what I do is help students see their own experiences with fresh eyes, in a way that will help them position themselves to successfully launch into the next step in their career. I also help students connect with employers by organizing recruitment events at the College and finding new ways for companies to engage with the wonderful talent we have on campus.
As the business world adopts greater online presence in regard to meetings and interviews, what are some of the ways students can prepare themselves for the world of virtual job hunting?
We had already started seeing trends of employers moving their recruitment efforts to virtual environments, but the COVID-19 pandemic really accelerated the rate at which we all had to adapt to a new way of connecting and collaborating. This is especially true for our students – those searching for career opportunities as well as those whose internships turned into remote positions overnight.
As candidates, it will be more important than ever for students to learn to differentiate themselves from their peers and to ensure that their most marketable qualities are at the forefront of their online presence. Students will also have to adopt global mentalities and learn to showcase quick critical thinking skills. Equally important, they must learn how to cultivate relationships – with campus resources, faculty, employers and alumni – who can help facilitate career and other professional development opportunities.
As far as practical advice, we have been working very hard at the UTEP Career Center to put together resources for students to navigate the new reality of virtual job hunting. We have a Virtual Career Center with tips for all aspects of the online job search. For specific questions, I encourage COBA students to make an appointment with me at calendly.com/pprieto or to email email@example.com.
In your interactions with employers, what professional development skills do they point to as necessities for students entering the workforce?
Students generally need to have a balanced mix of skill sets to attract top employers. Of course, they need to be knowledgeable in areas specific to their major, but they also need to go beyond that. Employers are interested in candidates who have demonstrated strong leadership and teamwork skills; and they look for experiences outside the classroom, like student organizations, study abroad, and other co-curricular activities as evidence of these soft skills.
The UTEP Edge Experiences and Advantages are a good guide for students, since they are based on feedback from employers. These experiences have the highest impact when paired with a results-driven mentality. Employers want to see candidates whose skills have yielded tangible results.
Initiative and passion for the company or industry are also very important. A recruiter once told me, “I can teach students all the technical skills they need to do the job, but I can’t teach them to want to work here.” That has really stuck with me, and it’s the reason that it is crucial for students to understand the importance of articulating why they might be a good fit with a for a specific role within a specific company.
In a first for the College, the Big Four accounting firms – Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PwC – visited COBA this academic year. In your view, why is it important for the College and our students?
This is great news for our students and I am so happy to have been a part of these conversations and employer engagements. I believe it signals that new employers are beginning to recognize what our long-term corporate partners have known all along – that we are a community whose talent and work ethic far exceed expectations on a consistent basis. We are this jewel in the desert, that is now being discovered.
The fact that some of these engagements were driven by alumni also signals to me that UTEP as a community reaches far beyond our region. It’s Miners pulling in other Miners, preparing a seat at the table, where we can be a part of the conversation and our students can shine among industry leaders.
Can you describe a meaningful interaction with a student and why it stayed with you?
There have been so many! My favorite part of this job is hearing about how students ended up landing their dream job or internship.
A few years ago, we had two students hired out of the New York City Corporate tour – it was so wonderful to watch them networking in action, impress the employer, and receive their offers for full-time jobs in New York City a few weeks later. Those same graduates have since helped us organize other corporate tours and opened the door for other students.
There are also those interactions where you realize how much of an impact a new job or internship can have not just on this one student, but on their whole family.
I remember the first time a student confided in me that they were homeless – there was so much riding on that interview for him and his family. I have met with students who are dealing with challenges that we don’t usually think of as problems for typical college students – there have been struggling parents, students with criminal records, those dealing with the loss of a loved one.
I am always humbled and impressed with how students somehow find the strength to power through as they aspire to become more than their circumstance and complete their degrees.
Those are the types of interactions that have stayed with me the most. I know I’m not the only one who hears these stories across campus, which is why I feel very fortunate to be part of a community that works day in and day out to contribute to our students’ success as they move through our institution and launch their careers.