Employment Honor Roll II: Top Performers

By Katie Thisdell
 
Editor's note: this is the second story in a four-part series on post graduate employment. Last week we named the top schools. Check back next week to read predictions about what the employment market will become.

 

A robust job market pushed employment figures to their highest level, with some schools performing better than others.  Those leaders now need to focus their resources on helping students land jobs during a pandemic.

The top performers

When Eden Mandrell first reported the Class of 2019 employment data for Widener University Commonwealth Law in Harrisburg, Pa., she was shocked at the results, as well as confident that the numbers were accurate. 

“I literally went through all our grads one by one and double checked everything,” said Mandrell, the school’s assistant dean for career development. 

The percentage of 2019 graduates who had landed the coveted category of Bar Passage Required (BPR) jobs had shot up by 20% compared to students who had graduated just a year earlier. Eighty-three percent scored these positions, and overall, 74 of the school’s 76 graduates were employed. Only one was still seeking a job, at least as of when the data was reported. 

That’s a drastic increase compared to the previous two graduating classes. At the time of those reports, 62% of 2018 graduates held BPR jobs, and 59% of 2017 grads did. 

It’s clear that significant changes Widener Commonwealth made during the past two years paid off. It’s No 1 in our analysis.

“There was a shift in how the school handles experiential learning and career services,” Mandrell said. “This is the first class that has significantly benefited.”

After a career in legal recruiting, Mandrell took over the career development role in May 2018, meaning that the Class of 2019 was the first class that she directly worked with. At the same time, the externship program was separated from the career office, so it was now led by Elizabeth Simcox, the former executive director of the Dauphin County Bar Association.

This meant there was more individual focus on students in both areas. 

Mandrell said Simcox has a knack for helping students find the right externship placements, which are a requirement to graduate. Taking part in these experiences helps students to get a better handle on what it is they want to do, and sets them up for potential jobs after graduation. For example, a lot of Widener Commonwealth students take externships with state agencies, and then get hired for these government jobs when they become licensed attorneys. Harrisburg is the state capital, so such placements are not rare. 

Mandrell also started requiring the school’s 300 or so students to meet with her individually. As a recruiter, she prided herself on getting to know her candidates. Now, the students were her candidates. 

Additionally, she switched to using the 12Twenty career center software and made the database offerings more robust. Students had to schedule appointments via the site, rather than calling her office. By forcing them to use it for some things meant it was more likely they used it for others, like their job search. 

“The current student generation is used to doing everything online,” Mandrell said. “The career services offices need to be user friendly with an easy online platform for students to check out first. If they don’t think you have anything to offer, they won’t use it.”

Now she drives all the office’s student outreach through the site, including on-campus interviewing, resume reviews and event sign-ups. Plus, it’s populated with local and national jobs openings.  

“I feel like the students are seeing that there are more resources available to them, and then because they feel like we’re adding value to their experience they are being more positive and engaging with us more,” Mandrell said.  

 

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