Daniels Professional Development Program Prepares Undergrads For Workplace Success

Professional development is typically considered in the post-graduate career context. Discerning employers offer professional development programs to strengthen or sow new employee skill sets. They’re also a powerful recruiting asset that points to a robust, employee-focused corporate culture.

But what about professional development as a student—before entering the workplace? Is there a place for it? Or is fulfilling the requirements of a rigorous major all the professional development that any undergraduate needs?

According to Catherine Kelley and Angie Jimenez with Daniels Career Services, which operates the Daniels Professional Development Program (DPDP), student professional development is no longer a college nice-to-have.

The fact is, they say, many undergraduates don’t know what they want to do, where to start or even know how to process career information. Student professional development—helping them explore majors, pursue internships and career paths, and preparing them to find career opportunities—has become a must-have for competitive universities.

“There is a cultural expectation to have our careers figured out at an early age,” said Kelley, associate director and career coach. “We’re asked as early as age 5 what we want to be when we grow up. Where are you going to college? What are you going to study?

“We try to alleviate that pressure and normalize the fact that it’s OK to not know. And even once you get a job, odds are you will likely go through several job and career changes in your lifetime. Students need to know that and build the skills and confidence to put themselves in front of employers,” she added.

As a result, and in response to employers’ demands for better-prepared students, Daniels introduced DPDP. Currently a two-course, non-credit module, DPDP provides undergraduate business students with the foundational knowledge to be ready on day one of entering the workforce. DPDP became a required component of the Daniels core curriculum in fall 2016.

“DPDP I is generally taken freshman year and focuses on career exploration and developing a professional development strategy,” said Kelley. “DPDP II is taken sophomore year and focuses on LinkedIn, interviewing skills and understanding the hiring process.

“Both components include lectures and engage guest speakers—human resources professionals and hiring managers—from national and area businesses,” she added.

A third DPDP course is in development for launch in the 2022–2023 academic year and will focus on technical skills.

“DPDP III will expose juniors to the technologies and analytic tools that are heavily being used across industries,” said Jimenez, career services advisor. “While they don’t expect new graduates to have certifications, employers want graduates to at least have exposure to tools like Salesforce, Google Analytics, Tableau and Microsoft Power BI, among others.”

Jimenez said 30 juniors will participate in a DPDP III pilot beginning this fall. The class of 2024 will be the first group to experience DPDP III fully as it is built out. The DPDP III curriculum is being developed based on input from students, faculty and the Daniels Employer Advisory Council.