Bachelor of Business Administration student finds internship, career opportunity through CareerUP networking event

Valery Villarroel, BBA student, and Roxanne Sabatino, senior recruiting manager at CBIZ MHM, share the power of building your network, taking risks and seeking out career opportunities as a nontraditional student.

Valery Villarroel, BBA student, and Roxanne Sabatino, senior recruiting manager at CBIZ MHM

The importance of networking is bandied about in article after article, headline after headline. But what can it do for you, really? And, how do you know if you’re doing it right?

Bachelor of Business Administration student, Valery Villarroel’s, experience at the CareerUP event in April and subsequent career moves shed light on how to network and how to do it well.

“Networking is one of the most important things you can do during college,” Villarroel said. “Attending the CareerUP event and having a conversation changed my career track and opened doors I didn’t even know existed.”

More than 150 students met with representatives and alumni from 30 local employers at the KU Edwards Campus (KUEC) this spring to network and participate in professional development. This is where Villarroel met Roxanne Sabatino, recruiting senior manager at CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C. (CBIZ MHM). Sabatino said the KUEC students seemed particularly prepared for this kind of opportunity.

“I typically like to find people who make eye contact, approach them and start talking about their goals,” she said. “Valery was one of the first people I spoke with at the event. She was very engaging and polished and asked really good questions. I gave her my card in case she would like follow up or schedule a visit. I do that very often at events, and you’d be surprised how few students follow up. Not only did she follow up that same evening on LinkedIn, she asked more great questions that led to us having further conversations and me realizing she would be a great fit for our organization.”

At this point, Sabatino was familiar with Villarroel’s goals, knew CBIZ MHM could offer her what she was looking for and could tell it would be a cultural fit as well. She immediately approached a department head who was looking to fill a rare fall internship opportunity to tell him, “I’ve got your person.”

“The manager met Valery and came to me to say, ‘We need her somewhere in our organization. I don’t care where,’” Sabatino said. “We hadn’t even gotten approval for the position yet!”

Villarroel job shadowed at the company over the summer and on Sept. 3, she began the then-approved fall internship in the business and technology risk services group.

“Valery’s manager just stopped by my office to say he’s received great feedback from the team and she’s doing really well,” Sabatino said. “I love getting that kind of feedback!”

What Sabatino looks for in new grads can apply across industries. CBIZ MHM needs people who will feel comfortable and be professional having conversations with company owners and executives. Some of the key traits for new hires are a great attitude, flexibility, high motivation and a willingness to do what’s needed. Sabatino said she sees all of these in Villarroel who now has a career path rich with growth and diversification opportunities.

This is the goal Sabatino has for all employees – for them to be at the company long-term, to grow and chart their path internally. First, new employees pick a department then ask themselves: What drives me? What am I passionate about? Am I a people person? Do I like to focus more on the technical aspect of operations?

“We like to invest time in our employees, help them find their love and find their niche and watch them grow,” Sabatino said. “The bottom line in our organization is, ‘if you know what you want and you ask for it, we’ll provide you with those opportunities, and then it’s up to you to seize them. When you’re enhancing someone’s career like that, they’re going to be happier, be more engaged and stick around longer.”

Both Sabatino and Villarroel agree on three keys for those who want to advance in their career:

  1. Build your network.
  2. Figure out what interests you.
  3. Ask for it.

“I also think it’s important to remind nontraditional students to take a risk,” Villarroel said. “As a working professional, it’s a lot more difficult to take risks the older you get, especially if you have a family or other outside commitments. The hardest part is to take the risk, make the decision. After that, everything will kind of open up for you. It’s getting over that hurtle of ‘OK, I’m not happy where I’m at right now. I have to get off this train and figure out what I’m doing.’”

Roxanne Sabatino, senior recruiting manager at CBIZ MHM, and Valery Villarroel, BBA student and current intern at the company, pause at the CBIZ MHM office in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Lindy Rhodes.
Roxanne Sabatino, senior recruiting manager at CBIZ MHM, and Valery Villarroel, BBA student and current intern at the company, pause at the CBIZ MHM office in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Lindy Rhodes.

Sabatino credits nontraditional students for being flexible and already demonstrating bravery for reinventing themselves. This is good momentum for the extra work it takes to search for the companies and roles that will be the right fit.

“Do your homework on area companies and be open to opportunities,” she said. “Unless you’re out there asking questions, you won’t know what’s available. Take a step back and think about what you really want to do long-term. What’s important to you in a work environment? Is it culture, growth and development, the idea of working with Fortune 500 companies or prestige? Make these decisions and go after places that match these goals.”  

Finding a personal fit in a company can be just as vital to long-term employee satisfaction as a match in professional skills.

“At the Edwards Campus, they always talk to us about the ‘view at the top,’” Villarroel said. “I learned to look into the culture and environment when choosing a place to work. It’s not just about what you want to do but that the culture is in line with who you are. After visiting CBIZ MHM, experiencing the culture, meeting the people and observing the overall environment, I knew this would be the best for me.”

While Villarroel’s internship experience has proven to solidify her interest in CBIZ MHM and show her the career path she wants to follow, both she and Sabatino acknowledge the hesitation of nontraditional students to pursue internships; however as they both point out, these opportunities are often not what stereotypes suggest and could even have compensation incentives.

“A lot of times, people think you will be stuck doing grunt work in an internship,” Villarroel said. “That has not been the case for me. Training wheels came off on Day 1. In an internship, you’re actually doing things you will be doing after graduation. Don’t ever think it’s a waste of time. It will give you a good idea if this is something you want to do. There’s nothing worse than going through all that schooling and then discovering you don’t even like it. Internships are extremely important. It’s really opened my eyes and made me realize, yes, this is really what I want to do.”

What’s next for Villarroel? She graduates from the BBA program in December and will transition to the financial audit and tax group at CBIZ MHM for another internship in the spring. She plans to go straight into the Master of Accounting program while pursuing employment opportunities –which include tuition assistance – right where she already sits.

How to prepare for networking events: advice for both sides of the conversation

Believe it or not, networking can be nerve-wracking for both someone looking for career opportunities as well as those looking to recruit talent. Sabatino stresses the importance of a plan before attending any networking event.

“You get out of something what you put into,” she said. “If you go into an event not knowing what you want to accomplish, you won’t accomplish anything. If you want to meet employers, do your research ahead of time and seek those people out. Have some prepared questions. Be purposeful in what you’re doing. So many people go to events and dread them because they haven’t thought out what they want to accomplish. Recruiters are so busy; we want to make sure our time is worth it. We need to make sure we go in with a goal just like everyone else.”

Not only do job seekers need to spend time researching companies, they also need to be prepared to talk about themselves.

Not only do job seekers need to spend time researching companies, they also need to be prepared to talk about themselves.

“Go in with the mindset you want to get the most out of this experience, and make sure you practice what you’re going to say,” Villarroel said. “I remember in Karl Kammerer’s [BBA program director and lecturer] class – anytime there’s an event coming up, he’s always prepping us. We’re updating LinkedIn, having career services come to our class. Make sure you can answer these questions: What are you planning on doing with your career? Why are you studying what you’re studying? If you don’t know these things, it makes the conversation a lot more difficult.”

Kammerer encourages his students to get a business card from professionals they meet, connect with them on LinkedIn thanking them for their time and start building a repertoire. Otherwise, as Villarroel says, “You’re just one in a million.” Villarroel also credits Kammerer and other professors for providing as much real-world exposure in class as possible to ensure course lessons trickle right into the workplace.

“I’m honest with my students, when it comes to getting into the career they really want and reaching their potential – the supposedly optional things aren’t optional,” Kammerer said. “This means going the extra mile to come well prepared to events that give them the chance to interact with employers and professionals. Between my classroom, the Business Career Services offered through the Business School, KUEC student services, and events on Campus, we are striving to give our students every opportunity to engage with professionals in their fields of interest and to do so from a place of prepared confidence. Valery is a top example of a student who has taken the lessons to heart and ran with it. From being hired by the startup company that she did an experiential learning class project for, to landing a great internship, Valery has demonstrated that pushing yourself past your comfort zone reaps the biggest rewards. She’s a stellar student, and I’m excited to see where she goes from here. CBIZ MHM is lucky to have her!”

Villarroel goes so far as to say that networking is one of the most important things students can do during college.

“Grades are important, but if you’re not networking, it’s a lot harder to know what’s even out there,” she said. “Just by going to the CareerUP event and having a conversation, my career track change and doors opened to internships and even a job during and after my master’s program. It also helped me understand the industry better and allowed me to find a niche in advisory accounting that I didn’t even know existed! Now I love it. Give yourself as much exposure as possible while in school so you can have everything set up when you leave.”

Top photo: Valery Villarroel, Bachelor of Business administration student, and Roxanne Sabatinor, recruiting senior manager at CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C., take a break at the CBIZ MHM office in Kansas City, Missouri, to share how a KU Edwards Campus networking event resulted in a great match between Villarroel and CBIZ MHM. Photo by Lindy Rhodes.

Learn more about the second annual CareerUP event in November 2019.

Explore the bachelor’s of business administration and master of accounting at KU Edwards.

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