If a bell is clanging loudly inside Willard J. Walker Hall, no need to be alarmed. It means another student has accepted an internship or career job.
Sometimes the student will bring friends and family members for this tradition held in Walton Career Services at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Trisha DuCote also makes a point to be there. As one of the career coaches for Walton Career Services, she works with students from the time they put together their first résumé to negotiating a job offer – an event that is exciting for all, including DuCote.
“We like celebrating it,” DuCote says. “They need to celebrate that. It’s a big milestone.”
Since 2015, DuCote has provided support, guidance and reassurance for students as they begin to develop their career management skills. The goals of Walton’s career coaches include showing students how to navigate career management, which they can put to use for years to come, DuCote says.
In addition to helping with résumé writing and reviewing, she also assists students with their professional online presence. DuCote says she especially enjoys conducting mock job interviews. “I really don’t want their first professional interview be the first time they practice for an interview,” she says.
Walton Career Services also serves as a liaison between employers and students by providing information about job opportunities and internships. Sometimes students assume that jobs found on Handshake – a digital platform that connects them to potential employers – are limited to Northwest Arkansas, but that’s not the case. In fact, they can search for opportunities in their hometowns, she says. DuCote says Handshake gives students an advantage over other online search platforms because it focuses on student users.
During the pandemic, much of the population – from students to businesses and even Walton Career Services – have engaged virtually. Yet, DuCote encourages her students to dress professionally for virtual job and internship interviews. “You need to be up and dressed and ready to work, engaged with the camera, and virtual etiquette — I think is the biggest thing that has changed,” DuCote says.
In fact, more companies are using software where applicants record answers to interview questions remotely. The catch is that they can’t go back and edit, and they typically have one shot at it before submitting. Before the pandemic, Walton had already invested in software driven with artificial intelligence to help students prepare for these types of interviews.
When students tell her that they have an approaching job interview, DuCote will get as much information she can, from both the student and job description itself, and come up with questions so students can learn to effectively articulate their experiences and skills to prospective employers.
“Until they go to their first interview, they don’t realize how much preparation it might take,” DuCote says. “And once they have a mock interview, they’re like, ‘Wait. OK. This is harder than I thought it would be.’”
That includes what to wear. Walton Career Services has that covered as well with its Career Closet, which offers students four modern, professional apparel items, including shoes. Suits, for both men and women, can be expensive. However, here they are free. “They will not leave the Career Closet without everything they need,” DuCote says.
DuCote grew up in nearby Springdale and earned a business administration degree in marketing and logistics – a first-generation college graduate – from what is now the Walton College. She worked in human resources for a trucking business and, later, for a manufacturer that was a supplier for a technology company.
As her family began growing, DuCote worked part time for her parents’ business, performing duties related to human resources before going on hiatus to raise her three children. When they were older, DuCote accepted a temporary position with the university’s College of Engineering and discovered she loved working with students. After the job ended, she signed up with RazorTemps, a temp service with the University of Arkansas, and patiently waited for an assignment. When she learned there was a need for a temporary front desk worker to act as a liaison between employers and students for Walton’s Career Development Center, she jumped at the opportunity. The temporary position led to a career coaching position. DuCote is finishing her master’s degree in higher education with a concentration in human resources and workforce development at the University of Arkansas.
Meanwhile, she continues to relay this message to students: meet with a career coach.
“Even if you think you’ve got it all tied up and you’re on the right track, a second set of eyes on something really can pay off and help open up doors,” DuCote says.