We had a chance to speak with Michelle Luong, a senior at Penn State University, majoring in Supply Chain & Information Systems with a minor in Information Systems Management. She has completed one co-op at Kimberly-Clark and two summer internships at Bank of America (all within procurement) throughout her time at Penn State. We met Michelle at this year’s NASPO Annual Conference, and we were so captivated by her insight and conversation that we interviewed her on student recruitment into public procurement. The following is part one of our conversation with Michelle on how state procurement offices can better recruit students.
Be Visible- Procurement officials should put their names out there on campuses and work with student organizations to gain exposure to public procurement. Be aware of recruiting seasons and career fairs happening throughout the year.
Be Early– Don’t wait until the end of the school year to try to speak with seniors. Begin to engage with the freshmen, sophomore, or junior classes in the fall at the start of the school year.
Be Involved– Go beyond the career fairs. Work with universities, professors, and student groups to connect with the student body through classes and presentations.
NASPO Staff: How should public procurement offices better advocate for themselves on college campuses?
Michelle Luong: First, you get better personal reach with students, especially a small group of students, [if] you get a more personal connection. Get ahold of a Supply Chain professor and be like, ‘Hey, what topics are you talking about this week?’ You can say, ‘I can come in and talk to the class and teach you about some of those concepts and how I apply that in real life, in public procurement.’ In one of my supply chains classes, we actually had some full-time employees from companies come in and talk about concepts we were actually learning and that interests us [students] because we can get to know the person as a manager, how they interact with their teams and with their companies, and how they grew in their careers.
Second, attending informational sessions [held by the University], you are able to speak with students whose majors are in supply chain or if you are open to other majors, such as business, or any student organizations.
Third, the career fair is another one. Make sure your booth is at a good location because sometimes when it’s a pretty known company the lines can get really long and so students will hop to the one next door or hop to the one across. As the state procurement executives are there, they have to grab them [students] in. Career fair reps will say ‘Hey do you want to speak with us?’ We are not going to say no. We are always going to speak [with them], but sometimes you have to pull students in.
NASPO Staff: Who should be our focus groups? Should we focus more on the freshmen and sophomore classes to develop, train, and offer internship opportunities?
Michelle Luong: So, one of the things I have seen in companies is that they don’t accept freshmen and sophomores. So, when a freshmen or sophomore comes to speak to them (companies) it is kind of like ‘Hey we really can’t offer you anything right now, but I will tell you about us,’ but that’s kind of it. Usually, if that were me, I would be kind of… all right onto the next one.
Be open when a freshman or sophomore shows interest. Take advantage of that opportunity because more than likely they may hop over somewhere else. I would say that sophomore [and] freshmen classes [are] a sweet spot, especially for public procurement. Even juniors, because sometimes juniors don’t have an internship yet. I know when I was in my junior year, I didn’t have an internship yet, so I was open to anything at [that] point.
You need to get them in the beginning of the fall recruiting season. Freshmen and sophomores, you can get away with the fall and spring season, but juniors you will need to get to them in the fall. Seniors more than likely have a focus and companies with which they have interned. You want to get those who are still open to different career paths and usually [students] who are open are those ones who haven’t had an internship or far off from graduation.
NASPO Staff: Can you expound on rotational programs, and how this can be instituted in procurement offices?
Michelle Luong: I was inspired by rotational programs and that was one of my criteria. That’s a lot of [my] peers’ criteria, is having that rotational [program] because it usually grows you the most. Typically, most individuals work in one position and then may try to move up in the company, but that can usually take a long time if it happens at all. Also, it can make the employee feel stagnant with nowhere to grow in their company or organization. Usually, rotational [programs] lasts two to three years, then you change positions every year, so it’s a fast growth and you get more experiences within that short amount of time. An important thing for me and my peers is diversifying our knowledge especially in the start of our career.
Thanks Michelle! Here are some resources to help get your procurement office started:
Brandi Ann Willard, NASPO’s Academic Affairs Manager, is always offering new way to engage through the Academic Initiatives.
Cronin Webinar Series: Arizona – Developing the Next Generation of Procurement Professionals