Q&A with Jen Coleman, Executive Director of UVA Darden’s Armstrong Center for Alumni Career Services
By Dave Hendrick
Jen Coleman joined the University of Virginia Darden School of Business in late 2015 following career stints on Wall Street and in higher education, most recently as assistant dean of the MBA Career Center at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
As the new executive director of the Armstrong Center for Alumni Career Services(ACS), Coleman plans to help Darden alumni achieve the fullest potential of their professional lives.
Coleman recently shared her thoughts on the role of ACS and her goals for the position.
Welcome to Darden! What are your initial impressions of the School?
My initial impressions of Darden are overwhelmingly positive. The passion that members of the Darden community have for the School is remarkable and contagious. I am grateful for the warm reception I have received from staff, faculty, alumni, trustees and students and am thrilled to be a part of this family.
The Career Development Center plays a critical role helping students attain the jobs they want. What role does the ACS office play in the Darden community?
The mission of the Armstrong Center for Alumni Career Services is to provide quality career management services to all Darden School alumni throughout their lives. ACS aims to support alumni in a wide variety of career scenarios that includes, but is not limited to, job search. Wondering about your positioning for internal mobility? Seeking to negotiate compensation? Considering a career transition? Thinking about retirement? These are topics ACS helps alumni work through.
You have an MBA from Kellogg. How has that degree helped shape your career?
My MBA taught me how to think of myself as my own little business — a business with unique core competencies that must be thoughtfully positioned and marketed, a business in which I must continually invest. With the tools I gained in business school, I have been able to twice reinvent myself professionally and have developed a passion for helping others do the same.
Before moving into career counseling at Georgetown, you worked in finance for a number of years. What led you to shift careers?
During the decade I worked on Wall Street, there was a very dramatic line between my professional life and my personal life. While my job was a good fit for my “hard” or technical skills, I never felt it represented who I was as a person. I made a move to higher education to achieve more of a blend. Even when I’m working really hard, life seems more balanced because I feel more personally connected to my job. As I’ve gotten older, this connection has become much more of a priority.
You are based in Washington, D.C., which is an area where Darden has a great interest. Does the centrality of your location assist in your job?
There is no question that being in D.C. has its advantages. The D.C. Metro area has the largest percentage of Darden alumni, and being near major transportation hubs makes it easier for me to visit with alumni around the world. Most importantly, I am excited to be part of Darden’s efforts to boost its D.C. presence. All this being said, there is no substitute for the on-Grounds experience and relationships, so I will be making frequent visits to Charlottesville.
To that point, Darden is in Charlottesville and you’re in Washington, D.C., but the School is also increasingly a global enterprise. How do you see that global focus reflected in Alumni Career Services?
The strategies employed in effective career management can be very broadly applied — across industries, functions and geographies. We welcome alumni clients from all over the globe for sessions via phone or Skype. Over time and with additional resources, ACS could seek to build out local expertise in key global markets.
I know you’ve only been in the role for two months, but are there areas for improvement that you’ve already noted?
ACS has an incredible track record of satisfaction among users of one-on-one coaching services. We would like to expand upon our offerings and areas of expertise to better serve an extremely diverse audience, including enhanced support for alumni in mid- and late-stages of their careers.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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Darden School of Business
University of Virginia