Christian Krohg ’22 was no stranger to high-pressure presentations. As cofounder of the college food delivery service Easy Eats, he knew his way around a pitch deck.

This was different.

The economics and music double major had never presented recommendations with high-stakes implications to a corporate sales team, and certainly not one for a $317-billion company like LVMH, the retail giant that owns iconic brands like Louis Vuitton, Moet & Chandon, and Tiffany.

“It was so cool to see the liberal arts approach to a business problem like entering a new market,” said Krohg, who worked on a product-market fit analysis for one of LVMH’s up-and-coming brands, Volcan Tequila. “We presented to the North American head of sales at LVMH, and it was amazing to see how receptive they were to the ideas we came up with.”

For Krohg, this was the culmination of a new course called Jan Plan Institute, created by Lisa Noble, director of employer engagement and entrepreneurship and DavisConnects advisor for consulting at Colby, in which he and 40 other students had the opportunity to explore different career options and better understand the essential elements of a successful job search.

“Finding a career is about asking questions. You can always come back to yourself, your strengths, and what you value to figure out what’s next in your career.” —Lisa Noble, director of employer engagement and entrepreneurship and DavisConnects advisor for consulting

The students worked in groups as consultants solving real-world business problems for organizations sponsored by alumni, presenting their findings to the project sponsors and stakeholders from around the company with detailed recommendations.Each team worked to solve a different business challenge, such as creating a new marketing plan for Rootstock Philanthropy and CEO Brad Smith ’96 or evaluating recruiting strategies for the Maine Rural Water Association Project.

And they had fewer than eight business days to do it.

“It was eye-opening to see how things work in the real world and what skills come together to make a great team,” said Ellie Theriault ’21, a Global Studies  and East Asian Studies minor whose team analyzed 2020 retail sales and financial forecasts for Moet Hennessey.

And the team isn’t done.

Moet Hennessy invited students to apply for post-graduate opportunities, and will not only be using the work of the Volcan Tequila and e-Retail teams (14 students in all) but will also invite them to participate in meetings with senior executives to learn how they are putting the students’ thinking to work. In addition, there is an open invitation from the head of corporate development at Gusto, a fintech firm, for Colby students to apply for internships and jobs . And the team of entrepreneurs at Salles Associates will use Colby students’ research to raise capital with private investors.

Opportunity Knocks

Colby students get exposure to all kinds of academic subjects through requirements and the liberal arts curriculum, but with so many doors, it can be hard to know which one to open first. “I wanted to build a class that would have helped me through the process of conducting an efficient job search,” said Noble, who ran the class. “Not only learning how to build a really strong résumé, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile, but how to talk about themselves in an interview or on paper. It’s about giving students the tools they need to conduct an effective search and achieve their immediate goals of summer or full-time employment with confidence.

“Finding a career is about asking questions,” Noble said. “You can always come back to yourself, your strengths, and what you value to figure out what’s next in your career.”

The first week focused on personality tests, like Myers-Briggs, that employers commonly use. “The coolest part of the class was that it didn’t start with, ‘What do you want to do?’ but with, ‘Who are you?’” said Justin Masella ’21, whose team researched new markets for an innovative mask design for Salles Innovations. “This Jan Plan was a great time to pause and really think about what opportunities are out there, and how to move forward.”

Building Personal Brands

Noble also worked with each student to craft résumés and cover letters, practice mock interviews, and think through how to present themselves online — all while using common project management and remote collaboration tools. “Business is a team sport, and so that’s how we treated the class, partnering up or in small groups to work together,” said Noble. “Introducing them to common tools like Slack and Asana means they can hit the ground running when they start that first job.”

Understanding strengths and skillsets not only gives students more confidence, but it also shows them what to highlight to potential employers in interviews and cover letters. “It was overwhelming to think about all of the different things I could do, but I didn’t necessarily know how to take that step toward any particular one,” said Krohg. “Looking at my strengths helped me narrow that focus and see how it fits into my other interests.”

Nailing your personal brand makes a big difference when it comes to getting a foot in the door. “It was incredible just walking through everything,” added Krohg. “It might feel mundane, but it’s so important to get your résumé and cover letter just right. Now I have a template I can use when applying to venture capital internships this summer.”

A Path Forward

More than anything, the course gives students a confident way forward, wherever their career may take them. “Before this class, I was very much limiting myself in terms of what I wanted to do, because I felt like I didn’t have enough experience,” said Theriault. “After taking this class and doing the project, I feel a lot more confident that I can do this and that I’ll find a role in marketing that really fits my skill set.”

“This class solidified the belief that graphic design is what I want to do,” said Masella. “Now I have a plan to get there, and I’m more confident that it’s the right thing for me.”

Added Noble, “It’s about giving students the confidence to expand the definition of what a job looks like. The thing about liberal arts is that if you can think critically, synthesize data from multiple places, and communicate effectively, you can do anything.”