Collaborating to Help Build Student Pathways into Careers


August 29, 2018

Over the last year Skylight’s relationship with the University of Cincinnati (UC) and the Carl H. Lindner College of Business Lindner Career Services has flourished. At the heart of this two-way relationship is a joint commitment to real-life learning, a sharing of valuable information and a desire to help students find out what they are passionate about so that they can turn their passion into a career.  In addition to standard career fairs, the two organizations have been working closely to organize immersions days, employer info sessions, employer panels, mentorship programs, sponsorship opportunities and business skills training.

Below we hear from Jessica Lee, Assistant Director at the Lindner College of Business Career Services at UC and Charles Cooper (known as Coop), Managing Director at Skylight, to get their perspective on why this relationship is so beneficial.

Jessica, could you describe how the relationship with Skylight is beneficial?

The Careers Services center at Lindner is quite unique, as on top of being career coaches, we also teach classes and provide real-world learning opportunities.  Getting students thinking and engaging in conversations around their careers and future goals starts early in their college experience.  Our approach is holistic.  We don’t just want our students to have good GPAs.  We want them to develop softer skills, like people skills, and benefit from experiential learning so that they are better prepared for their career.

Skylight’s approach dovetails with ours.  We have built a strong working relationship and greatly appreciate the support.  Coop adds real value as he is a successful businessman.  He “walks the talk”, so to speak, and that makes him very credible in the eyes of our undergrads and grads.   When he gives classroom talks or mentors on topics as diverse as leadership, entrepreneurship, accountability, community involvement or how to be successful, he engages the students and gives great insight into the working life and what employers are looking for.  This is the kind of advice that cannot be obtained in the classroom, so they learn so much from him. He is very skilled at praising the students, taking questions, encouraging them and having conversations which unearths what motivates them and interests them.  The feedback has been incredibly positive, and I’ve had a student come to me and say that Coop’s sessions were his favorite of the course.

Also, through our relationship with Coop, we have gained a thorough understanding of the opportunities that are available for our students at Skylight Financial Group.  We understand the type of employer they are and the culture of the firm.  This means that, rather than handing out a list of students to Skylight, we can look at the skill set and personalities of our young talent, and where there’s a good fit, we can direct them to Skylight.  We (and Coop) can also talk and educate our students about opportunities in the financial services industry or being an entrepreneur, which opens their eyes to career paths they may not have otherwise considered.

Coop and his team are very hands-on.  We are in regular communication which is key to our successful relationship. Earlier this year we hosted our staff retreat in Skylight’s offices.  Not only did this enable us to have an off-site meeting, it also helped us see for ourselves the location and vibe of Skylight which we were able to communicate back to our students.  We also appreciate the “employer” insight that Coop and his team can give us.  This enables us keep in touch with trends and expectations so that we can adapt our career preparation and curriculum so that our students will continue to have a competitive advantage and meet the needs of employers.

Coop, could you describe the benefits of your relationship with UC and Lindner?

The number one reason students choose to go to college today is improved employment opportunities*.  So, the way I look at it is that it is more crucial than ever for colleges and employers to forge even stronger relationships and set a path for connecting students.  We have had a good relationship with University of Cincinnati (UC) over the years, but it’s really taken off in the last year.

My strength lies in being able to talk to students and addressing real-life stuff.  I’m doing more and more talks and mentoring at UC and the Lindner College of Business which gives me not only the opportunity to tell them about Skylight (how we operate and how we are different) but also to help them understand about business – real-life things like what It takes to be a business owner, what mindset you need to succeed and pitfalls to be avoided.  It brings me great joy to be able to help our young talent discover our industry and the opportunities of entrepreneurship.

Whether it’s speaking to undergrads, various clubs or the Master’s program, bringing that business experience to the classroom is welcomed with open arms by students and staff alike.  Nobody else is talking about why taking notes or calendaring is important and it’s this kind of advice that sets them up for career success.  It gives a real-world practicality to what they are learning and gets them thinking earlier about the cause and effect of what they do.  I always allow plenty of time for questions as then the students get answers to what they are interested in.

Jessica and the Lindner Career Services have a thorough understanding and insight into Skylight and the characteristics that we look for in our financial planners, so they are great about making intros to high caliber students who they believe would be a good fit for our firm.  We have welcomed financial professional, Broc Stradley, who received Bachelor’s degree at UC, to our firm and very recent new hire, Brandon Kerley.

It has been a pleasure to collaborate with Lindner Career Services and we will continue to look at ways to further support and engage with each other.  We are committed to do all we can to help them with their goal of connecting students and getting them hired with a firm that’s a good fit for them.

* Deciding to Go to College by Rachel Fishman.  New American Educational Policy Paper Supported by the Lumina Foundation.  May 28th, 2015.  www.newamerica.org