Associate Director of Undergraduate and Alumni
Preparing Krannert School of Management students for careers they'll love — and helping them find the perfect post-graduation job — is Erik Props' charge.
As the associate director of undergraduate and alumni careers in the Krannert Professional Development Center, Props often coaches students through personal challenges and obstacles that stand in the way of their success. Props, who suffered a traumatic spinal injury when he was 20 and uses a wheelchair, tells students that they can transcend their struggles with dedication and perseverance.
How do you help Krannert students find jobs?
A big part of my job involves bringing companies to campus to recruit students and helping with those recruitment efforts. There are career fairs, for example, that help with this process. The two main ones involve the School of Management Employers Forum (SMEF), which is a student organization that works with us to put on the fairs.
The career fairs are the Krannert Undergraduate Fall Career Fair, which is held every fall, and the Krannert Undergraduate Spring Career Fair, which is held in the spring. These are huge events — last fall, we had 150 employers attend. We held it at the Purdue Memorial Union, and the fair filled up both ballrooms and the lounge, and it spilled out onto the lawn. It was just great to see so many companies involved, many of which are some of the top employers in the country.
What else does the Krannert Professional Development Center do?
We help companies hone their recruiting strategies, connect them with student organizations on campus, and sponsor case competitions, in which companies write up a business problem and our students help them look for potential outcomes. Sometimes, these case competitions involve business problems that are interdisciplinary — maybe the problem requires a solution involving management and technology, for example — so in that way, we help students all across campus.
Beyond working with companies to help students find jobs, we work directly with students to help coach them on the job-search process. We talk with them, find out what kind of job fits their skills, and help connect them with work they will love. For example, my colleague Maureen Huffer Landis aids students' professional development by doing things such as reviewing their career strategies, educating them about available career resources, critiquing their resumes and business correspondence, and helping them hone interview skills. Maureen and I also have been heavily involved in a Krannert initiative called Launching Business Leaders, which helps our students build a personal brand, become proficient in developing professional relationships and expand their leadership skills while they earn Purdue degrees.
Additionally, we show our students Krannert's placement data, so they can get an idea of the types of jobs our alumni land. We know we're doing good work because our data reflects the fact that between 80 and 90 percent of Krannert graduates land jobs or enter grad school within six months of graduation.
How have your life experiences helped you become a better mentor?
After a waterskiing accident that happened when I was 21, I was paralyzed from the chest down. Although through physical therapy I regained limited use of my hands and 70 to 80 percent triceps strength, it still took the better part of two years to transition to my wheelchair and accompanying lifestyle.
I learned early on, though, that everyone has challenges and obstacles that they face — mine are just more visible than most people's. Students all face struggles every day, and I think it's easy for me to talk with them about that. I'm able to tell students that hardships can be overcome with hard work and passion, and I think that resonates with them.
How did you become interested in helping students find careers?
I graduated from Krannert myself and began my career here as an academic advisor, and I loved that work. I really enjoyed helping students figure out what they wanted to do. In 2002, I was named director of undergraduate programs. In 2005, the previous coordinator of undergraduate career services was retiring — that's what this job used to be called — and I realized that doing this would be challenging and a good fit for me.
Essentially, this job is about promoting Purdue to students and to employers, and that's something I'm passionate about doing. I'm also involved in expanding Krannert's Launching Business Leaders initiative to include undergraduates, and that involves helping students develop skills and competencies that reach beyond academics. In that initiative and in everything we do, we want to help prepare our students for lives as world-class citizens. It's a privilege to be part of that work.