Thinking about b-school
February 13th, 2009
From a discussion with Rita Winkler, an admissions officer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB).
Rita: Given the economic downturn, how does this affect the job prospects for applicants considering business school?
Andy: Applicants must make their decision about applying to business school separate from what’s going on in the economy. Why? The economy is unpredictable and the future is uncertain – always. No one knows what the market will be like in two to three years. It could be better or worse (We all hope it will be better!).
Rita: What does the CMC do to help students find jobs when the economy is weak?
Andy: The CMC has developed relationships with many organizations who enjoy hiring Stanford students. However, in times like these, even those organizations may not be hiring. One of our key goals is to teach and guide students to become strategic career managers so that they are equipped to manage their job search while at b-school and throughout their careers when they are alumni. We deliver numerous workshops, job search programming, and 1-on-1 advising to help students successfully find opportunities, especially at smaller organizations. Smaller firms are more likely to be hiring in a down economy. They are also more able to create a job – where one did not exist before – for a great candidate like one of our students. In addition, the CMC helps students tap into the supportive and responsive alumni network. In the last downturn, the CMC asked alumni to create projects and jobs and the alumni responded positively. This is possible at Stanford because so many of our alumni are top executives at their organizations and they really care about the school.
Rita: In what other ways do our alumni help students?
Andy: Alumni are especially valuable in educating students about a wide range of careers and organizations. In addition, they are mentors, business advisors, and networking contacts. Many are angel investors or institutional investors that fund student-developed businesses. Our alumni are even more responsive in regions far from California. If you contact alumni in any location outside the SF Bay Area, they will be very responsive because they love helping Stanford MBAs and hearing what’s happening back at the GSB – one of their favorite places on the planet.
Rita: How does the job search experience vary for first year students?
Andy: Every year, including the post-dot com recession years of 2002-2003, 100% of job-seeking first year students have obtained a summer job. Organizations find it valuable and easy (and less of a commitment) to hire an MBA student for a summer job or project. In addition, students are less selective about their summer job choice. Although it’s easier for first year students, they are always very anxious throughout the process because they’ve never been through it before and the outcomes are uncertain.
Rita: What percent of the graduating class had job offers back in 2002-2003?
Andy: 78-83% of the class graduated with a job offer, which was more than we would have expected given the state of the economy – especially in Silicon Valley. When the job market was hot (’06-’08), 87-92% of the class graduated with a job offer, so it wasn’t dramatically different in the numbers. But it felt very different. In ’02-’03, many students accepted jobs that were not their 1st choice dream job, but it was better than no job at all. On the positive side, many were able to transition to their 1st choice career path within two or three years after graduation. We expect that this year (’09) will be even more difficult than in ’02-’03 because the downturn has negatively impacted almost all sectors this time around.
Rita: Do you help students who do not have jobs after graduation?
Andy: Yes. We have a comprehensive set of resources offered by our Alumni Career Services (ACS) team. We offer executive coaching and workshops all over the world. The online alumni job board has thousands of jobs posted each year. And the ACS website and newsletter has numerous tools, resources and articles to address post-MBA job search and career management issues. Each year, we remain close to each student without a job and provide whatever support s/he needs.
Rita: What would you recommend to applicants who are considering applying to the MBA Program this year with regards to their future job search?
Andy: I would ask them to consider the following three things:
1) Clarify their personal purpose for getting their MBA. What are you hoping to achieve by getting your MBA? Understand if, and how, having an MBA will help you move towards the career you wish to pursue. There are some careers where an MBA is not required (and some where having an MBA is actually not desired).
2) Given the state of the economy, set realistic expectations for what you can achieve in the short term. What’s your expected timeframe for achieving your goals? Envision the ideal vs. realistic vs. worst cases. It’s better to “hope for the best and be prepared for the worst”. With the correct expectations, you won’t be disappointed. And if the market turns positive, then you’ll be very happy.
3) View the MBA as an asset with long term value. I know so many alumni in their 40’s and older who reflect on their careers and remark how valuable and meaningful their MBA has been in influencing the direction of their careers and lives. Your investment will payout in multiple dividends over your lifetime, so get ready for a long, enjoyable ride.
Any advice you’d give to folks considering b-school today?