How Olin Maintains A 97% Placement Rate

Olin student receiving counseling

Olin student receiving counseling

What are the most popular services that you offer and what are you doing to meet MBAs’ needs? In the Weston Career Center, we employ experienced professional industry specialists – that’s what we call them. These are not just for the full-time MBAs. These are coaches for all students and alumni. So we focus on bringing in people with a depth of knowledge in a specific industry that aligns with our students’ interests. One of the things we do every year is that I will look at the incoming full-time MBA class and their backgrounds. We also ask them to complete an onboarding survey with three simple questions about what their career is; do they consider themselves career switchers or accelerators; and what are their expectations at the end of their MBA. So that gives my team and I some insights on what we’re going to expect to see when they come onboard for orientation.

Given the fact that we have them do that early in the summer also allows me to look at and think about, where should we be filling in any gaps? So we have a number of part-time industry specialists that we’ve brought on. For example, we’ve added someone for our veterans in the full-time MBA since our veteran population is increasing. And that person also happens to have a background in supply chain and consulting, so we like to multitask if we can. A coach may not only see veterans but also see people in the supply chain function, which is one of those areas where Olin has spent a great deal of time increasing our recognition in the market and curriculum.

We also leverage our alumni network for coaches as well. We bring alumni back in for all of our panels. Given the fact that we’re in St. Louis, so many times I am bringing our alumni in from different regions of the country. And that was a significant change in philosophy. Students recognize that have a great St. Louis or Midwestern base of alumni, but they also wanted to start talking to alumni on the east and west coasts.

I would say we are nimble in regards to the aggressive position we’ve taken in ensuring that we try to identify coaches  We certainly have a full-time staff, but we’re willing to look at adding part-time coaches to my bullpen, if you will, and deploy them in the evenings. So it pretty much looks like spring training where we’re figuring out if we have needs somewhere and how we’re going to fill it rather than having them just going to generalists.

So I think that’s one of the big differences in the Weston Career Center is how nimble we are in identifying the appropriate coaches for student interests. Another great example is that we brought in somebody who is really embedded in the startup ecosystem that’s really developed here in St. Louis. We tapped into that market and we now have a career coach for entrepreneurship specifically related to the startup community. So we also look for people who come with a rolodex and connectivity to the marketplace as well. What strength do they bring that we know will be immediately needed?

Mark Brostoff

Mark Brostoff

You had a 96.9% placement rate with the Class of 2014, second best among Top 20 MBA programs. And your placement rate is consistently among the top. What is your secret? What are you doing different than – or better than – other MBA programs? It’s the engagement from day one. Immediately, our incoming full-time MBA class is pretty much engaged in career-related activities through our orientation. In the first 24-48 hours, they are already in a networking event with staff and alumni. We use our executive MBA students too. What we do is we focus on ramping up their career preparedness. We’ve intertwined our career strategy and communication model in with the initial course that they take.

So there’s no delay. And I think this is one thing that is really unique. We talked about that summer survey. At that point, we are reaching out to students before they get here. We’re looking at resumes before they come here. From day one, we put them into that internship and career search mode because we do feel that sitting in the classroom, as they’re taking our core curriculum at the MBA level, we need them to be thinking about how are they going to be engaging with alumni and recruiters on campus based on their career interests. We do recognize that we have career switchers who may not be sure directly what they want to do. But we want to make sure [they have] those basic fundamental skills.

The other thing I think that is extremely unique is that I am also the director of the management communications center. That means that the communication courses, plus the center of communication consultants that we have on board, are integrated very well with the career center. So students who are needing assistance with communication, whether it is networking, conversation, reading, writing, etc. – specifically our full-time MBA graduate students – the career advising group and the management communication group share advising notes as well. So you could have a student who is having a problem with a resume and may go to the communications center. When they’re sitting with a career advisor, that information has been shared [with the advisor]

I always think of it as portable medical records. You have one record per student and everything related to career preparedness, coaching, communications – It’s all there available for advisors and those notes are shared. I think that does make our targeting, in terms of identifying students that we know will need additional assistance, better. We’re very aggressive in getting them that assistance.

One of the things that Olin does is, we’re right with them. We’re in their face, getting them ready. We have Meet the Firms, which is our business school career fair starting within the first two weeks of school. We recognize the ramp that we make them go through is steep. But we also understand the competitiveness of the marketplace and the fact that we’re geographically located in the Midwest. That is one reason why we start with this early ramp up and engagement because those students who want to get into financial services or Silicon Valley and technology really can’t wait very much longer to begin to engage with alumni or recruiters. They’ve got to be ready to go. It’s interesting to watch them make this transition almost immediately. So by mid-September, we have already touched 90% of our first-year MBA class. At the end of August [the following year], the second years come back and we engage our second years with our first years so that market intelligence, that internship intelligence, is shared as well.

Olin student at a recruiting event

Olin student at a recruiting event

And then the third piece of this after coaching and early engagement is what we do with our clubs. We consider all of our MBA clubs to be career clubs. This means that they have the opportunity to engage with the career center for funding for their career events, whether they have symposiums, panels, or roadshows. We fund a large percentage of the student club engagement activities. And that I do think is our single biggest differentiator between us and the rest of the MBA programs. The graduate program also has a pool of funds. But the Weston Career Center is the leading funding source for our student MBA clubs. So when they are looking to fly in a speaker, need a bus in Silicon Valley, bring a panelist in from New York or whatever we’re doing, [they come to Weston]. So the alumni development team, my team, and the student club teams all meet around the table and work together early. We get together on identifying the right contacts, connections, and alumni. That way, they don’t have to run around to three different offices. We take that responsibility to bring those people in and it works really well.

I think it’s a high touch engagement that doesn’t only provide guidance, but actually really gets down to the level of ensuring that every contact a student has from a career search standpoint that’s managed or sponsored by the school has a primary Weston Career Center contact from an employee relations team and the advising team – plus myself.

The Weston Career Center really is a hub in the business school that’s tied to the faculty, the curriculum, or the student clubs. If there is something going on, the Weston Career Center is either behind it or involved with it.

How early in the process do you connect with incoming students and how?

We Interact with students as soon as admissions sends us notice that they have accepted and deposited. It is pretty much on a rolling basis because the graduate office puts up an incoming student website. So we post things there. I personally send an email invitation to begin to engage [incoming MBA students]. I would say early June, if not May, [is when we begin to connect]…Of course, we’re very early with the consortium students. We have our Admitted MBA Day that takes place in April. We really like to get out and make that contact as early as possible.

[During the summer time], we do coaching of students who are in the St. Louis region. We do a lot of phone coaching. When I travel on the road – this summer I traveled with the associate dean of our graduate programs (Joe Fox) – we tend to travel with a list of students who are going to be headed our way and if they’re in we’ll make an attempt to connect with them.

Again, I think our approach is very student-centric in terms of, the earlier the contact we have the better for understanding their ambitions and passions and making it easier for us to begin to look at where we need to fill or even where we have excess.

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