How do you define success?
For most, you look at the numbers. By that measure, few schools can match the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Some 13 years ago, the incoming class averaged a 687 GMAT. This fall, the 2017 Class entered with a 726 score – behind only Stanford and Wharton and a point above Harvard Business School. Booth graduates are also among the highest paid out of the gate, banking $125,000 median salaries and another $25,000 in signing bonuses. Not to mention, a jaw-dropping 97.4% of 2015 graduates had landed work within three months of graduation – the highest percentage among Top 25 schools.
More than that, Booth is popular among students and recruiters, too. The school earned the highest scores from recruiters in Bloomberg Businessweek’s latest employer survey. In The Economist’s MBA survey, Booth ranked #1 when students assessed their own program, along with finishing second in survey results related to new career opportunities, personal development and educational experience, and student quality.
Indeed, Booth is known as a data-driven program – and the numbers point up here. So what’s behind Booth’s traditional high employment rates, along with its popularity with recruiters, students and alumni?
A CULTURE OF CANDOR AND TRANSPARENCY
According to Julie Morton, the school’s associate dean of career services and corporate relations, it starts with the school’s culture, which is predicated on candor and transparency. In an exclusive interview with Poets&Quants, Morton emphasizes that Booth staffers and students pride themselves on giving “honest feedback, being very direct, and having a high bar.” At the same time, however, this candidness is tempered with an esprit de corps designed to build people up and bring out their best when it matters. “There is a really strong culture here of paying it forward with second year support of first years and alumni support of both first and second years,” Morton explains. “I think all of those things together have bred an incredibly successful environment.”
Academics are another aspect of the Booth culture that appeals to employers. The program’s ‘flexible curriculum,’ where students are technically only required to take the school’s Leadership Effectiveness and Development (LEAD) course, enables students to take a deep and early dive into their specialty. However, academics take precedence over job hunting for many students. In fact, Morton observes that students are reluctant to give up class time — even for an internship. While it may seem counterintuitive, Morton doesn’t believe students have to choose between academics and careers in business school.
“We talk to students very directly about how we firmly believe – and we have years of data to prove it – that if students focus first-and-foremost on what happens in the classroom, what happens in the interview room will go well,” Morton shares. “If they can pursue something that they are passionate about, if they pursue a sound job search, they will do well in that job search.”
WIDE AND DEEP CONNECTIONS WITH EMPLOYERS GIVE BOOTH MBAs AN EDGE
As a result, Morton’s team often directs students to be patient, selective, and focused on the big picture. “At the end of the day, if you’re a first year, this really isn’t about your internship search,” Morton counsels. “In the moment, it may absolutely feel like it. But this is really about where you’re going to end up second year for your full-time job and, more importantly, how that first post-MBA job will position you down the road for the rest of the jobs you’ll have and the rest of your career.”
Booth’s career services is also uncommonly close with employers – with Morton describing her team as the “eyes and ears” of employers. And that’s not by accident. How serious is Booth’s outreach? Among the 35 people who work in Booth’s career center (which covers full-time MBA students along with their evening, weekend, and executive cohorts and includes staffers in London and Hong Kong), 13 are involved in employer relations. By placing all of the school’s programs and relationship building under one umbrella, Booth can offer a range of services and options to prospective MBA employers that few schools can match. “What that means,” Morton explains, “is that our employer activity needs to have that kind of both breadth and depth to it. So when we walk into companies and they tell us that they only promote from within for their more junior level MBA jobs, we can talk to them about much more senior lateral level hires as a point of entry into the firm. There are lots of ways for us to garner employer interest.”
As entrepreneurship has emerged as the most popular concentration at Booth, Morton’s team has also had to adapt to its approach. Most notably, as smaller companies begin to compete for Booth talent, the on-campus visit is not necessarily the main goal anymore, particularly as students increasingly own their job search themselves. “Once you start working with companies that don’t have a huge presence in the MBA marketplace or large numbers of hiring needs,” Morton notes, “then you start looking at things like virtual engagement. Do you use Google Hangout for a company presentation or do you use Skype more? Things like that have become more-and-more prevalent.”
100% OF FULL-TIME STUDENTS USE BOOTH CAREER SERVICES IN ONE FORM OR ANOTHER
Morton, a Tuck graduate who worked in finance, consulting, and advertising before joining Booth in 2000,has built an operation where 100% of full-time Booth MBAs use the school’s career center, whether it is through one-on-one coaching, workshops, or recruiting at one point or another during their two years. Over her time, she has witnessed the business school landscape change dramatically. For one, students have become decreasingly tethered to traditional career paths. At the same time, technology firms have emerged as the third largest employer for Booth grads.
Despite changing times, Morton points to the tech sector as just one example of how the Booth philosophy is more attractive than ever to employers. “Our culture is one of being very, very data driven, very analytical in terms of solving problems and experimenting with different solutions,” she explains. “That academic culture really lends itself to that career space.”
In a recent Q&A with Poets&Quants, Morton discusses issues ranging from the school’s new and highly acclaimed modular training program to what students should consider when negotiating an employment offer. Here are her insights:
(Go to next page for Q&A)