P&Q: You had a 97.4% placement rate with the Class of 2015, tops among Top 20 MBA programs. What are some of the secrets behind your success? What are you doing different than – or better than – other MBA programs?
JM: I’m not in a position to compare what we do to other schools. I think our success is the result of an incredibly strong culture of students owning their own job search, but not being alone in that. There is a ton of resources and support [for students]. We are certainly our students’ advocates – and that spans far beyond career services. Really, my team is front-and-center with that. But you also have the dean’s office and the faculty. 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. I think all of those things together have bred an incredibly successful environment.
It’s interesting: One of the worlds you used when you were talking about the 97.4% employment rate is “placement.” And we very deliberately don’t use that word. We don’t place our students. Our students really own their searches, but with the backing of lots-and-lots of support.
Here are a couple of examples for you. One is that we really encourage students to do a lot of self-reflection and figuring out what it is that they want to do. We really encourage them to pursue their career passions. And that message doesn’t just come from us. I was in a prep session that the second years in the banking student group were running for the first years for the first day of investment banking internship recruiting. We’re all singing from the same song book. They were using the same language in terms of telling the students that they really needed to be introspective in terms of why this was a good fit and then be able to articulate that. The second years help students practice that, just like the folks on my team and critique that…We are very, very candid with students. And that means letting students know when their marketing speals are not quite up to snuff. We are very direct with them that something needs work and that If I were a banker and heard this, this is how I would react to this…Students certainly get this candor from us and they also get it from their second year classmates. They get it from the alums. The message is very consistent throughout.
Two other hallmarks of the [Booth] culture are that students here are supportive of one another in an institutionalized kind of way. So it’s not at all uncommon here when a student lands an opportunity that they want and they go ahead and accept it for that student to come to this office. They’ll say, “I reached out and made inroads with these companies that I’m not sure are on your radar. Can I introduce the school to those companies so those relationships aren’t just lost in my Outlook connections and can become connections for the school. We have so benefitted from that kind of support and connections –even if this is the first time this firm has hired a Booth student (or even the first time that they have hired an MBA intern). Even the firms that [students don’t go to], where they pursued work but decided it wasn’t the place where they’d end up, that’s been a pretty wonderful source of peer support and connectivity for my team to then further those relationships.
The other thing that we have done for years that has really helped support the community is every summer, the deputy dean (Stacy Kole – who’s in charge of the full-time MBA program) and I visit all the cities where we have a group (10+ interns) and check in and meet with them during the course of the summer…Often times, we’ll have dinner with them and meet with their employers during the day. We’re able to triangulate that way, just as a touch point. It’s a great way to get in-the-moment feedback, both about how their first year panned out (with 20-20 hindsight, of course) and hear how their internship is going. When they come back to school, which starts very quickly and the internship is a thing of the past, [It’s hard to get feedback]. So this allows us to gather great insights on the strengths of their internship and what they experienced during their first year here. This is a tangible example of the way the culture here is incredibly supportive.
[And the feedback] has been incredibly valuable in terms of shaping the kinds of programming that the career team offers to students. Spreading things out by modularizing our programming, for example, came out of this feedback. We get concrete feedback about internships and can go to the companies and talk through some of those issues. Sometimes, we can give in-the-moment career guidance and help students navigate tough situations at their internships that you don’t want students to be stewing on. It helps inform all kinds of things both from a Booth perspective, but also it lets us be the eyes-and-ears with the companies as well.
P&Q: How early in the process do you connect with incoming students and how?
JM: We connect with incoming students before they land here on campus…in the springtime. Our admissions team hosts admit events. A lot of folks on our team attend them. Those are held outside of Chicago, but then we also have two big weekends where admitted students come to campus. Career services plays a very active role in those weekends and the sessions done by the admissions team. So the message of how we work with students is something that they are familiar with long before they arrive here in the fall.
During the early summer, we start working with them very, very tactically. First, we introduce them to several different self-assessment vehicles that they take on their own. So they get the legwork done in the summer and come talk to us when they come here. They also start to work on their first MBA resume. Again, we follow up with them once they land on campus. And the third thing we do is a lot of work with them on how to establish their network that they’re leaving – either their workplace or their community – in way that they can tap into it when they want to utilize that network in their next job search. So when they arrive here for the orientation programming, they’ve already got a strong foundation and we then leverage off of that through workshops and one-on-one coaching sessions.
The other thing we do for international students is that once they are admitted, but before they actually say to admissions that they are coming, I got out to them with a letter that talks to them about the challenges of conducting a job search where you don’t have automatic work authorization. Many of our international students seek to work in the United States (or a third country)…We talk to them very frankly about the prep and the challenges that may face them should they conduct a job search in a country where they’re not automatically work authorized. So again, we are very candid and transparent: [The search] is not impossible, but it’s going to be hard.