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Behind Chicago Booth’s 97.4% Employment Rate

Chicago

Chicago

P&Q:  How have student interests, goals, or even job search strategies changed over the past five years? In tandem with that, how have your services evolved to meet these changing needs?  

JM: That question really gets to some of the challenges that we’ve faced. Ten years ago, students pursued opportunities when they came on campus to recruit. If they weren’t successful there, then they did off campus searches. So it was an on campus versus off campus and a Plan A versus Plan B bi-modal setup of a student’s job search. And I think the change here has been exceptionally dramatic over the past couple of years. Students now pursue a job search and they figure out what companies are of interest to them. If some of those companies come to campus, that’s awesome. If some of those companies post jobs, that’s also great. If they need to go out and forge connections with alumni for some of those firms, that’s also something in their horizon to automatically think of doing. So we’ve actually changed our vocabulary and don’t talk about on campus versus off campus. We talk about what comes to campus and we talk about students pursuing things on a more specialized or individualized level.

That shift has really changed how we work with students and how we work with companies. Ten years ago, when we did employer outreach, the goal was to get that company to come to campus. That’s not necessarily the goal anymore. If it’s right for the company, that’s fine. Many – most – of the companies that we reach out to [is in a situation where coming to campus] really isn’t a viable or realistic strategy. So meeting with them with a strategy that works for them has become part of our vocabulary. And shifting that mindset with students has also become part of the vocabulary here. Students are more open and fluid in their search. Therein, I think, also lies the challenge: Getting students to think about their job search holistically and from a long-term perspective is one of the biggest challenges we face. At the end of the day, if you’re a first year, this really isn’t about your internship search. 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. And getting students to think holistically about that has been exciting, but it’s also been something we focused on and have (at times) been challenged by. There is an immediacy factor – ‘I feel like I need to find an internship for this summer.’ It’s very natural [for students] to focus on that.

[To counter this], we spend a lot of time one-on-one with students in the late winter and early spring. We start what has become known here as “Job Search Crews,”  where small groups of students will meet with a coach to make sure their internship search (for first years) and job search (for second years) are on track. One of the most fulfilling things [for me] is when a student comes in during May and says, ‘Thank goodness that I waited.’ They either didn’t accept such-and-such or they were so bummed out that such-and-such didn’t work out. ‘Thank goodness,’ they’ll say. ‘Now, this awesome opportunity came along and I would’ve been signed-sealed-and-delivered and not had a chance to avail myself to it.’ As we have more and more examples of that, that filters into the student body.

The University of Chicago's Booth School of Business

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business

I have to say that last year and the year before, students were not antsy, in aggregate, about not having an internship lined up in April or May if they had been pursuing stuff all along and were well-networked and well-connected in the field where they were entering. I certainly don’t want to create the impression that everybody was just sitting around waiting around until June for their internship to come around. Depending on what students are interested in, some of those fields don’t even hire until later in the game. If students had really evaluated the market and knew what it held for them, they were OK and comfortable with that timeline. That takes a huge amount of knowing yourself and knowing the marketplace.

P&Q: What industries, jobs, or skills do you see trending in popularity now and what areas do you see becoming hot in the next few years? 

JM: I think tech will continue to grow here as a popular area and an area where Booth talent is really sought out. That’s especially true in our product management realm. Our culture is one of being very, very data driven, very analytical in terms of solving problems and experimenting with different solutions. That academic culture really lends itself to that career space. So I see that as more and more interesting to students and the kind of talent that Booth is producing and being more and more interesting to companies as well. That’s a nice mesh.

I think another thing that’s happening here is that entrepreneurship is now the most popular concentration at Booth. It was neck and neck with finance for a while…That doesn’t mean that every single student wants to start [his or her] own company. But what that does mean is that students are looking for a company culture where new ideas are welcome and where they feel that they can certainly make an impact. Sometimes, smaller companies are the choice of students. Companies that are more entrepreneurially-minded, regardless of size, are increasingly of interest to students.

P&Q: What three pieces of advice do you have for MBAs in either their career planning or job hunt? 

JM: I think my three pieces of advice are pretty intertwined. The first one is to really figure out honestly what you do well and excel at, where your skills and interests are, and what your passions are about so you can pursue that. It’s very hard, even short term in the job search process, to fake what you’re passionate about from a career perspective and impossible to [fake it] long term on a job. So we really encourage students to spend time delving honestly into that. I think it’s so easy when students get caught up when there are smart people around who know exactly what they want to do to [say to themselves], ‘I think that’s exactly what I want to do.’ Students need to really pause and write it down so they can go back to it and know what are you passion about and where your skills and interests lie.

Point number two is doing a real thorough assessment of the marketplace and figuring out how those skills and interests align. We are fortunate here to have a dedicated career resource center. We have a research library where students can interact with both online and physical material for career research. I think really knowing as much as you can about the career paths that you’re thinking about pursuing and how they are in sync with your interests and skills is really important.

My third piece of advice goes back to something we talked about earlier. This is a long term play. The Internship you take and the job you take when you graduate from here should open doors further down the road. If you have the choice between a couple of different options, take the option that gives you the most leveragability down the road…as other opportunities come up. And putting on that longer term lense is tough, but it is a good thing to do and something we encourage students to do.