Behind Chicago Booth’s 97.4% Employment Rate

Booth Classroom

Booth Classroom

P&Q: When it comes to negotiating salary and benefits packages, what advice would you give to MBA students to maximize their earnings?

JM: My answer to that question would depend hugely on the industry, function, and sometimes even company. If a student is going to a company that hires larger numbers if MBAs as a class, there is less negotiability than there is if a students is going to a place where they are the one MBA hire. In general, we ask students to think about their skills sets, rather than ‘I have an MBA.’ [Ask yourself], what skills do you bring to the table and do they warrant more salary than what they’ve put out there?

Point two is that we encourage students to think about the whole package, not just salary and potentially bonus. Think about how quickly you’re going to be up for promotion or how quickly your compensation is reviewed. What else is important to you in terms of things that are negotiable? Don’t just think about the top line dollar. Think about the whole package.

We also talk to students about how to negotiate from the perspective of [the other party]. If you’re not negotiating for a lot, sometimes putting that negotiation out there could do more harm than you could potentially benefit from. So think about proving yourself in that environment first and then negotiating later (as opposed to negotiating when you are a fairly unknown).  There are lots of subtleties to that. I’m a firm believer that you can’t teach negotiation to a class of 25 people and have it be actionable. You need to sit down one-on-one with a student and talk about the specifics of what their package is and what they actually want to put on the table as negotiable items.


P&Q: What do you see as your center’s biggest accomplishment since you joined? If you look two years down the road, what would success look like to you?

JM: I think the second part of that question is a little more straightforward for me to answer. Continuing to have students pursue careers that they love and are passionate about and having them come back here (after being out in the field) to wave the Booth flag is what we are absolutely striving for here. We want students to pursue [endeavors] and succeed in areas that are fulfilling to them, that meet the goals and aspirations that they have for their careers. We want them to know that Booth has played a role in that and to wave that Booth flag proudly. [If that’s happening], we will continue to grow the strengths of the alumni community and instill a sense of pride in our students. That’s absolutely what we’re striving for.

In terms of what we, as a team, has been able to accomplish here, I think continuing to support students in achieving [their dreams] has been a incredible source of pride for the whole team and the whole school…Making sure that our alums feel really supported [is also important]. For example, in 2008 when Lehman dissolved, the deputy dean and I got on a plane and went to New York and had dinner with those alums who’d graduated three months earlier just to make sure they knew that the school would be there to support them in whatever way we could. Giving students and alums that type of support is something that the whole team is very proud of. And the whole team does that; they’re very committed to the work that we are doing.

P&Q: You hold an MBA from Tuck and spent several years working in finance and strategy and working overseas? How has that experience informed what you do and where you focus in your role? 

JM: Although it was a long time ago. I think at a certain level, although the process was different then, I’ve lived through the process. That certainly helps me understand what students are going through in a very personal way. That’s been valuable. I also think the strategic side of what I learned in business school has served me well. I think I can move fluidly from the forest to the trees, so to speak. There is a lot of nitty-gritty stuff that needs to get done in this job and I can roll up my sleeves. I also think I am good at thinking bigger picture, particularly about where the school and this office needs to go.

The other part of this is that I manage a pretty good sized team. So I think the managerial lessons I learned in my post-Booth career, in terms of managing people and managing teams of consultants in Central Europe and Asia, has also come in handy as well.

[For example], I think we function really well as a team because we are good at giving each other the same kind of candid feedback that we give to students. When we don’t do that, it has come back to bite us if we’ve glossed over something and said it was great when it really wasn’t. So I think the way we interact with students is also a reflection (or vice versa maybe) of the way we interact with each other. When we diverge from that, it comes back to haunt us. Sometimes, it is relatively small stuff. When you execute a big program, the temptation is to pat everyone on back and say how great it was. But you need to think critically about what went well and what can we do better. So we have regular WWW (what went well) and EBI (even better if) meetings to talk through objectively how this program could be better. Part of that is pervasive in the culture of Booth. It is very much a culture of giving people honest feedback, being very direct, and having a high bar.

P&Q: Any other insights that you’d like to add? 

JM: It’s funny you asked that…One of the questions I think we touched upon quickly was how we do programming. We do large group, but also a lot of one-on-one interaction with students. I know that I mentioned the Job Search Cruise (Small group discussions that we do in the late winter and early spring). Our programming has a very strong emphasis on being hands-on. You don’t learn how to interview by having one of us stand up there and pontificate. You learn by practicing – and having someone say, “No, that really didn’t work.”

The only way we are capable of doing that is with tons of second year support and alumni support. We also do a lot of train-the-trainer activities where we train second years both on how to do mock interviews, for example, but also on how to deliver feedback. Until the day before yesterday, we were doing mock interview training with campus interviews starting today. You can’t demoralize someone 48 hours before they go live. So we help second years deliver feedback in a helpful way that’s actionable. We do a lot of the coaching ourselves, but we also do a lot of train-the-trainer type of stuff.

Another thing, as an example, of how things have changed: 15 years ago, we trained people on how to write a resume. Equally important now is how to develop a Linkedin profile. The kinds of tools that are available to students for their job search – those have changed and what we teach students has to change as well. The other thing we have done a lot of work with is how social media is used in a job search. This summer, in meeting with some of the tech companies, we learned that companies obviously peruse Linkedin, for example, to learn about student interests. But they also use it to see how well students are connected in that field. So [they’re looking at] the people you are connected to, as well as what your profile says about you. So it’s things like that that become very important for students to learn in addition to the tactics.


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