Changing company interest in MBAs, and a changing workforce, seems to make traditional career centers less and less relevant. In the past, a job search meant which big company recruiting event would you eat at. Maybe it would be coffee and danish with Dell, a pizza lunch with Bain, evening drinks with GE, and a great meal with Pfizer. Still hungry? Look out for those gift baskets (and free t-shirts) from Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley. While some companies are still hiring droves of MBAs this way – I’m talking about you, Amazon – fewer and fewer people are actually finding their jobs through a formal recruiting process.
Harvard Business School is a good example of what the career service landscape now looks like. Despite having some 55 trained career coaches and counselors for their almost 2000 first and second year students, twenty percent of the Harvard Business School class never uses them. This group likely includes students who have been sponsored by their company, and are therefore obligated to return, or others, who are joining pre-determined companies, like a family business. On the opposite side, you have about 16 percent of the class who have gone through the formal recruiting process and have gotten their job because of the system the career center has put in place. These companies include the big consulting firms, banks, Fortune 500 companies, among others.
What is most interesting is that the bulk of students, some 64 percent, are the only HBS student that the company hires. In other words, over 600 graduates of Harvard Business School find themselves at companies that they worked hard to identify and court. While career services may have helped, it was each student who had to sell themselves to land what was likely the only job available at that company that year. This is particularly true in the world of private equity, venture capital, and startups. When people think private equity, they think of a Bain Capital with more than 1000 professionals. The reality is far different. It is not unusual for a PE or VC firm to have five or fewer partners, with another five juniors. Obviously, these firms are not going on campus to recruit.
So how do people find jobs there? It is all about networking, making the right connections, and being willing to have a lot of doors slammed in your face in a competitive job market. Can the career center help? Maybe; but shoe leather and LinkedIn are probably going to help more.
So how does this play out for the average business school student? While, there are some MBA programs with better career centers, and there are some with worse, in the end, it is still up to you to get a job. If you are going to business school and expect a job offer to be handed to you without doing any work, you are dead wrong. Recognize that while career centers can help, you still have to find the company, track down the perfect position, connect with alumni at your company of choice, sharpen the resume, prepare for the interview, and go out and get that job. Because it is still, and will always be, YOUR career.