MBAnalysis Blog: Business School Career Centers Part 1 – Thinking Beyond the Numbers

Almost across the board, when current students and recent alumni complain about their business school, it is generally about career services. And while there are all sorts of metrics to try to measure the effectiveness of career support — including employment at graduation, employment at three months, average salary, average signing bonus — in the end, the only metric that counts is did the career center help YOU get the job you wanted. If yes, the career center is great; if no, they stink.

So here are some things to think about as you decide between schools – both where you will apply and where you will ultimately go..

1. There are schools with better career centers:

There are a few schools that are known for having particularly strong career centers. UCLA’s Parker Career Management Center is seen by most as one of the best, if not the best, career centers at a business school. Virginia Darden is also exceptionally strong, while University of Washington Foster has been very aggressive in building out one of the largest career center staffs per student to help their ~100 graduates each year. Haas has taken a different approach in that at the beginning of each year they survey students and ask for a list of 3-5 companies that they are interested in. The career management staff then helps with courting these companies. That is a level of service that is rarely seen.

2. Look beyond the numbers:

Who has a higher percentage of graduates employed three months out of school, Olin in St. Louis or Stanford? Olin… by a lot. Olin is the #3 school in this category while Stanford is #30. A likely reason: Stanford grads are willing to wait for that dream job at the next Facebook, while Olin students take advantage of the more formal recruiting process. For Olin students this means securing a position midway through second year, and sitting at a desk right after graduation at places like Amazon, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Kimberly Clark, General Mills, IBM, and JP Morgan.

3. But can they get you the job you want?

Who cares if the school got 97% of its graduates jobs in three months, if it is not the job you want? For example, the category of finance can be investment banking or it can be asset management, and that’s a big difference for the student who wants to make a career doing M&A. The only way to possibly answer this question is to have a direct conversation with career services (before you enroll) and explain exactly what you want to do and ask them point blank if they have ever gotten someone this type of job. The answer may surprise you. While not known for investment banking, IU Kelley actually does a pretty good job of getting people to Wall Street. And while a school may tell you McKinsey comes to campus, you may have to push them to reveal that they only hire one person a year.

And of course, then there is the ultimate question, are career centers even necessary anymore? The answer may still be yes, but not in the way that they were necessary a decade ago. How people find jobs, and how companies acquire talent is different than it used to be. And career centers are beginning to adapt to this. Understanding what this means in real terms will help you think about what a career center can really do for you, and what you should expect it to do. And it is the focus of the next blog post.