Harvard reaches out to business alums

Harvard students


Kai Ryssdal: MBA students are swapping newspapers for textbooks as they try to keep up with the pace of change in their chosen profession. Business is a tough place to try to make a living right now. Professors know it. They're focusing on the financial crisis in the classroom. And at the Harvard Business School, the career services department is snapping into action too, trying to help out recent graduates.

From Boston, Marketplace's Sean Cole reports.

Sean Cole: Peter Escher started at Harvard Business School last year actually looking to get out of the financial services sector and into brand management.

Peter Escher: With the current events in the marketplace, it seems like a prescient move on my part.

And he says the financial crisis hasn't effected his job search too much.

Cole: So, you're not freaked out.

Escher: No.

In fact, most of the students aren't.

Jana Kierstead: Remember only 10 percent of our student body goes into banking.

Jana Kierstead heads up the MBA career services office at Harvard Business School. She says the population that's really worried is the class of 2008, many of whom graduated into jobs at Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch and so on. And last Tuesday, Kierstead and six other MBA career counselors flew down to New York to meet with some of those freshly-minted and very troubled alumni.

Kierstead: We're working with them on a one-to-one basis. We are creating a class of '08 resume book. We are working with current employers to see if they have real time jobs for these folks.

Cole: Is that above and beyond the call of duty I mean that seems kind of extraordinary.

Kierstead: Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

Cole: Did you come up with that one yourself?

Kierstead: I don't think so.

On the bright side, Kierstead says, MBA recruiting is actually the last place that a lot of companies want to cut. They're hiring right now for jobs that'll be open four to five years down the line, and they're gonna need people to lead parts of the organization as we -- fingers crossed -- pull out of this mess.

In Boston, I'm Sean Cole with Marketplace.

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Interesting that Harvard students have been and remain in demand by the banking system and Wall Street. It would seem Harvard and others are feeding a system that isn’t working by turning out students who seem to perpetuate the status quo, greed and unethical behavior fueling the credit crisis. Universities have an opportunity to teach curriculum that addresses the country's need for business people committed to building financially successful, socially responsible and environmentally sustainable enterprises. That will happen when business begins looking for and valuing those qualities.

Who gives a damn about the hiring prospects of Harvard MBA students? Regardless of what the market does, they are already guaranteed a very lucrative career and will only fill in the jump seats of those who have deployed their golden parachutes. What value did this story bring to an otherwise informative program?

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