Cooperation helps MBA grads find jobs

MBA letters

Bad as the job market for new graduates is this year, at least it's better than last year. In 2009, MBA students got fewer job offers, lower salaries and less interest in their expensive and hard-earned degrees. This year may be better as many MBAs have figured out how to land a job in a tough economy.


By Caitlan Carroll

A small group of MBA students gather in a classroom at the University of California, San Diego. The meeting is part networking session, part support group.

First-year student Bradley Margol explains he's here "to hear other students plans of attacks as far as networking and just looking for any sort of employment opportunities."

The other students quickly remind Margol that he already has an internship.

"Well, but it's non-paid. So I would like to keep my options open," said Margol.

Spoken like a true business student. Options, leveraging connections, salary negotiations -- this is what UCSD's "job clubs" are designed to provide. Groups of MBA students meet informally to try out pitches on each other and share leads. Margol says the support of classmates means a lot.

"I think that's the most helpful part," he said. "We always ask each other if they've heard of any opportunities and everybody is wishing each other luck, kinda rooting for each other."

Robin Darmon, head of career counseling services for MBA students at UCSD, says she's seen everything.

"We've seen rejoicing all the way down to tears," she said. "But that's what we're here for."

Darmon says last year's meetings were full of desperation and fear, because the job market was so bad.

"But this year, it's been fun, because they're still nervous, but they're feisty and they're out there and they're looking for stuff," said Darmon.

A lot of business schools are beefing up their career clubs, like University of Michigan and Columbia. The University of Washington's business school hosts a weekly conference call for current and former students.

Counselor Ann Girard says the calls help students build connections and keep each other on track.

"Each person has an opportunity to practice their introduction and talk what their goals are in terms of doing a job search, as well to reporting progress that they've made during the week or obstacles that they may have encountered," said Girard.

If this sounds like humbled MBA grad, it is. Students know that there are fewer jobs out there and that relationships are important. The classmate you help out today, may be the one doing the hiring tomorrow.

"I also see a lot of our students sharing leads with each other if they see something that's not quite exactly a fit for them or even get an offer from a company that may not be right for them," said Kip Harrell, president of the MBA Career Services Council.

He says students are getting job offers -- later than usual and for less pay -- but there are some sparks of recovery.

"Health care, biotech, pharmaceuticals, energy and especially clean energy," he said.

As UCSD's job club, second-year student Vince Yuen says if you want the job, you've got to push.

"Don't ever think that you're annoying, 'cause people are just so busy that they don't remember you unless you're on their case," said Yuen.

"I like hearing that one," Margol replied. "I always feel that way."

Sometimes former students return to the job club and fulfill their final obligation: Helping their fellow MBAs get off to a good start.


If you or maybe somebody you've been paying the tuition bills for is in search of work, the career counselors at UCSD's School of Management have put together some top websites for jobs and internships. You can find it
here.

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