Looking for an MBA to enhance your career or pivot to a different role or industry? If so, you aren’t alone; the majority of first-year MBAs want or need the degree to make a career change. So, if the majority of a graduating class has a job within three months of graduation, you’d think that most would be satisfied with their school’s career office. Yet, in terms of overall satisfaction with their school, many students and alumni cite the career office as an area of weakness. How can that be?
Like so many things, it’s complicated. The fact that someone has a job doesn’t mean it’s their ideal job. Maybe they got their dream job but the salary wasn’t quite what they had expected. Or maybe they don’t love their job but they’re living in their dream city. A lot goes into it. A school’s career office can only do so much for its students, and each student’s individual situation influences their opinion of the career services they received.
Not all career centers are created equal, so be sure to consider all the angles when deciding where to apply and where to go:
1. Some schools have better career centers than others.
A few schools are known for having particularly strong career centers. UCLA’s Parker Career Management Center is seen by most as one of the best career centers at a business school—if not THE best. UVA Darden’s career center is also exceptionally strong, while University of Washington Foster has been very aggressive in building one of the largest career center staffs per student to help its roughly 100 graduates each year. Berkeley Haas has taken a different approach: at the beginning of each year, the school surveys students and asks for a list of three to five companies that they are interested in, and then the career management staff helps with courting these companies. That level of service is unique.
2. Data doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story.
Nearly 100% of University of South Florida (USF) MBAs are employed within three months of graduation, giving the school the #1 placement rating. Meanwhile, 92% of Berkeley Haas grads are employed in that time frame, and its placement rating is #41. Does this comparison give the full picture? Let’s look at salary data. USF MBAs earned an average starting annual salary of $42K, while their Berkeley counterparts pulled in an average of $140K. What is more important to you—knowing you can be almost guaranteed a job, or snagging a higher salary? The answer is not always obvious and is very personal.
3. Job offers are multi-faceted. What’s most important to YOU?
Is waiting for your dream job better than getting a job offer after your summer internship so you can slow down a little during the second year of your MBA program? Is a higher salary better than a more interesting or fulfilling job that might pay less? As they say, money can’t buy happiness—but it can help pay the bills in a high-rent district like New York City or San Francisco. Many candidates are hesitant to ask career service officers very direct questions about recruiting, placement, and salaries. Of course, you might want to wait until after you have an offer of admission in hand, but if you are going to school to change industries or roles, doesn’t it make sense to pick the school that is best positioned to help YOU reach YOUR goals? You aren’t a statistic on a school’s website or in a “Best Business Schools” ranking in a magazine; you are a real person. Do your research!
All the changes in the way recruiting is being done at b-schools and beyond might leave you wondering if career centers are still relevant. We were wondering too, so we did more research—which is the focus of our next blog post. Stay tuned!