3 Factors to Consider in Choosing a Business School: Part II

Last week, we began a 3-part series exploring a few factors to consider when choosing a business school. The first factor to consider is location, and today we’ll take a look at the second factor, which is the career services provided by different institutions.

Factor 2: Career services

It is important to get priorities clear right from the start. Business school is about getting a good job afterwards. The MBA is not an academic degree, and business schools are not liberal arts institutions. The career services of your target school should be carefully examined before you choose to attend. Not only could they help place you into your dream job during the program, but many business schools continue to offer career services to alumni, so you could be using your school’s career services for a long time. Here are some points to note when casing the career center of your prospective school.

First, pay careful attention to the staff. Most business school career centers are staffed by professional career advisers who have not worked in the jobs you are seeking. Most of them give very standard advice that differ little from generic books on CV writing, networking, and other “how to get a job”-type resources. Be wary if you see a career service department in your school that looks like this.

A well-funded and dedicated career center will have staff members who have actually worked, however briefly, in the jobs you want. You do not need a senior industry veteran – if anything their perspectives tend to be far too high for your purposes – but the staff should have some experience in your shoes. Failing that, their backgrounds should at least match the level of jobs you are seeking. Usually, that means at least some of their staff members should have MBAs themselves. It is a very good sign if the career services team counts the school’s own alumni among its permanent staff.

Second, closely examine recent placement records. Oftentimes, career center can have non-stellar staff but produce stellar placements. Dig deep into the recent placement records. Look for recurring placements into the elite firms as well as unique placements into small but prestigious entities. Notice especially any recurring placements into good firms that do not openly recruit from business schools – these are signs of truly valuable career center professionals. You can discount any one-off attractive placements because the candidate might have been special in some other way. Look for consistency across cohorts.

Lastly, talk to the careers staff. It is surprising how many MBA candidates choose a school with barely a conversation involving potentially the most important department of a business school. Ask specific and detailed questions and listen for specific answers. Are the careers center people tuned in to recent trends in the job market? Do they know the salaries of the different firms? Do they know next year’s hiring possibilities? Do they know in detail what different firms do? In theory, they should know more about the firms you are interested in than you do, especially if your target firms are large. Do they?

The careers center can be the most influential aspect of your business school career. Indeed, if all goes well, it should be. Career centers should provide proprietary job leads, not reposts from public job boards. Career centers should know more about companies than a Google search can turn up. Career centers should know your goals and aspirations as an individual instead of having you complete a personality questionnaire. Most career services fall rather short of this ideal. But some fall shorter than others.

You want the perfect job after business school? You need to start with a good careers center. Spend the time. Do your research. Conduct your diligence. Finding the right careers center will pay off in years of happiness at your ideal job.

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This Veritas Prep GMAT instructor received a degree in Economics from Princeton, and is currently pursuing a PhD. He has worked as a business consultant, research analyst, and adjunct faculty member at various institutions.