(MoneyWatch) Don't you wish your university had helped you figure out how to get a job at the same time they were teaching you about finance, philosophy or fashion design? College career centers tend to give advice about resume-writing (as if recent graduates have so much stuff to put on a resume that it's difficult to fit it into two pages), hold practice interviews and arrange on-campus interviews. These are good things. But one school is doing something better: Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.
The holy grail of the MBA student is the on-campus interview. Despite the importance placed on landing that perfect job right out of school, most people only stay at a job for three to four years. After graduating, no one is going to arrange interviews for you. Therefore, at Fuqua a lot of emphasis is put on how to look for a job -- after college.
"We're all on the hook for employment results at the end of the year, professionally and morally," says Steve Dalton, senior associate director at Fuqua's career management Center and author of the "2-Hour Job Search." "But our real job is not to duct-tape students together for on-campus interviews, but make them prepared for the rest of their lives."
This preparation includes a dose of real world job-searching, including making professional contacts, developing relationships and even helping others out in the future. Dalton, a former strategy consultant with A. T. Kearney, said that one thing they teach students is that all contacts are not the same.
"There are three segments of contacts. 'Curmudgeons' are people who just don't get back to you. 'Obligates' are people who are motivated by guilt, and maybe just don't want to advocate for you. They pretend to be helpful but aren't. And then [there are] 'Boosters.' They are driven by a social norms -- a true desire to help others -- not market norms. They aren't looking for what you can do for them."
Dalton says the first two groups confuse and frustrate job-seekers, so they encourage students to reach out to the last group. (And to become boosters themselves as they develop their own careers.)
In addition to finding people to help them, Dalton makes sure that his MBA students understand that job-hunting is hard. He says:
I compare it to being a contestant on "The Bachelor." It's better to be the bachelor than one of 25 bachelorettes. It's easy for the bachelor to be confident, but it's nearly impossible for the bachelorettes to be based on the circumstances of restricted supply and inflated demand. By applying to online job postings as a sole or primary job search approach, job seekers unwittingly cast themselves as one of the 25 bachelorettes over and over. This hurts confidence over time, which in turn further lowers job-search success. Job seekers can go from one of many bachelorettes to the bachelor by starting with many targets and using specific pieces of data predictive of job search success, such as alumni presence, motivation and current hiring activity, to prioritize them.
Also like the TV show bachelor, candidates need to realize that contestants have a say. They aren't obligated to take any offer that comes along. Therefore, they need to do research on companies and careers and then carefully target the companies and jobs that make the most sense. It's a waste of time to interview with a company that you wouldn't want to work for.
About 20 other MBA programs around the country conduct two-hour job search workshops for their students. Doing research and outreach help move the students away from the ineffective practice of sending resumes into the black hole of the Internet. And those are skills that all job seekers, not just MBA students, need to succeed.