Three Trends Shaping MBAs Today

Last Updated Oct 28, 2008 12:29 PM EDT

Recruiting season has begun at business schools around the country. But as the ripples from the financial fallout continue to spread, slashed budgets and a freeze on new recruits by consulting firms and banks is the harsh reality for many soon-to-be grads.

The acronym MBA should stand for "More Bitterness Ahead," Time magazine's Jeremy Caplan wrote last week. Between their first and second years of school, most MBA candidates intern in the hopes of securing a promised position after graduation. This year's class has more students in a holding pattern, even after successful internships, as firms want to see how the economy looks at year's end before committing to a new class of recruits.

"There's likely to be more 'as-needed' hiring," says Regina Resnick, Assistant Dean at the Columbia Business School, where about half of the graduating class typically pursues employment in financial services, whether in venture capital, private equity, investment banking or something related.

According to Time, some of the trends shaping this year's recruiting season include:

  • Opportunistic Recruiting: MBA career advisers say smaller firms and boutique investment companies are taking advantage of Wall Street's weakness to try to snatch up the smartest young talent.
  • Geographic Retrenchment: Some financial firms that do have slots to fill this fall will cut back on the number of schools they visit. Rather than covering all corners of the country, some firms are focusing on a smaller core group of schools. That may hurt schools further afield that ordinarily benefit from companies casting a wide net.
  • Heightened Competition: As the financial recruiting process slows, students who had planned on working in finance are competing more aggressively for consulting and other positions.
Roxanne Hori, Assistant Dean and Director of the Career Management Center at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management, says the silver lining in the current climate is that many students have shown growing interest in other areas, such as social enterprise, energy and health care. For those who really want to follow the Wall Street herd, it's going to be a game of "wait and see" whether the recruiters eventually do come knocking.
  • Stacy Blackman

    Stacy Sukov Blackman is president of Stacy Blackman Consulting, where she consults on MBA admissions. She earned her MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and her Bachelor of Science from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Stacy serves on the Board of Directors of AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, and has published a guide to MBA Admissions, The MBA Application Roadmap.