Guy Groff is the director of the W. P. Carey School of the Business Graduate Career Management Center at Arizona State University (second tier on BusinessWeek's 2004 MBA rankings). He moved to the institution in 1997 after working as a placement director at a private school and a director at a Military Transition Assistance Center, where he helped service members move to civilian careers.
When advising students on their job search, Groff says MBAs need to look beyond their first employment opportunities and assess the growth potential within their target companies. He recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Jeffrey Gangemi. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:
Q: What's the first piece of advice you give to students starting a job search?
A: I have a three-word formula for success -- frequency, consistency, and persistency. Frequency is important because sometimes you have to do things over and over again. Consistency is the approach you take -- narrowing down your interests. Persistency is sticking with it. Students need to understand that the first job they get out of an MBA program is not going to give them the highest pay, but it's a start. They must assess which opportunity will provide them with the best potential career track.
Q: How do you market students?
A: We screen applicants very carefully on the way in so the employers have the best talent on the way out. They're looking for students who already have some experience in management and leadership. We train students in communication and help them gain great business skills that can be supplemented with optional concentrations in info tech and health-services management.
Q: What kinds of companies do you attract to campus?
A: The majority seem to be high-tech companies. Hewlett Packard (HPQ), Motorola (MOT), Cisco (CSCO), and IBM (IBM) have always been on our list. Honeywell (HON) has been our No. 1 recruiter for the past couple of years.
Q: What's the average starting salary, and how many students have found jobs by graduation?
A: The average starting salary last year was $73,000. About 58% of students had job offers by graduation, and 92% had jobs within three months. We're seeing a pickup in both salaries and job offers this year because the economy is turning around.
Q: Tell us about your distance MBA program.
A: We have an online program as well as satellite MBA programs in China and Mexico that make up the bulk of our off-campus student body. These students have access to all our services, many of them online. And we provide long-term assistance for our alumni as well.
Q: What are some of the more innovative services you offer?
A: Before students arrive on campus, we ask them to complete a Personal Career Action Plan, which incorporates proven techniques of self-assessment to determine their personal strengths and weaknesses as well as their particular interests. In addition, we offer an English as a second language program for international students, because they make up more than one-third of our population. The professors are very happy with the difference it's making in terms of how students participate and communicate. We also started a second piece this year to help international students with their English writing skills, which will make them more effective in the American market.
Q: What are some of your best tips for interviewing?
A: Listen carefully and prepare ahead of time. People fail in an interview because they don't research the company. They don't thoroughly go through a job description and break down what they can do and how their strengths can be played up.
Q: What are your predictions for recruitment?
A: We conducted a survey in conjunction with the MBA Career Services Council, and everyone is seeing more recruiters on campus and increased employer activity. We saw 100% internship placement this past summer. The overall assessment is that recruiting and the economy are picking up at the MBA level.