Takeovers Are Out, Soap Powder Is In

Paige Arnof, 25, a second-year student at Harvard business school, remembers the three vacations she planned and then canceled in her two years as an analyst at Morgan Stanley. She also remembers the beeper she carried that summoned her to work at any hour of the day. That's all behind her now. Arnof spent last summer marketing White Cloud toilet tissue for Procter & Gamble Co. After graduation, she is going back full-time as an assistant brand manager in their Noxell division. Of P&G she says: "They pay you for an honest day's work. They're not asking you to give up everything."

Arnof is not alone. The B-school class of 1991 hasn't graduated yet, so final statistics on job placement are not available. But to hear many students, placement directors, and recruiters tell it, a lot of students who have Wall Street experience--and who originally saw business school as the next step for a career in investment banking--are discovering instead the joys of selling paper towels, candy bars, and detergents."It's a herding effect," says David Jaski, manager of staffing and organization for Kraft General Foods Inc. Jaski sees many B-school students who put in time on Wall Street now focusing on marketing. "Attendance at our Harvard and Wharton presentations was double what it was last year." Typically, 50% to 60% of the MBAs to whom Kraft extends offers accepts them. This year, Jaski expects more than 60% to accept, a situation that he says, "absolutely makes us happier."

To be sure, B-school students are looking at other options, including consulting and starting their own businesses. But a number of big marketers, such as H. J. Heinz and Clorox Co., report a sharp jump in interest from B-school students. Stanford business school is aggressively bringing more consumer-products companies to campus to satisfy student demand. Last summer, 25% of their students took marketing jobs, up from 17% in 1989. In the past two years, Dartmouth's Amos Tuck School of Business Administration has almost doubled the number of marketing courses it offers. At Duke's Fuqua School of Business, 27% of this year's class plans to go into marketing--up from just 15% in 1989.

'GUN-SHY.' Part of this new fascination with marketing stems, of course, from the general job scarcity in a recession and the precipitous decline of Wall Street in particular. The financial services industry has cut 30,000 jobs in the past year alone, while major marketers such as Kraft General Foods and Pepsico have thrived. And since the merger game has slowed, junior investment bankers have fewer chances to earn the eye-popping bonuses that once regularly supplemented their rather modest starting salaries (table). "You have to be a little gun-shy about getting into this business," admits Basil Bliss, vice-president in charge of recruiting and staffing at Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co.

But motives other than frustrated greed also seem to be at work. Says Janet Brady, director of marketing at Clorox' Kingsford Products division, which sells such items as charcoal and salad dressing: "People are saying, `I'd like to have a normal lifestyle, and this is a career that allows me to do that.' "

Top consumer marketers often do demand 60-hour weeks. But that's a lot less punishing than the routines of many Wall Streeters and management consultants. "They basically chained you to your desk, computer, and Xerox machine," says David Criscione, 27, a second-year student at Harvard business school who quit Salomon Brothers Inc.'s corporate-finance department after just one year. Now, Criscione is going to work as a management trainee at Hannaford Brothers Co., a grocery chain in Scarborough, Me., when he graduates.

Many young MBAs are also yearning to deal with products they can touch, not just the spreadsheets that characterize so much work on Wall Street and in consulting firms. Tim Calkins, a second-year student at Harvard business school, spent two years working at management consultant Booz Allen & Hamilton Inc. and could have returned after business school. Instead, Calkins accepted a lower-paying job as a brand assistant in the grocery products division of Kraft General Foods. "I was worried that if I went back to Booz, I'd just have analytical skills," says Calkins.

Michael Keller, a student at Tuck and a former management consultant himself, liked the responsibility he had last summer working at Nestle on the launch of a new version of the 100 Grand chocolate bar. "At Nestle, I was helping make all the micro and macro decisions for a multimillion business," he says. "In consulting, I was just a cog in the machine." He'll be returning to Nestle full-time as an assistant marketing manager.

WHIZ KIDS. Marketing companies still look for MBAs with more conventional marketing experience in such related fields as advertising. But many companies also like the skills these whiz kids bring to the challenge of selling soap. "The financial background these people have has become critical," says Barbara Behrman, general manager of marketing at H. J. Heinz. And at Heinz, she adds, "the financially oriented people quickly pick up the expectations we have of new marketing managers."

On average, assistant brand managers spend their first 18 months at work developing coupon and promotion programs, controlling budgets, examining costs, and getting involved with production and advertising. Easy familiarity with chores such as calculating cash flows and margin spreads gives former Wall Streeters a headstart. "I can chew up numbers really fast and work on deadline really well," says Dennis Roche, a second-year student at Northwestern's J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Roche, a two-year veteran of Morgan Stanley & Co., is headed for a job at Procter & Gamble.

The question remains whether students who started business school with visions of million-dollar bonuses will ever really come to love soap powder and cents-off coupons. But for a generation of former Wall Streeters who once felt enslaved to their beepers, the lure of manageable jobs that don't require `round-the-clock attendance is bound to remain intoxicating.

      Estimated 1991 starting salaries for graduates of top business schools*
      CONSULTING          $67,000
      MARKETING           $51,000
      *Excludes sign-on and annual bonuses