"Don't Look at the Hot MBA Jobs"

Figure out what you want to do first, advises Carlson Career Center chief Clare Foley, then make yourself right for that position

Clare Foley is the director of the Graduate Business Career Center at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management (second tier on BusinessWeek's 2004 MBA rankings) in Minneapolis, Minn. Before joining the Carlson School in 1987, Foley ran a career-counseling outfit in Minneapolis for 10 years.

Carlson graduates are successful, Foley says, because of their emphasis on leadership and because a plethora of companies are headquartered or have large operations in the Twin Cities. She recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Jeffrey Gangemi. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: What are employers looking for in the students they hire?


They don't even go to a school unless they know about its academic rigor. Recruiters stress skills like critical thinking, leadership, sound judgment, and the ability to build relationships and make decisions. We've started a leadership program here to address these issues, and students do a number of assessments to identify their weaker and stronger points so they can work on balancing them.

Q: What's your best advice for students?


Don't look at the hot MBA jobs. Don't do what your friends are doing. Take the time to figure out what you want to do, then make yourself the right person for that position.

Q: What are the most innovative programs you offer?


Our online recruiting system is top-notch. Students are able to register academic information, post résumés online, view job postings and upcoming events, as well as access many other services. We have focus groups every year with recruiters to determine what, if any, changes need to be made to our online recruiting system.

Q: Why does Carlson have such a large part-time program?


A slew of big companies are located in the Twin Cities, and many of the people who work for those companies want to go to school without giving up their jobs.

Q: What kinds of services do you offer MBAs in the part-time program?


We have a whole series of workshops specifically tailored to meet [part-timers'] needs. Ours is one of the first real career-services programs for part-time students. We're very fortunate to have two staff members who work solely with part-timers. We help part-time students determine the ways in which they can get ahead at their current company or change careers, depending on their individual needs.

Q: Who are your major recruiters, and who would you like to attract?


General Mills (GIS ), Medtronic (MDT ), Boston Scientific (BSX ), Guidant (GDT ), the big four consulting firms, Wells Fargo (WFC ), U.S. Bank (USB ), Honeywell (HON ), Best Buy (BBY ), and Target (TGT ) come to campus quite often. We have to work particularly hard to reach out to recruiters from Wall Street firms.

Q: What's the average starting salary for Carlson grads?


Last year, it was $77,821, up slightly from the previous year. We hung in salary-wise during the economic downturn. We have a really diverse group of companies near us, and even when things are bad, someone is usually hiring. Last year, 93% of our graduates reported finding a job within three months of graduation. Our salaries can't compare to those on the East Coast because we're in the Midwest, and the cost of living is a lot lower here.

Q: Why does Carlson attract such a large international population?


There's a lot of communication among international alumni, who are telling each other about what great experiences they've had here. We also have a staff member focusing on international students to give them extra attention -- helping with résumés and interviewing, as well as organizing workshops on immigration laws for those who wish to stay in the U.S. after graduation. I think we have the best alumni in the world.

Q: What reputation do Carlson students have in the workplace?


Our students excel, and they can be retained. They're able to compete with the best from any MBA program.

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