To Job-Seeking MBAs: Stay Focused

They should concentrate on what they're really passionate about doing, says Jeffrey Rice, career-services chief at Ohio's Fisher College

Jeffrey Rice is the director of career services at Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business (second tier on BusinessWeek's 2004 list of top MBA programs) in Columbus, Ohio. Rice joined Fisher in 1992 after serving as assistant director in the career-placement office at the University of Notre Dame for six years, and as director of career development at Aquinas College in Michigan for seven years.

He recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Jeffrey Gangemi. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: What's the No. 1 piece of advice you give to students looking for a new job?


You can sum it up in one word: Focus. Often, in their job search, students lose focus on what they're really passionate about doing. Despite recessions, there are still jobs to be found in any given industry. Another piece of advice more particular to MBA students is to look two or three positions down the road. That's where the investment of an MBA really pays off.

Q: What can students do before they get to campus?


We've put together a job-search marketing plan template that students complete before they arrive. Besides beginning to develop a branding and positioning statement for their targeted position, they need to determine their own strengths and weaknesses.

Q: How do students start networking?


Not only is Columbus, Ohio, the 15th-largest city in America, but if you draw a circle with a 100-mile radius around Columbus, you will find about 25% of [the nation's top 500 companies]. Also, we've developed the Career Travel Fund to provide stipends for students going on job-seeking trips outside of that radius. Events like the National Black MBA Job Fair are also extremely effective, because a student can focus on 10 companies during the course of a weekend.

Q: You recently held an event called the Summit at Fisher, where you discussed the MBA's value in today's global marketplace. What were some of your findings?


The audience of the Summit at Fisher were corporate recruiters and career-services directors at business schools. We identified that students need a better aptitude for global understanding. Many MBAs wish to work internationally, and that makes it even more important to be able to understand where the global marketplace is headed.

Q: How can students gain global perspective?


Through elective courses, internships, and consulting projects, students become immersed in a given country or culture. Students are offered the opportunity to travel to another country during the second semester of their first year. We also have exchange programs with about 12 international universities, where a student might study for a semester, as well as a mentoring program [in which] alumni working internationally guide students who are interested in working abroad into their field of choice.

Q: What types of recruiters do you attract to campus?


Our curriculum focuses on marketing, operations management, corporate finance, investment management, and strategy consulting. Companies like Kimberly-Clark (KMB ), Procter & Gamble (PG ), General Mills (GIS ), Kraft (KFT ), Eden Corp., Ford Motor Company (F ), General Electric (GE ), National City (NCC ), J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM ), Mellon Bank, Goldman Sachs (GS ), Citibank (C ), Morgan Stanley (MWD ), Deutsche Bank (DB ), and others come to campus.

On-campus recruiting only yields placement of about 40% of the students. How do we help the rest find a job with the company of their choice? We take trips to New York and other places where students are interested in working.

Q: What's the average starting salary for Fisher graduates?


This past year, the starting salary was about $75,000, up about 5% from the previous year. One-quarter of the class of 2005 has already accepted job offers, and the salary average is well above $80,000. These are early returns, but they show that it's a seller's market and that salaries are more negotiable than they had been in the past few years.

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