Don't Always Keep Your Options Open

Michigan's career-services director offers some contrarian advice on career management while discussing the recruiting process

Al Cotrone has been the director of career services at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business for nine years. For the class of 2006, Cotrone and his staff of 15 helped Ross' 430 full-time MBAs achieve mean starting salaries of $94,000 with median signing bonuses of $19,500. While a third of Ross' class remains in the Midwest for work, half of the class ventured to either financial capital New York or tech-oriented Silicon Valley or Seattle. Roughly 15% of the graduates accept jobs overseas. With the healthy MBA recruiting climate, Cotrone has seen a resurgence in real estate and a big jump in new media.

Cotrone spoke to BusinessWeek.com reporter Janie Ho and explained why you should not keep your options open. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

What new programs or initiatives do you have in the office of career development?

Well, we have more global action-based learning opportunities and increased collaboration with other schools at the University of Michigan to explore new business ideas.

What companies recruit most frequently on campus?

Citigroup (C), Microsoft (MSFT), Amazon (AMZN) and UBS (UBS).

What do you think recruiters would say they are looking for most, and what do students lack the most nowadays?

Well, I think recruiters are looking for students who can take action and lead. They're looking for students with strong communication and interpersonal skills.

And how do you prove that Ross students can meet that, apart from the other Top 10 schools? How are they unique?

The value-add they bring is they're really able to lead and take action when they get to the company. We have a deeper action-based curriculum than any of the other top programs. Our flagship is the Multidisciplinary Action Program, or MAP. Every first-year MBA spends the second half of the second semester assigned to a MAP project in the field, on a team of five or six under the guidance of a faculty member on a project that's important to that company.

What is the biggest mistake students make in networking and following up?

In networking, I think it is to ask for a job instead of asking for advice.

What about following up?

Failure to do so—or being too aggressive. Leave a reasonable amount of time between...

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