Columbia Redefines Its Careers Office

The managing director of the newly rechristened Career Management Center talks about the resources and support students can expect

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After a decade as an administrator at Columbia Business School, Regina Resnick is leading the school's Career Management Center into a new era this year. The office recently changed its name from the Office of MBA Career Services, aligning itself with a number of leading B-school career offices that have changed their name to more accurately reflect their mission, says Resnick, assistant dean and managing director of the office since 1999.

Resnick is attuned to the needs of the school's 1,400 full-time and 600 executive MBAs. Over the years, she has helped students navigate the job market, from the "hyper-boom " market of the 1990s to the subsequent burst of the dot-com bubble and the challenging business climate following September 11. Today, she says she is "pleased that things have reversed themselves." Eight-six percent of the class of 2006 received employment offers by graduation, and 94% reported having jobs three months later. The median starting salary last year for B-school graduates was $95,000, according to the office. Data from 2007 are not yet available.

Resnick is using the new name as an excuse to expand the services the school offers its EMBA students and reorganize the department. She recently discussed the ramped-up offerings with BusinessWeek reporter Alison Damast. The following is an edited excerpt of their conversation:

Why did you change the name of the school from the Office of MBA Career Services Center to the Career Management Center?Career services sounded much more transaction-based than the way we see our mission. About 20 years ago, it was called services because then it was more about placement and career services. We thought we should talk more about this new name because it reflects the partnership at the business school between students and our office in terms of managing their careers. It's not just about our facilitating introductions to companies or helping to facilitate events on campus. It's a much broader definition, so it seemed appropriate to change our name.

What are some of the top companies that recruit on campus?McKinsey, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Deloitte are some of the top consulting firms we see. General Electric (GE), Honeywell (HON), Unilever (UL), Google (GOOG), and Kraft Foods (KFT) are some of the companies that have been recruiting Columbia MBAs recently. Of course, Wall Street is well represented on campus, too. Among our top employers are firms such as Citi (C) and Goldman Sachs (GS). We're really lucky; it's a Who's Who of Wall Street firms. I feel the students are very privileged with some of the opportunities they have.

How will services offered to the school's EMBAs differ under this new structure?Previously we had somebody who was assigned to work with them, but we didn't have a full menu of services. It was decided, after talking the last couple of years, that it was time to broaden our services to them.

In fact, in January of last year we ended up opening up access to the office to all EMBAs, including those sponsored by companies. If those who are fully sponsored choose to access on-campus recruiting or other job sites, we ask that they make sure that their sponsoring company is aware that they are getting support.

How do the needs of an EMBA student differ from those of a full-time day student?They're coming back to school to further their careers within their organization or outside. A lot of them are looking for additional insight that we can provide in terms of how they can advance their careers and deal with changing circumstances they might face from a management perspective in their current job.

Are there any changes to the way the departments within the office are organized?Within the full-time program, we have career education, advising, and employer relations departments. Previously, there was more fluidity in these roles. We've created more separation between these then we used to have between the staff.

What is your philosophy on the job search?From our perspective, it's not just about the first job. It's about how you approach a job search beyond the first job. That's where it comes back to career management. You need to take a look at your choices and see how they might play out in the long term. We want to think about giving people the tools to reflect on their career progress, transferable skills, and things like that.

How do you build strong relationships with the companies that recruit on campus?We have a structure where we have several account managers that have different companies assigned to them. We have enhanced our technology in the process to make sure that our key on-campus recruiters have access to lots of information and can upload data directly into our database for students and the job-board for students. Along with the new technology we have, we expect to be able to better answer any statistical requests that companies may have, though that's something that is still in development.

Are there resources available to students outside the career management center?We work very closely with a program called Executives in Residence. We have nine retired senior executives who supplement the work of our office by providing industry specialization advice. We tap into other resources at the school as well, including the students themselves. We have a lot of second-year students who act as career peer advisors who do mock interviews and serve on education panels. Second-year students may provide a window into more immediate issues students are facing. Also, we make certain to bring in alumni who can provide a perspective several more years out about how their early choices affected their long-term decisions.

Is technology playing a growing role in how you reach students?We've been doing a lot lately with multimedia and a lot more filming of students talking about how they've gone about their career searches. We've launched a series called Career Chronicles, which we'll be putting up on a new Web site for students this fall. Hopefully, they will find this valuable. I think this is the YouTube and Facebook generation. This is more of a personalized approach, rather than something static. I think there's so much we can do in this area, especially with the executive MBA students who aren't on campus full time.

How do you market Columbia B-school students to recruiters?I go on the road and travel with students. Every January, I go to Silicon Valley and help students set up meetings with companies that are very educational in terms of what they might be doing. We'll visit the leading companies like Yahoo! (YHOO), eBay (EBAY), and Intel (INTC) and then have panels with private equity folks. I will hold recruiter breakfasts or networking breakfasts.

I think the best way of showing off our students is by demonstrating how they can contribute. We're facilitating introductions that way. There are a lot of personal touches that go into meeting with people and talking about our programs, students, and faculty.

What new industries are you looking to target and where do you see more jobs?Our students have really broad-based interest in a number of industry sectors. A lot of our students are in real estate and health care. We have a new health-care program at the school, so there are some really exciting opportunities there. Retail is another area of interest for a lot of Columbia students.

How can you guarantee that every student gets sufficient help?It's something that is very much on my mind as we evolve as an office. I think there's so much more interest now for one-on-one advice. But there are only so many of us and so many of them. We can't possibly be all things to all people. That's why we're looking at the broader role of the institution and tapping into the Columbia community. We're looking at other ways of extending our reach, such as the peer-to-peer student program and the executives in residence program.

Do you find any global trends in the job search?Certainly there's a strong demand for MBAs in Asia, including Southeast Asia. There's kind of a hunger for our students. Some of our students are from those regions and the firms would love to see them return to their home countries and work for them there. Many of the Asian students will return, but the question is, will they return right after graduation or a few years out?

We always have a handful who return directly, but many are excited about the prospect of spending a few years in the U.S. to better understand our market. It really depends on individual circumstances and of course, the whole H1-B visa immigration issue has to be front and center for these students (see, 5/14/07, "A Visa Squeeze for Foreign MBAs").

Any advice you'd like to give to students?There's a whole universe of firms out there that may not recruit on campus. Students have to remind themselves that they have permission to reach outside the wall of the school. For example, there are companies in Silicon Valley interested in Columbia students, but sometimes because of where they're located, they might want students to reach out to them.

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