silver lining in a bleak economy
management only gets more important during a downturn. That’s
why when the market went down, these students geared up
Shebson's creative approach to job hunting was the frosting
on the cake.
©2003 Nathan Mandell
under sunnier economic skies that Jey Iyempandi and other
members of the Class of 2003 temporarily decided to exit the
work force to earn their MBA degrees at the Kellogg School.
and his peers return to the market after graduation this June,
they’ll likely find that soaring stocks and record profits
continue to be replaced by a sluggish market and lowered expectations.
It’s a business environment that’s perhaps more
challenging than the one they remember — a landscape
pitted by mergers, consolidations and layoffs, and an environment
in which job offers are extended more cautiously than before.
a Master of Management and Manufacturing student who worked
for Ford Motor Co. in India before beginning his course work
at Kellogg, a job hunt in the post-bubble economy led the
way to Dell Computer Corp. — one of the few companies
that consistently has managed to beat expectations in a difficult
environment. After a three-month stint as an operations intern
last summer, Iyempandi in January accepted a full-time offer
with the company to begin after graduation.
an amazingly well-run company,” he says. “The
culture is really fast. You go into a meeting and people would
say, ‘Can we do this at 4 p.m.?’”
To prepare for
his first-round interview, Iyempandi queried Kellogg grads
who work at the Austin, Texas-based firm about company culture,
then traveled to another state to meet a recruiter on a lunch
break from a scouting trip because the firm wasn’t visiting
campus this year. Spurred by warnings from the Kellogg School
Career Management Center (CMC) that the job market was more
difficult than usual, Iyempandi says he began an independent
job search earlier than he otherwise would and was prepared
to go the distance to land an interview with a company he
really cared about. Still, he wasn’t about to let challenging
conditions define him.
knew that the overall economy was bad, but I wasn’t
deterred by that,” Iyempandi says. “Dell is a
big company — they can’t just shut their doors.
I knew I had to be really prepared.”
Call it turning
lemons into lemonade or finding the silver lining in cloudy
economic skies. Kellogg students and career counselors have
adapted to the more challenging conditions the economy has
presented by stepping up the pace of their job hunts and opening
their eyes to previously unseen options. Some even say the
conditions have had positive effects on the career choices
students make by helping them to refine their strategies to
achieve their ultimate goals.
students think about things they would normally think about
later in their careers,” says Karie Davis, CMC associate
director. “I’ve talked with a lot of students
about building a strategy. If you can’t get where you
ultimately want to go right after graduation, let’s
talk about how you can get there in a couple of steps. Let’s
talk about Plan B. You need a Plan B in any economy, because
if you don’t have one, you set yourself up for a fall.”
on traditional skills
in the job market have placed extra emphasis on traditional
job-hunting skills such as interviewing and networking —
skills CMC counselors say will help students for the rest
of their careers. Davis, who says many people have a negative
view of networking, likes to tell students she landed her
job at Kellogg, in part, through connections she forged. An
experienced career counseling professional, Davis learned
of the job through a friend of a friend.
Iyempandi used persistence to capture a job at Dell.
a great story because it so clearly illustrates the serendipity
behind networking. You really can’t go into the process
thinking you know who your good leads are because guess what?
You don’t. It’s not necessarily going to be the
senior vice president or the dean. It could be someone on
the support staff.”
student Mark Hamachek, who completed a summer internship at
IBM last year, is no stranger to the value of networking.
Hamachek hit the phones hard over holiday break, dialing up
contacts at Recreational Equipment Inc. and Starbucks Coffee
because he likes the products they make and wanted to explore
job opportunities there. He also scheduled meetings with local
venture capitalists in his hometown of Seattle to understand
the small business opportunities that exist there.
amazing how many responses you get when you pick up the phone,”
says Hamachek. But he admits making the calls wasn’t
whose goal is to run a small company or own a business one
day, says a tougher job market has helped him zero in on his
long-term goals. He’s eyeing a marketing position in
a medium-sized company as a way to develop expertise he can
tap in the coming years.
is a tough economy and it’s making people think about
what they want to do and how they want to get there. That’s
what happened over the past three years — people could
just do it,” he says, adding that young professionals
who looked for jobs in the heady boom days of the 1990s sometimes
faced difficulty sorting through all the opportunities for
their true calling.
took advantage of on-campus recruiting in his job search —
and may ultimately accept an offer from one of those firms
— but says he researched companies that visited campus
just as closely as those he contacted in his independent job
students help themselves
true that more students are looking beyond the boundaries
of campus these days to find full-time employment after graduation,
independent searches have always been an important part of
the job-hunt for MBA students, says Roxanne Hori, assistant
dean and director of the CMC. During the dot-com heyday, students
who opted for high-tech employment needed to pursue off-campus
leads, she says, because many start-ups and small technology
firms couldn’t afford to hit the road to recruit new
the misperception that you didn’t have to know how to
look for a job is really just that — a misperception,”
Hori says. “There was certainly an abundance of opportunities
that could have been gotten much more easily back then than
today, but in the end, people needed those skills in a boom
time as much as they do now. If somebody wanted a job in tech,
an independent job search was really the primary way to get
Hamachek went to the basics of networking and research
in his career quest.
economy tightened, CMC staff held tight to the basics of the
job search, with a few differences. Most notable was when
a group of Kellogg School deans last year volunteered to follow
up with students who hadn’t yet accepted a job offer
as graduation neared. Hori says the idea, which the deans
came up with on their own, arose out of a need to help students,
even if the assistance was simply touching base with them.
other school did anything like that,” she says. “It’s
still a novelty. People still ask me questions about that.”
helping hand may have been enough to lift Kellogg to the top
of the rankings in placement statistics. Three months after
graduation, some 91 percent of 2002 grads had job offers.
also is unique in that the director of its career center,
Hori, sees students in one-on-one counseling appointments.
She spends about 50 percent of her time this way. “Students
know that they can come to me,” she says. “My
boss, Dean Jain, keeps an open door policy himself, so I’d
be hard-pressed not to.”
adds that another item high on the CMC agenda is forging relationships
with new companies. CMC staff take advantage of university
breaks to research and pay visits to companies that haven’t
previously recruited at Kellogg.
with broad, far-reaching workshops that advise students on
the basics of the post-MBA job hunt, the CMC has begun offering
targeted, “brush-up” sessions that pinpoint areas
of interest to students. Recent examples include workshops
on researching companies and staying motivated in the job
search. CMC staff cull topics for the specialized review sessions
from subjects that arise frequently in their interactions
lot of what we’re doing is helping our students adjust
their expectations a bit, to be realistic and to support them
in the career changes they want to make by giving them ideas,”
Davis says. “The students here are amazing, but it can
be overwhelming, particularly for first-year students who
are trying to adjust. They’re making new friends, they’re
away from home, and oh, by the way — job search. It’s
a lot to take on.”
a fresh approach
Shebson began her studies at the Kellogg School in 2001, she
was fairly certain of the type of career she wanted afterwards.
With a background in marketing, she hoped to remain in the
field, but was looking for a toy company where she could hone
didn’t take long for Shebson to find the ideal place
for a summer internship: a Chicago company called Learning
Curve International Inc. that makes a line of toys for infants
called Lamaze and owns well-known brands such as Thomas the
Tank Engine. The company earned rave reviews from the Kellogg
alums with whom Shebson consulted, but there was one problem
— they weren’t hiring.
was told they didn’t have a budget to have an intern,”
Shebson recalls. “They’d already committed to
another intern and they weren’t interested. But I decided
this was definitely the company I wanted to work for because
of the products and the environment there.”
was convinced the company was a place where she could leverage
her marketing acumen, so she decided to try another approach.
She and a friend visited a toy store where the friend snapped
a picture of her in front of a display of Lamaze and Thomas
the Tank Engine products. Shebson then had the image frosted
on to a large sheet cake and sent it to Learning Curve, along
with her résumé and a list of 10 project ideas
icing, the cake spelled out a question: “Joanna, your
future summer intern?”
whole point of this was, ‘I’m very interested
in toys and marketing, I’ve got a strong background
from Kellogg, and this is a place that I want to work,’”
matter of hours, Learning Curve’s vice president of
marketing sent Shebson a message of her own: “You take
the cake, girlfriend. Never before have I seen something so
creative and eye-catching. How did you know my two favorite
things are chocolate cake and great project ideas?”
ended up getting the job, as well as a paycheck for her work
last summer — even though she was willing to go without
one in order to learn something new. As part of her internship,
she had the chance to implement some of her project ideas
as she created a focus group of moms for the company and streamlined
a program of in-store retail promotions.
the first to admit she may not have pursued the Learning Curve
internship so strongly under different economic conditions.
the end, this was the right place for me, so I’m happy
it worked out the way it did,” she says.