Kellogg panel offers recession strategy
Advisory board members stress patience, perspective in MBA job hunt
Members of the Kellogg Alumni Advisory Board and the Dean's Advisory Board shared their career management insights with a capacity audience in the Donald P. Jacobs Center on Jan. 16. More than 100 Kellogg students and faculty convened to listen as moderator Loyd Henderson '02 asked the four-member panel how MBAs can best position themselves to ride out an economic recession. Audience members also had the opportunity to present their own questions, both during the discussion and at an informal networking event after the 90-minute program.
Panelists included Tom Williamson '82, partner at Deloitte Consulting; Ellis Goodman, retired chairman and CEO of Barton Inc., and member of the Kellogg Dean's Advisory Board; Mark Shapiro '80, formerly of Quaker Oats and member of Kellogg Alumni Advisory Board; and Ann Scovil '91, financial director Target Stores.
The speakers addressed a variety of subjects, including how MBA students can prepare to interview with potential employers during a recession. Other topics considered the importance of the Kellogg School network and Career Management Center (CMC) in helping students find employment. Panelists also offered their opinions regarding the pros and cons of switching jobs in an economic downturn.
Patience and perseverance were words the panel used to counsel MBA graduates seeking jobs while many companies have slowed their hiring.
"Don't jump at the wrong opportunity just to have a job. Find the right [employer] rather than the wrong one and you'll do better," said Shapiro, who noted that the current recession has forced himself to grapple with the challenge of finding a new situation. Shapiro advised students to use all of Kellogg's resources, and he praised the school's CMC, saying "They are doing the right things in a very difficult environment."
Shapiro added that one of the hidden advantages a recession offers job-hunters is a clear view of the strongest performers in the marketplace. "You're able to see which companies make the best of a tough situation, which can help you in your [interviewing] selection," he said.
Scovil advised MBA graduates to continue honing their skills during an extended job search, including by volunteering their talents at nonprofit organizations. She also recommended staying connected with peers in the Kellogg network who might be able to "make introductions or open doors" that lead to employment. "Be much more focused in your interviews," she added. "A broad-brushed approach to job hunting doesn't look sincere. It looks hit-or-miss."
Providing perhaps a much-needed perspective on the recession, Goodman recommended taking a longer view of one's career, and remaining flexible enough to consider valuable experience in a variety of industries—even industries that were not initially sectors on a job-seeker's agenda.
"You won't be getting a private jet to sign on with a company [today], but plenty of companies are still hiring," said Goodman, who insisted that the recession wasn't "the end of the world." Over their careers, he predicted, MBAs could expect to see approximately four economic booms, seven recessions and many periods where the economy does not seem to fluctuate much at all.
The retired CEO summed up his frequently wry assessment by declaring: "Because I'm old, I've been through more recessions and booms and some things you haven't even dreamed of. You shouldn't lose any sleep over this [recession]."
Williamson concurred. "The [hiring] spigot will turn back on probably as quickly as it dried up six months ago," he said. In the meanwhile, he suggested MBA students and graduates continue building "the right set of skills to go forward."
The evening's moderator was pleased with the turnout and content of the discussion. Henderson noted that the event offered job seekers practical insights and strategy, but that the panelists' responses indicated that "there is no one right way to conduct a job search or manage your career."
The event was sponsored by the Graduate Management Association's Alumni Committee, with the assistance of the Alumni Relations Office.