Every year, Matthew Maloney sits down with a new group of 40-plus students at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University who are beginning their studies in the school’s Business Analytics or Operations Research & Supply Chain Management Master's Programs. In nearby classrooms, professors are just getting them started in their new curriculum. But Maloney is already getting them ready to leave.
As a director of these two specialty programs, it’s Maloney’s job to make sure students exit the program well-prepared for accelerated career growth in their chosen field. A role that might traditionally be reserved for the run-up to graduation, Maloney starts that process as soon as students arrive.
“I sit down with them, show them the resources at their disposal, understand their backgrounds and why they came to the program,” says Maloney, himself a 2007 Weatherhead MBA graduate. “I listen to what their needs are and then connect the right people with the right opportunities.”
At Weatherhead and elsewhere, glossy catalogs and national rankings are no longer enough to attract students — today, outcomes are what matter to students making the choice to enter business school. Among those desired outcomes are metrics like internship opportunities, rapid job placement, starting income, leadership advancement and more.
“The students get a lot of daily attention from us working on resumes, cover letters, mock interviews and connecting them with employers,” says Mitchell Kam, Director for Employment Development for Weatherhead’s MSM-Finance Program, one of very few specialty business school programs in the country to have a devoted career management professional.
Like Maloney, Kam begins developing relationships with students from the moment they put down an enrollment deposit. He conducts webinars and events in the months leading up to the start of students’ first semester, assembles profiles of each student, uploads their resumes and conducts surveys. “We want to understand where they are coming from and get their initial thoughts on the areas, industries and companies that they might want to work for, even though we know it might change,” he says.
Maloney and Kam employ all of the typical tactics of a career management office – job boards, resume help, mock interviews and career fairs. Both are master networkers with connections across the country. But they also employ more creative approaches to getting students career-ready like City Treks, a program that takes groups of Weatherhead students to cities like Chicago, New York, and Silicon Valley to get a behind-the-scenes look at the types of positions they could pursue. Alumni in each city conduct informational interviews, and potential employers open their doors for student visits. Similar City Treks are regularly held in Cleveland, where students have visited Cleveland Research Company, KeyBank and The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
Such programs are especially critical to positive student outcomes given \the growing percentages of international students in graduate-level programs. Globally, research from the 2017 mba.com Prospective Students Survey found that nearly 60% of prospective business school students seek to study outside the country of their citizenship, with the U.S. being the top (58%) global destination for masters-level business education.
That trend requires business schools to go beyond typical approaches to preparing students for good jobs. Weatherhead provides one-on-one assistance in understanding H1B visas, improving communication skills for non-native English speakers and understanding the cultural nuances of corporate America. “They’re things not typically covered in other courses,” says Kam. “They get more practice in things like presentation skills.”
Another tool for boosting student outcomes is Weatherhead’s Employer Advisory Board, created in 2014 and made up of executives from KeyBank, University Hospitals, private equity firm Riverside and other companies. “A lot of the competitive advantage of having them in the classroom and on the board is that they are telling us what they need today and tomorrow. That’s helped faculty respond with new classes and content,” says Kam. “It’s about figuring what the market needs.” For example, feedback from that board is now being used to add coursework in financial technology.
“The key to the program is they are teaching problem-solving skills and the softer side of things,” says Maloney. “It’s not just creating data to solve problems, but turning it into useful information and disseminating it to the right people and making recommendations on how to do things.”
Perhaps the most effective tool in creating positive outcomes for Weatherhead graduates is other graduates themselves. “Our graduates are good at their jobs and often get promoted within the first two to three years,” says Maloney. “They come back and say, ‘my boss is promoting me, now I need to fill my job. Can you send me resumes?’ … When a student is successful, often managers will say, ‘where did we find her?’”
Such approaches are working – at Weatherhead and elsewhere, students give high (and rising) marks for outcomes of their business school education. Nationally, research by the Graduate Management Admission Council found that of the students who graduated with an MBA in 2014 — including full-time, part-time and executive MBA programs — 92% felt they were well-prepared for a leadership position, while 82% said the program prepared them to achieve work-life balance. The median salary increase pre- and post-MBA was 79% for full-time MBAs and 58% for part-time students. In the class of 2016 of Weatherhead’s MBA program, for example, graduates earned a mean base salary of $82,290 with mean signing bonuses of $16,429 and other compensation of $10,117.
“Short term outcomes, long term outcomes, the potential is there for students to become big-time impactors of organizations and rise up as high as they want to,” says Maloney. “I’ve never gotten anyone a job. They get themselves the job, but connecting them with people who are willing to listen and talk is what has helped the students become successful.”
This article was originally published in beyond magazine, Weatherhead's magazine on leadership in design, innovation and sustainability.