Tuesday, February 23, 2010

WSJ: Has the M.B.A. Class of ’09 Fallen Through the Cracks?

Over at the Wall Street Jounral's Laid Off and Looking blog, there is a great article about the rather dreary fate of the MBA class of 2009. Some of the content rings very true and speaks to some of the troubles the werewolf is facing in his search. Here is a worthy excerpt:

"The shift in how employers recruit M.B.A.’s has been especially tough for the class of 2009. No longer are employers looking to bring in talent and develop them. They are now in search of talent that has experience in the exact field in which they are hiring. Recruiters no longer have to hire the optimistic M.B.A.’s with huge talent and youthful vigor. Companies can easily hire workers with years of experience who are willing to take the same salary as only a freshly minted M.B.A. would have several years ago. This leaves thousands of students who hoped to use business school as a tool to switch careers unemployed. Further, those of us who were in very specialized functions and very specialized products pre-M.B.A. are left in the cold."

The werewolf has had one helluva of a time trying to secure stable employment since he graduated in the May of 2009. He has run into some of the aforementioned problems, but given his nontraditional post-MBA aspirations, he has also encountered skepticism, fear, and resentment of his MBA from a raft of perspective employers who are in the political sphere. Also, the equilibrium between supply and demand for people with his credentials and skill sets is way out of whack. There is an excess in supply and restricted demand, giving employers unimaginable leverage. However, beating up on employers misses the point, since they are operating in wildly uncertain times and have budgeted and planned accordingly. Several insiders are so focused on preserving their own hide, that opportunities are scarce. Adding another tightening dynamic to the current macro-situation.

Last spring the werewolf learned a hard lesson in negotiation and expectation management. He had successfully completed three rounds of intense interviews for a nonprofit foundation fellowship. Thought the fit with the organization was strong and he had a background that explicitly matched their desires. The werewolf was denied the fellowship because when compelled to answer what he valued his annual salary at, he put $70K. Mind you the question was roughly phrased where do you value your compensation rate? It then listed numerical values starting at $20K and moving all the way to $100K in increments of 10K. Although prepared to take a much lower nonprofit salary and not expecting to make anywhere near that amount in the role was he attempting to lock down, he thought it was a fair value given what most of his investment banking and management consulting peers were set to make, and was also a sign that the werewolf placed a respectable value on himself. Well, confidence, self-worth, and honesty were the wrong signals to send in that instance. The universal answer is negotiable, moving forward.

He has a few colleagues and acquaintances from other business and law schools such as Duke, Harvard, Columbia, Wake Forest, and the University of Georgia  who have run into similar humps with employment. The contractions in the legal market have mirrored the dearth of opportunity in the finance and consulting fields that have squeezed MBAs tightly. The werewolf will write more about this as time progresses. However, this article rings of some hard truths about the structural realignment of the employment market. 

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