Landing your dream job by getting an MBA isn't as easy anymore
- The job market is still strong. It's just not what it was when some MBAs decided to go school.
- Some students might have to wait longer to land jobs after a slowdown from a red-hot market.
When a second-year student at an Ivy League business school started his studies, he'd hoped to land a career in tech.
But the student, whom Business Insider granted anonymity, watched as major tech firms shed tens of thousands of workers. It was time for a pivot. So he shifted his focus to consulting — with the idea of eventually landing in a niche corner of the tech industry.
The student snagged an internship at a major consulting firm last summer and accepted an offer to return full-time after graduation.
His job win comes as the field of consulting isn't as red-hot as it was in 2021 and 2022, experts told Business Insider.
Following the slowdown, MBA students at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business aren't all stampeding toward consulting as many had for a time, Jeff McNish, an assistant dean at the Darden Career Center, told BI. "It's driving our students to think broader about their post-MBA career options," he said. "I don't think it's all doom and gloom. I just think it's different."
Heading into this year, some B-school students might have expected a slew of offers, similar to what they saw MBA graduates from recent years enjoy. But now a range of companies are being more deliberate about how quickly they're hiring MBAs, administrators told BI. Earlier this year, BI reported that consultancies were pushing back start dates and or telling those with new MBA credentials appended to their LinkedIn profiles that they could go do something else for a while.
As a result, 2023 seems like a rough job market. However, it's actually close to a normal market for MBA grads, industry and career experts told BI. Though there are fewer offers — and they might take longer to materialize — for the most part, the letters are still coming, career experts said.
Still, that's leaving some MBA students uneasy.
"My understanding is the environment today looks a lot more like the environment of '18 and '19 than it does to '21, '22. But that's not a bad environment, per se. It's just not what folks were accustomed to," the student said. BI granted him anonymity because he's not authorized by his future employer to talk to the media.
Going back in time
Career-services administrators echoed the return-to-normal idea.
"I don't think it's in any stretch a recession or MBAs aren't going to be in demand," McNish said. "We did have a little bit of maybe irrational exuberance," he said. "Hiring just went off the charts in the last couple of years."
It's since come back down. Even Bain & Company, one of the MBB — McKinsey, Bain, and Boston Consulting Group — firms so coveted by business students, earlier this year offered some new MBAs payouts to go work for a nonprofit or $20,000 to become yoga instructors until pushed-back start dates in April 2024.
Stephanie O'Connor, associate dean for career services at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, told BI tech companies in recent years had been more comfortable making offers to students shortly after a summer internship ended. While that's fairly common in fields like consulting and investment banking, she noted, speedy offers aren't always the norm for tech and some other corporate roles.
Now, compared with prior years, she's seeing a "slightly lower" percentage of students getting offers to return full-time to a company. "It felt almost like more of a normal return rate, but because we've had such high yields and high return-offer rates for internship classes, it felt like a bit of a shock," O'Connor said.
A stabilizing market
In general, O'Connor thinks the environment could be stabilizing: "It does feel almost like we're approaching a normal year as opposed to hitting a lot of bumps in the road," she said. This comes as demand for workers remains tight in many industries.
For the Ivy League student, watching artificial intelligence explode was a reminder of why he went to school in the first place — to simply keep up. "I've spent a lot more time saying, 'Hey, the pace of change is increasing a lot. How do I future-proof myself against that?'" he said. "Getting an MBA is helpful for that. But I think I really dialed into it, especially as we see how fast things are evolving today."
Ultimately, the student said, a job market that was no longer red hot pushed him to take a broader look at where he might end up.
"It forced me to really say, 'OK, I'm gonna cast as wide of a net as possible because I know it's not a down year, but it's like not what it used to be,'" he said.
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