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Will economic downturn affect your job prospects?

First, let me congratulate all of you who submitted your applications by the Round 1 deadline yesterday. We are looking forward to getting to know you via your essays, letters of recommendation, and all the other information you are sharing with us.

Today, I wanted to address your questions about how the contracting economy might affect your job prospects. I was able to discuss this issue with Andy Chan (MBA 1988), Assistant Dean and Director of the MBA Career Management Center:

Rita Winkler: Given the economic downturn, how does this affect the job prospects for applicants considering business school?

Andy Chan: Applicants must make their decisions about applying to business school separate from what's going on in the economy. Why? Because the economy is unpredictable and no one knows what the market will be like in two to three years. It could be better or worse. We all hope it will be better!

Rita Winkler: What does the Career Management Center (CMC) do to help students find jobs when the economy is weak?

Andy Chan: The CMC has developed relationships with many organizations that enjoy hiring Stanford students. However, in times like these, even some of those organizations may not be hiring.

One of our key goals is to teach and guide students to become strategic career managers so that they are equipped to manage their job search while at business school and throughout their careers when they are alumni.

We deliver numerous workshops and job search programming to help students successfully find opportunities, especially at smaller organizations. This is important for a couple of reasons: First, smaller firms are more likely to be hiring even in a down economy. Second, smaller organizations are also more able to create a job for a great candidate like one of our students.

In addition, the CMC helps students tap into the supportive and responsive GSB alumni community. In the last downturn, the CMC asked alumni to create projects and jobs and the alumni responded positively. This is possible at Stanford because so many of our alumni are top executives at their organizations.

Rita Winkler: In what other ways do Stanford alumni help students?

Andy Chan: Alumni are especially valuable in educating students about a wide range of careers and organizations. In addition, they are mentors, business advisors, and networking contacts.

Many alumni are angel investors or institutional investors who fund student-developed businesses. There may be a misperception among some applicants that this is a Bay Area phenomenon. Our alumni are even more responsive in regions far from California. If you contact an alum in any location outside the San Francisco Bay Area, they will be very responsive because they love helping Stanford MBAs and hearing what's happening back at the GSB--one of their favorite places on the planet.

Rita Winkler: How does the career experience vary for first year students?

Andy Chan: Every year--including the recession years of 2002-2003--100% of the first-year students obtain a summer job. Organizations find it valuable and easy (and less of a commitment) to hire an MBA student for a summer job or project. In addition, students tend to be more open to a variety of opportunities for summer jobs.

Rita Winkler: Do you help students who do not have jobs after graduation?

Andy Chan: Yes, the CMC continues to advise students after graduation. We also have a comprehensive set of resources offered by our Alumni Career Services team. We offer executive coaching and workshops at locations around the world. The online alumni job board has thousands of jobs posted each year. And the website has numerous tools, resources and articles to answer key questions from alumni regarding a post-MBA job search and overall career management.

Rita Winkler: What would you recommend to applicants with regard to their future job search?

Andy Chan: I would ask them to consider the following three things:

1) Clarify your personal purpose for getting an MBA. What are you hoping to achieve by getting the MBA? Understand if--and how--having an MBA will help you move towards the career you wish to pursue. There are some careers where an MBA is not required--and some where having an MBA is not desired.

2) Given the state of the economy, set realistic expectations for what you can achieve in the short term. What's your timeframe for reaching these goals (ideal vs. realistic vs. worst case)?

3) View the MBA as an asset with long-term value. I know so many alumni at the ages of 40, 45, 50 years old who reflect on their careers and appreciate how valuable and meaningful their MBA has been in influencing the direction of their careers and lives. Your investment has a payout over your lifetime, so be ready for a long, enjoyable ride.

Rita Winkler: Andy, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with our readers.

Andy Chan: You're very welcome. I look forward to working with the Class of 2011!

If you're interested in more detailed employment statistics, visit the CMC's employment reports.