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Clear Admit Career Services Director Q&A: Pamela Mittman, NYU Stern School of Business

In the second installment of our Career Services Director Q&A Series, we connected with Pamela Mittman, assistant dean of career services and leadership development at NYU Stern School of Business.

An alumna of NYU Stern’s full-time MBA program, Mittman brings both a student and alumni perspective to the role. Before joining Stern as an administrator more than 10 years ago, she worked in consulting and financial services. In her current role at NYU Stern, she oversees the recruiting process for all MBA students.

Clear Admit: How do you view your role as Career Services Director? Is it to administer workshops? Counsel students? Counsel companies? Manage the entire office and oversee its various functions? All of the above?

Pamela Mittman: During my tenure in the department, I’ve counseled students through two recessions and recoveries – the dot com boom and bust and the most recent financial crisis. As a result, we’ve been able to adjust and apply lessons learned from 2001 to the present market situation. For example, we opened a Career Center for Working Professionals in 2003 in order to provide lifelong career services to alumni, so we had a career support system set up during this downturn.

Our department focuses on providing the best available resources and expertise to our students to ensure they make successful career transitions. We are particularly proud of our high staff-to-student ratio – about 1 to 25 for the first-year MBA class, not including second-year students who serve as career coaches and mentors.

My group includes seasoned career counselors, who partner with students, as well as relationship managers, who align with companies according to their industry expertise. All of our full-time students go through our two-year Career Development Program, which ranges from lectures to industry-specific workshops, panels, one-on-one mock interviews and career counseling. Each student benefits from a customized career search based on his or her goals.

Because we’re in the heart of Greenwich Village in New York City, our community has unparalleled access to Wall Street and the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies in fields such as marketing, entertainment, media, technology and luxury retail, among others.

What’s particularly rewarding is that our students have nominated several members of our team as Administrator of the Year every year for more than seven years. It’s a great testament to the support we provide.

CA: Now, about your team. How many placement professionals do you have? Is this a relatively constant figure? If not, how has it changed in recent years? How might it change in the near future?

PM: We have one of the highest staff-to-student ratios among top business schools. My group partners closely with students and alumni, as I mentioned earlier, as well as with companies. The Relationship Managers partner closely with our existing company partners, while also developing new relationships. We organize the relationships by industry in order to leverage the relevant and deep expertise of our staff, based on their prior professional backgrounds.

CA: Can you provide prospective applicants with an overview of the recruitment process at Stern? When does it start? How does it unfold?

PM: Our two-year Career Development Program begins once a student accepts admittance into our program. They have access to resources even before they step foot on campus through our Admitted Student website. During our Pre-Term Orientation, before classes begin, students complete a career self-assessment, as well as engage in presentations by our staff and alumni on target industries and functions. We offer a full-range of career support services, from resume building to structured workshops on networking and mock interviewing.

First-year MBA students attend corporate presentations beginning in October of their first semester, hearing firsthand from companies about the firm and functions and conducting informational interviews. They apply for summer internship interview slots in early December, and the formal interview process begins the following January and February. They also have continual access to job postings, which are particularly valuable for fields such as entertainment and non-profits that do more just-in-time hiring. Typically, 99 percent of our students secure a summer internship, which provides an opportunity to confirm their interest in a firm while the company does the same on their end. On average, more than 60 percent of our students return from summer with offers. If a student is still seeking, he or she can apply for additional interviews in September and take advantage of the on-campus interview process for second-year students, which takes place in October and November. As graduates, each alumnus is eligible for life-long career support through our Career Center for Working Professionals.

CA: How has the economy impacted recruitment at Stern? How have you and your staff remained flexible or adapted in order to help students navigate a more challenging job market? Have you encouraged flexibility on the part of students themselves?

PM: Considering the challenging economic climate, NYU Stern faired well among top business schools on placement in 2009, during the heart of the crisis, ranking 3rd in placement rates three months after graduation. We experienced continued growth as the economy improved, with an offer rate of 90 percent three months out for our 2010 graduates. This year, we’ve seen a 33 percent uptick in job postings for investment banking alone, an early indicator of market demand.

As a school in the center of New York City with a strong finance and economics faculty, the crisis was an incredible teachable moment for our students. During its height, 33 Stern faculty authored 18 white papers that assessed the causes of the crisis and proposed policy solutions, which influenced the financial reforms that came out of Washington. Their ideas were published in a book, “Restoring Financial Stability,” which they used as the basis of a six-week course they taught for MBA students. The course was oversubscribed within the first few hours, with 450 students registering.

We brought to bear the full support of our community, engaging our alumni, our boards and friends of the school. We also benefitted from our core status with a number of firms. But we’ve also made a significant investment in diversifying and building relationships across industries, building strong ties with firms in entertainment and media and luxury retail, for example, to match the interests of our students. And we continue to do so.

CA: How does your team counsel students regarding the interview? Is there a formal mock interview process? How are interview schedules administered? Is there an established policy regarding how closed and open interviews should be conducted? What facilities are available for interviews?

PM: All first-year MBAs complete individual behavioral and technical mocks delivered by trained professionals, with personal feedback and a customized development plan.

Regarding policies, we offer companies an unlimited number of spots to interview on campus based on their business needs. We do require that companies keep offers open while the interview process is underway, so students can review and assess all of the opportunities they may receive.

CA: What kind of role do alumni play in Stern’s recruiting process? How integral are they to your office’s success? Is alumni participation a major part of your placement platform?

PM: NYU Stern boasts more than 85,000 alumni in 100 countries. The majority of our students aspire to stay in the New York metro area right after graduation, benefiting from immediate access to 40,000 alums as mentors. Our alums are also actively engaged in the recruitment efforts underway at firms.

CA: Do you have any advice for prospective applicants in terms of what they might do in advance of the MBA program to be better prepared for the job search process? In your experience, do you find that students who have done x, y, or z before arriving on campus have a more successful experience with career services and the job search as a whole?

PM: Starting with our application for admission, we ask students to articulate their short-and long-term career goals. My best piece of advice for students is to build a personal and professional network, well before you apply but especially during the MBA program. Build relationships and learn firsthand from individuals who can provide you with valuable insight into an industry or function before you’re seeking a job. Then, when you get to Stern, participate in our career treks that span as far as Asia, engage in student industry conferences and continue to invest in your network, which will pay dividends both in the short and long term.