Career Services Director Q&A: NYU Stern’s Beth Briggs
An English major with a master’s degree in social work, Beth Briggs brings an array of resources to her role as senior director of the Office of Career Development at NYU’s Stern School of Business. After devoting the first portion of her career to various forms of social work, she transitioned to a more formal consulting role at Mercer, where she spent eight years, initially as a team writer but ultimately as a principal in the firm. At Mercer, she worked with a range of New York City‒based clients across industries around their human capital needs.
Coming to NYU Stern in 2008, she started initially at what has since become the school’s Office of Student Engagement, helping to run its NYC experiential learning programs, including Stern Consulting Corps, through which MBA students work with for-profit and not-for-profit organizations throughout New York City. Briggs left the Office of Student Engagement for the Office of Career Development in 2009, where today she leads the career coaching, relationship management and operations teams for full-time MBA students.
In the interview that follows, you’ll learn about recent employment trends at Stern (including an uptick in hiring by Google and Amazon), Briggs’s advice on how to jumpstart your job search process as soon as you are admitted, the benefits of the school’s collaborative nature and more.
Briggs draws on the skills and network she developed over the course of her career, both within Stern and beyond, to connect the dots for students and help them land jobs that are fulfilling and, most important to Briggs, make them happy.
Our thanks to Briggs for making time to share more about her role and the office she leads.
Clear Admit: How do you view your role as senior director of the Office of Career Development at Stern? Is it to administer workshops? Counsel students? Counsel companies? Manage the entire office and oversee its various functions? All of the above? What do you love most about it?
Beth Briggs: Definitely all of the above. I work closely with students as well as our employers to develop strategies for hiring our students. I also manage our teams in the Office of Career Development and encourage my group to connect with other teams across NYU Stern to make sure we are maximizing opportunities for our students.
I really love all of it, to be honest. I am fortunate to have a phenomenal team, the students are great and to be involved with them during this pivotal time in their lives is amazing.
CA: Now, about your team. How many career advisors 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?
BB: There are about 15 members on the team, and everyone’s main priority is to support our MBA students. We have a group of coaches who come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Some have MBAs, some don’t. They come from a range of different industries and functions, and this diversity of backgrounds and styles allows us to support students with different needs.
So on one side we have our Career Coaching Team, which partners with students, and on the other side we have our Relationship Management Team, which partners with employers. We want to be constantly bridging between the two. Our Relationship Management Team is similarly organized as each relationship manager oversees a different portfolio of industries.
And then we have an Operations Team, which ties us all together and positions us to use best-in-class systems and technologies to meet our students’ and employers’ needs.
CA: Can you provide prospective applicants with an overview of the recruitment process at Stern? When does it start? How does it unfold? How has this changed in recent years, if at all?
BB: The moment you are thinking about coming to an MBA program, the recruitment process should start clicking along in your mind. We have students do their own self-assessment about what they want, what skills they bring and how Stern can help bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to go. We really encourage students to begin thinking about their goals as soon as they are admitted. We also have a series of workshops we call “Summer Sneak Peeks.” These are designed to build a longer runway for students to do that early exploration, because once they come to campus they only have a month or so before more formal recruiting gets started.
The first presentations start at the end of September or early October with companies coming to campus, but we are trying to get all students to be in the mindset of exploration and consideration from the get-go. We want our students to know how to navigate a job search both during their MBA and in the future. We also we want everyone starting from the same place of engagement—getting out there and talking to companies, one another and coaches to begin to develop their story.
Over the summer, the sneak peeks provide a way to touch base with our coaching team—and for those who are remote, we also offer webinars. Then, once students come to campus for orientation, we get really focused on facilitating conversations with alumni. Because of our New York City location, students can readily tap into the Stern alumni network. Alums are eager and willing to meet with students to share a bit of what their own career path has been like.
We also feature a careers curriculum called Ignite, which includes a number of different workshops on networking, informational interviewing, mock interviews, cover letters, resumé development and more. Here again, we see this program as not only helping students in their MBA job search, but also serving as a foundation for their ongoing career.
CA: Stern has historically been a top destination for students hoping to work on Wall Street post-MBA. How has this changed since 2008? Has student interest in finance rebounded completely? What if any changes were made within the Office of Career Development as a result of the financial crisis?
BB: We have certainly seen a diversifying of interests in our incoming MBA students, but finance is still quite strong for Stern students. Because of our top-ranked finance faculty, we will always attract students interested in those roles, and we also have strong relationships with many of the investment banks that are so close to us here in downtown New York.
Having said that, we have seen a change in the number of students heading into finance. In 2008, 61 percent of the class sought finance positions, compared to 35 percent this past year. It’s a big shift, yes, but the percentage of our students heading into finance is still strong when you compare it to our peer schools.
Where we have seen that change happening the most is with students moving toward consulting. From 2008 to 2015 we saw an uptick from 14 percent to 29 percent of students securing jobs in consulting. Our Relationship Management Team has done a great job of deepening and strengthening our relationships with the top consulting firms. Our alumni have also been great advocates for students pursuing consulting careers, and our coaches have also worked to really prepare our students for consulting interviews.
The percentage of students pursuing careers in technology has also increased, growing from 3 percent in 2008 to 9 percent in 2015. So we certainly see that interest growing. Here, too, our alumni network has been really helpful. We have alums who are around the corner at Facebook and up the block at Google. This provides our students with lots of access. There are also lots of alumni running incubators and startups. Stern is a very collaborative community, and we all share information about the kinds of opportunities that might be available to our students.
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?
BB: Each student is required to go through two practice interviews as part of Ignite. Every first-year student will have a behavioral mock interview just to practice what that’s like. They also each do a technical mock interview. We have a select group of about 25 second-year students—called MBA2 Career Mentors—who do those technical interviews for particular functional and industry areas. We want to give our students that foundational preparation in advance of when their real interviews roll around. Students can also schedule mock interviews with any of our coaches whenever they would like, up to once week.
In terms of how interviews are scheduled, the application process happens toward the end of November/early December for companies that are coming to campus. Students submit cover letters (if an employer requires it, though some don’t) and resumés, and companies make decisions and send out interview invitations. From there, students schedule their interviews. All of the scheduling is done through our career account system.
Within our Office of Career Development suite we have approximately 25 interview rooms, so most of our interviews happen here in our suite. Skype has certainly become an increasingly common modality for interviews, particularly for first-round interviews for companies located outside of New York (and even sometimes those here in the city). We also conduct mock interviews for students through Skype or over the phone, and we offer workshops for how to successfully conduct Skype or phone interviews.