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Career Services Director Q&A: NYU Stern’s Beth Briggs

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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?

BB: One of the things that I love about working at Stern is that we have this amazing community of students and alumni. Sternies are always going to help Sternies. We leverage our alumni to help us in a couple of ways. One is in terms of information sharing. So many of our alums stay in and around New York City after graduation, so they are close by. They can and do come to campus, they host breakfast informational sessions, they conduct informational interviews. They really provide a lot of great information and support to our students as they drill down into the industries they want to target.

But alumni also serve as advocates for our students within the organizations where they work. Often, a hiring manager will tap our alumni to find more talent from Stern. That is particularly effective for companies that don’t necessarily have a long history of hiring. The more our students go out and have success in their own careers, the more those organizations are likely to seek additional talent from the same source.

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?

BB: This is such a valuable time to think hard about your areas of interest. Once a student has decided, “I am going to come to business school,” it’s almost like they have a halo effect. They can reach out to anyone they know and say, “I want to have a conversation with you about what you do.” So I would really urge incoming students to leverage their networks to have early fact-finding conversations. What do people do in different roles? What skills are necessary to be successful? What courses or other activities can they take advantage of during their MBA program to achieve their goals?

I also think it’s important to remember to go back to your network after you’ve reached out to them to thank them for their time, let them know where you’ve landed and remind them what you’re interested in. Because often these people can serve as valuable resources later in your job search.

CA: What about students who hope to pursue entrepreneurial paths straight out of school? What particular opportunities/challenges do they present for your team? Are there special resources in place through OCD, or do those students primarily draw support from the W.R. Berkley Innovation Lab?

BB: I think the biggest role our office can play for students looking to start their own businesses is to continue to coach them and keep them accountable to their own goals. Beyond that, the real resources for entrepreneurs here at Stern come from the W.R. Berkley Innovation Lab and the annual Entrepreneurs Challenge. The Entrepreneurs Challenge just concluded here earlier this month. It’s always a big highlight here at Stern for the teams that participate.

We also work closely with our Office of Student Engagement, which administers our Summer Startup Fellowship. This program provides monetary support and working space for students who are pursuing their own ventures. We also leverage the resources across NYU and beyond to connect the dots and allow them to be successful. And we also have a lot of alumni who are entrepreneurs or working at startups who come to campus to share their stories and the challenges they’ve faced.

Overall, from a pure employment perspective, interest in pursuing entrepreneurial ventures immediately upon graduation has remained pretty consistent as a small percentage of the class. Sometimes students know coming in the door that they are going to start their own business. Sometimes students come in focused on entrepreneurship but then shift toward more traditional career paths, knowing in the back of their minds that they will come back to entrepreneurship further down the line. And then there are students who meet other students here at Stern and get energy from them, and ideas begin to form and percolate.

CA: There’s been a huge shift toward greater hiring by tech firms in recent years. How has this impacted your overall career services offerings? Are there specific programs, interview prep, etc. for students targeting tech jobs?

BB: We offer a general foundational program that helps all students in terms of preparing for roles in the technology industry. But we also work in a more focused way by tapping our second-year career mentors to work with students pursuing tech jobs. The number of tech-focused career mentors has increased year over year. It’s up to about three or four, which is pretty significant growth within the group of 25.

We also work with our Entertainment, Media and Technology Association student club to develop different kinds of programming. In the fall, we put together an array of networking events with companies including startups and smaller firms that aren’t necessarily going to have an on-campus recruitment strategy. We host networking nights with companies in and around New York City, and we bring in alumni or representatives from different companies who may not have immediate hiring needs to engage with our students and talk about the kinds of hiring needs they may have down the line.

We also are introducing more specific case prep for tech interviews, leveraging what has been effective for the consulting industry. And we’ve been offering workshops that augment some of the great courses here on project management, user-centered design and design thinking to give students the foundation and vocabulary they need to interview in the space. Finally, we have a trek to San Francisco each January. Of course, we do a number of visits to tech companies in and around New York City—almost every Friday—but then in January we do a trek to the Bay Area so our students get to visit a vast number of companies and leverage the Stern alumni network.

CA: Same question with regard to students who are interested in social impact careers? Is this growing? How are you responding from a career services perspective?

BB: Social impact was growing for a long time, and now it remains relatively stable. One of our coaches on staff comes from a social impact background, and Stern has a very vibrant student club called the Social Enterprise Association. Of course, it is a broad industry area with different kinds of roles, so we make a point of featuring alumni from different organizations that represent impact investing, not-for-profit consulting, education, etc. There is also our Social Impact Internship Fund, which provides monetary support for students doing internships in the social impact space. It allows us to send students to organizations that may not be able to afford MBA interns. And then we also have our Center for Human Rights and Business, which was the first of its kind at a leading business school. The center sends students as fellows to work for organizations focused on business and human rights. This year we have students heading to New Balance, PepsiCo and PVH Corp. Earlier this year we also launched a new Center for Sustainable Business.

CA:  What other interesting trends or shifts have you been observing—both in terms of companies who are hiring more or less and student aspirations?

BB: We still have many top companies who partner with us and hire strong numbers of students every year. In fact, that list of companies is growing year over year. And it’s increasing in the tech space. Google and Amazon, in particular, have been increasing their hiring of Stern students, which is terrific.

But we also have more and more students looking to do unique kinds of things outside of more traditional MBA recruiting. Because we have alumni in all kinds of interesting places, we are able to connect them.

CA: How many incoming students do you see each year who are actually pretty undecided about their post-MBA path? What resources to you offer to help them hone in on a career path that suits them?

BB: We want to make everyone comfortable seeking our help wherever they are in the process. It’s okay if you have changed your mind from your original potential career path you described in your admissions essay. If you feel unclear about what you want to do, that’s absolutely fine. We have the resources to help you create an action plan, and that might even change between what you do over the summer to what you seek full time after graduation. We pride ourselves on having the background and structure to support students wherever they are in their process.

CA: What do you lose sleep over with regard to the Stern Office of Career Development and what it offers?

BB: I really take pride in being able to connect students to roles that are right for them and to encourage them to explore options that match where they want to go. Beyond that, I also want them to be happy. I want to be sending students out into the workforce into roles where they can thrive. We are teaching them how to do a job search, not just while they’re here in the MBA program but later, after they leave. I want them to be able to ask the right questions of themselves and employers to make the right choices over the course of their careers.

CA: Any parting thoughts to share?

BB: Stern is known from an admissions perspective for its collaborative community, but within the building, that sense of collaboration is even stronger. We work closely with the Office of Student Engagement and the student clubs, making sure we are connecting all the dots and thinking through all of the resources and opportunities that exist within Stern to help students achieve their goals. And that collaborative community extends outside of Stern as well, to New York City and beyond.