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Career Services Director Q&A: NYU Stern Assistant Dean of Career Services Beth Briggs

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NYU Stern School of Business earlier this month shared highlights from its Class of 2017 MBA Employment Report, revealing that Amazon hired more Stern graduates than any other company. It marked the first time that a technology company topped the school’s list of leading employers and is reflective of an overall trend of increasing numbers of Stern MBA graduates heading into technology. In the past five years, technology placements have more than doubled, and they represented 16.8 percent of all hires last year—up from 10 percent the year before.

Amazon was followed by Deloitte (No. 2), J.P. Morgan (No. 3), McKinsey & Company (No. 4), and Credit Suisse (No. 5), with IBM, Morgan Stanley, Citi, and Google tied for sixth place. Finance continues to be the most popular destination for Stern graduates, drawing 32.4 percent of the Class of 2017. Consulting was second, attracting 26 percent of the class. Also of note, real estate placements were the highest on record, at 3.5 percent of the class.

On the heels of Stern’s release of its most recent employment highlights, we caught up with Assistant Dean of Career Services Beth Briggs to talk about trends, learn about her new role (she was promoted to the position in July 2017), and catch up more generally on the state of career services at Stern. Read on to learn what she had to share.

Beth Briggs
NYU Stern Assistant Dean of Career Services Beth Briggs

Clear Admit: How do you view your role as assistant dean of career services at NYU Stern? How is it different from previous roles you’ve held? What do you do more of now? Less of? Anything you miss? What do you love most?

Beth Briggs: I have been at Stern for 9.5 years, which is pretty incredible to me. One of the reasons I love working at Stern is because I have had the opportunity to do so many different things. As assistant dean of career services, my role has expanded to include oversight of all of the career services offered to all of our students across all our programs—our full-time MBA, Langone part-time MBA, executive MBA, as well as for the alumni of any of those programs.

Though my role has expanded, we always worked extremely collaboratively across the different teams. I am very fortunate to have amazing people in place leading each of the teams. The thing I like most about this role and its scope is that I can work with these terrific leaders to identify opportunities for collaboration. For example, we have business development plans in place to work with our employers to showcase the full spectrum of Stern students so that we can go to market with a really cohesive approach and present our entire portfolio of talented students. This new role also lets me develop more best practices across our coaching teams. Many of the practices were already in place—this just enables me to step back and think about how we can work even more effectively.

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: Our full-time MBA career office is divided into two primary teams, career coaches and employer relations—which is the same as it has been for some time. Our career coaching team consists of five coaches, which is one more than we’ve had in the past. We increased our headcount based on utilization and data—we were seeing that our full-time MBA students are meeting with coaches more than they have in the past, which is great news.

On the employer relations side we are in steady state with a team of five. They are focused on finding opportunities to continue to deepen our relationships with long-term employers while also building new relationships with targets that we believe will be great places for our graduates to work in the future.

The greatest area of potential growth is in technology. It is just continuing to expand as an area of interest for MBA students, and the industry is responding in kind. Technology firms increasingly recognize the value of the MBA skill set to take their companies to the next level.

We are also expanding our geographical footprint. We love New York City and attract people who want to be here, but we also want to provide ample opportunities for students who want to work elsewhere in the country and the world.

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 biggest change—and this is something we started a couple of years ago—is that we really start the career conversation with our MBA students before they arrive on campus. We begin interacting with them over the summer to get to know them and get to know what their career goals are. I think it helps them perform some good due diligence—to think about where they want to start and who they want to engage with in the recruiting process.

Corporate presentations begin in October, so students have about a month to be talking with one another, meeting with career coaches, and meeting with people in their network before they start interacting with companies on campus.

Even in some of those conversations that start before they get to campus, we try to convey to students that companies drive the recruitment process. Some do cyclical hiring—they know the numbers they will need for the coming year. These tend to be companies that come to campus. Not all, but many, recruit that way.

But that may not be the right fit for all our students. So we also talk about companies that do variable hiring—what’s called “just in time” hiring. Variable hiring can stretch into the spring semester, depending on the industry.

Over the summer before students start school we engage with them to get their resumes done. That’s a big piece of work we try to get completed before they arrive for orientation. To this end, they will have a session with one of our career coaches to help refine the content of their resume.

Tackling the resume before they arrive achieves a couple of things. First, it takes away a piece of work that doesn’t need to compete with classwork. But it also gets people clear on what they’ve accomplished—they become conversant in what their skill set is. We’ve been doing this now for two years successfully, so I feel fairly confident that the model is working.

Once they get to school they participate in IGNITE, which is a career education program that covers all components of the career and job search process. It includes resume review and refinement, networking, informational interviewing, and a mock interview—which every student does. Our mock interviews are conducted by a combination of career coaches and a select group of second-year MBA career mentors who are aligned by industry and function with first-year students.

Our career coaches also do sneak peek workshops in person and virtually. The goal of the sessions is to cover: “Here’s what’s going to be happening when you get to school, here’s something you can do now to begin to prepare.” We have also gotten more involved with MBA orientation. All of these initiatives have resulted in students having more time with coaches. Each student also now has a specific point person in the career office—which is the result of a request from our student government. I think it’s great that they could bring this to us, and it seems to have had a positive impact on the number of appointments we have with students.

Stern has historically been a top destination for students hoping to work on Wall Street post-MBA. Has student interest in finance rebounded completely since the financial crisis of 2008? What if any changes were made within the Office of Career Development as a result of the financial crisis?

BB: Something we have done well at Stern is to build on our strengths in financial services and, more specifically, investment banking. We have amazing partnerships with all of the investment banks and send a large number of students for both internships and into full-time roles. This is helped, of course, by the fact that we have a top-ranked finance faculty.

At the same time, we have also been able to build up other industries so that we are more diversified. One of the biggest areas where we have seen a steady growth trajectory is consulting. That’s been the result of a coordinated effort between career services, student clubs, and our alumni in consulting. We have built up many different kinds of case-based interviewing workshops, and alums come back twice a year to do interviewing workshops. And now that we have more alumni who have been working in the industry for many years, they have become a wonderful resource to help build out our footprint at top consulting firms.

Technology has also been a huge area of growth. We’ve gone from technology being the career destination for a very small percentage of our class to now being our third largest. We’ve been listening to the needs of businesses to understand where MBA talent fits into the different top tech companies. We have also been responsive to student interest by building out the right academic coursework to prepare students to be successful in this space. And then, of course, we are able to build on our successes. We send students to tech firms, they do well, and then tech firms want more of our students.

Tech firms are definitely recognizing the value that MBAs bring to their organizations more and more. The rigor of an MBA program—giving students the business foundational skillsets and bringing that together with the analytical mindset, the ability to work with data and make decisions—it’s exactly what students need to be successful in the industry and what the industry is looking for in order to continue its growth.

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: For companies that do more cyclical hiring, interviews generally start in January. Students get foundational best practice interview prep as well as more technical practice. Every student can meet with a career coach to do as many mock interviews as they would like. We view it as our responsibility to give the most honest feedback as possible. We want to make sure that our students put their best foot forward and are ready to go when they are sitting in front of recruiters.

We have 20 dedicated interview rooms for our recruiting partners. Sometimes companies will come in the spring and do a series of coffee chats or may even do some interviews. We also have a spring career fair, and some companies do interviews immediately following that. And because of our location, our students can get to any company with a presence in New York to do that “just in time” recruiting.

CA: Given your New York City location and the proximity of so many potential employers, what is your position on semester-based internships that students complete while in school?

BB: We are very fortunate thanks to our location that our students are able to do semester-based internships. That’s a huge asset that I think is very valuable for many students, particularly those who are looking to make a shift into a new industry.

That said, we tend to recommend that students not pick up a semester-based internship in their first semester. And I also encourage them to look at the different experiential opportunities that exist within Stern. Our Office of Student Engagement puts together an amazing array of opportunities called Stern Solutions that have the framework of a course to go along with them. In many ways, that can be the best way to get experience with a company and complete curricular requirements simultaneously.

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: Alumni participation is absolutely a huge part of our success, and I feel fortunate to have such a great group of engaged alums in New York City and across the world. Often our alums are the team captains of the different recruitment teams that come to campus. But alumni also serve as a great resource to give us new ideas or post job opportunities.

Because of our location we can go above and beyond the typical pathways for alumni engagement. We are trying to brand this with an overarching program we’re calling Stern IGNITE AIR—Alumni in Residence. It includes having alums come to host informational breakfasts. We are trying to tap alumni working in a variety of industries. And it’s not limited to New York–based alumni. Often, for those who are not in New York but find themselves in town, we are one of the first places they come to talk to students about their careers.

Just last night we held a tech networking night. It brought together 25 of our alums working in the tech industry and more than 100 students to share ideas—in a really fun setting—but also get to know other people.

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: I have had the opportunity to go on the road with our admissions team, so I do talk to prospective students all the time. The thing that can really help them in their first semester is if they take the time while applying to also be talking to various people about their roles and learning about their industries.

Whether through conversations, reading, or other kinds of experiences—it’s really helpful for students to know the skills they have and where they can be valued. The more they can learn about the kinds of roles that alumni of any MBA program are working in—that’s just good detail to be able to bring into their experience.

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 Career Services, or do those students primarily draw support from the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship?

BB: The greatest resources for students who are looking to be entrepreneurs and build out their entrepreneurial careers is our W.R. Berkley Innovation Labs. They have incredible resources to support students in all stages. There is an entrepreneurial challenge that allows MBA students to partner with other students throughout NYU. And NYU has so many resources to support entrepreneurs. As does New York City. There are just tons of things happening all the time to help entrepreneurs to connect with other potential funders, test out ideas, you name it.

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: For the Class of 2017 we had almost 17 percent go into the tech industry. That’s up from 10 percent last year, which is a significant increase that we are thrilled to see. Amazon is now our very top employer, and IBM and Google tied for sixth. I think it’s also changed some of the curriculum here at Stern. We have added a Fintech MBA specialization, which employers are well aware of. It really helps us position our students, because they have such a terrific opportunity to learn here at Stern about business and how tech is impacting where the growth opportunities might be.

Within the tech industry there is a real a mix of variable and cyclical hiring. Some are coming to campus early, participating in January interviews, and making offers on the same timeline as consulting firms or investment banks. But for other companies, it’s really more cyclical hiring.

We are helping students build out a plan for how to recruit in the tech industry. What’s the function they want to work in, what’s the growth stage where they want to be. It’s really a mix for technology as an industry.

But when it comes to employer relations and business development, we can really talk about the opportunities. We can go in and show the number of students doing each specialization, we can talk about our professional technology club, we can highlight students who are taking related courses or have identified technology as a specific area of interest.

We are also expanding our tech treks to introduce interested students to more West Coast recruiters. For the first time this year our students will be going to both San Francisco and Seattle.

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: I think it’s been somewhat steady but more built into what a student is considering when selecting a company to work for during their summer internship. A number of years ago it was finding that particular role that was a social impact role—now it’s understanding what a company’s vision is and where it falls within a larger social impact spectrum.

We are fortunate to have both a Center for Sustainable Business and a Center for Business and Human Rights. Because of these centers we have a lot of amazing employers looking for talent. We also have a social impact internship fund—an application-based process that helps support students to take internships with organizations that otherwise may not be able to afford MBA talent.

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

BB: I really want students to feel happy about the roles they are going into and feel like they understand that it fits into their future careers. It’s not always about a perfect job at graduation. But I want them to be happy they are going there every day, that they are putting their MBA skills to work, and they know how this fits into their longer-term plan.

I have a terrific team that it is a joy to manage, and I want to be sure I am keeping them learning and growing and happy. I think we have been able to do that and hope we can keep building on that.

I also work closely with second-year students through our student government career team, and I value student feedback so much. There are always so many new ideas. I want to be sure they know that my door is always open.

CA: Anything we haven’t covered?

BB: I do want to highlight our new one-year specialized MBA programs in technology and luxury/fashion. They are great new offerings in our MBA portfolio for students who are really focused on the kind of experience they want to have and the roles they want to step into. We’ve been doing a lot of talking with our employers both in the tech and luxury/fashion space. Really, across the board, there is a lot of excitement around having students coming into an MBA program who are specialized in these areas. They will, of course, do foundational business coursework that’s integrated with specialized classes. Plus there’s a robust set of projects that will give students hands-on practical experience in the industries.