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Career Services Director Q&A: Stanford GSB’s Maeve Richard

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Earlier this month, Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) released its 2017 MBA Employment Report, revealing record-breaking salaries for the third consecutive year. The school’s most recent crop of graduates boasts average and median base compensation of $144,455 and $140,000 respectively—both up about $4,000 over last year’s all-time highs. (Incidentally, those figures are also higher than any other business school in the world.) The average signing bonus also increased by almost $3,000, setting a record as well at $29,534. Other guaranteed compensation, meanwhile, blew past last year’s all-time highs by close to $10,000 in both the average ($83,065) and the median ($50,000).

The Palo Alto school also saw increases in the percentage of students who had accepted offers three months out from graduation, 88 percent—up from 83 percent a year ago. And 92 percent had offers 90 days out, a two-point increase over the previous year. Other key takeaways from the recently released employment report include more students heading into finance and consulting than in recent years amid comparatively fewer heading into tech. There are also more students pursuing careers in socially responsible roles or organizations, a slight increase in entrepreneurship straight out of school, and an increasingly broad range of organizations looking to hire GSB students and graduates.

To dive deeper into the employment statistics—and to understand career services at Stanford GSB more generally—we were thrilled to recently speak with Maeve Richard, assistant dean and director of the Career Management Center (CMC). When Richard came to Stanford four years ago, it was a return to her alma mater. She holds an MBA from the GSB, although she worked in industry for almost 30 years before coming back to campus in 2013. Some of the roles she’s held over the course of her career include vice president of corporate finance at JP Morgan, CFO to companies across several industries, and principal at CLM Associates, where she provided coaching and advice to entrepreneurs and nonprofits undertaking change initiatives.

In the wide-ranging interview that follows, you’ll learn more about her role within the CMC, the team she leads, and the resources available to Stanford GSB MBA students. You’ll also gain more insight into some of the recent shifts in students’ career interests. Our thanks to Richard for making time to share her perspective with the Clear Admit audience.

Career Services Q&A: Stanford GSB’s Maeve Richard

Clear Admit: How do you view your role as assistant dean and director of the MBA Career Management Center (CMC) at Stanford? 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?

Maeve Richard: My role is to make sure the CMC focuses on the right things. We are here for the students—so we need to make sure that the team is most aware of what they experience, whether as admits, MBA1s, MBA2s, MSx fellows, or even as alums. Our focus needs to be on that experience in relation to career management and their job search.

I came from industry, and in industry you focus on the customer. My goal has been to have the CMC thinking like that—being acutely aware of students and their wants, needs, and expectations—and delivering the services and resources that best benefit them.

I have placed a real emphasis on monitoring and managing our service level. Everything needs to be geared toward ensuring that students have every advantage available to them while at the GSB—that they are empowered to manage their careers and conduct job searches and end up in a career that they believe will be best fit. One of my main priorities has been to develop a set of strategies to make sure we accomplish this.

At the GSB, we are fortunate enough to have a total of 500 MBA and MSx students per class. The GSB classes have always small by design. That means we can work with students at the individual level. We can interact with them and make it very personalized and individualized.

We also recognize that our students are going to change and develop while they are here—and what they want is going to change as well. We need to be aware and responsive. We also need to be considerate of all the other competing choices they have. Given this, for example, we have been deemphasizing events. Student love the one-on-one interactions, and we want to put more of our energy toward building early rapport and valuable relationships with them.

Right now, much of our efforts are geared toward developing useful, appropriate, actionable career education content that is distributed across multiple channels, including digital. We made a big investment this past year to make our resources easier to find so that students can have essential information readily available to them. This process has also helped internally to keep things rationalized and integrated.

The whole CMC functions on a collaborative, cross-functional level, and my most important goal is in determining strategy, achieving organizational effectiveness, and articulating a set of goals for everyone to work toward.

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?

MR: We have 20 staff members, and we also rely on some career management specialists at certain times of the year. There are five teams—career advisors, student career development, employer engagement, communications and professional services, and alumni career development.

Our career advisor group includes a director and four advisors each focused on specific industries. As part of this group, we also have external coaches who provide support to MSx students and alums, and we also leverage alumni through a GSB mentoring platform. Our employer engagement group is comprised of a director and three employer relationship managers. In the fall, they focus on organizing networking events and on-campus interviewing, and in the spring, they are much more focused on outreach and sourcing the jobs that students want from current and potential employers.

Our student development group is made up of team members who have a deep understanding of the life cycle of our students. Led by a director, this group also includes three individuals each focused on specific subsets of students. One works with MBAs, one with students in our MSx program, and one with our international students, who make up 40 percent of our MBAs and a third of our MSx students. In addition to its focus on the student experience, this group also creates the programming within the CMC. Finally, they serve as liaisons between our students and our advising and employer engagement teams. They are the ones who can go to the teams and say, “Here is what our students need more of.” If students say they need more interview preparation, for example, we figure out right away a way to offer more interview preparation.

Finally, we have another group that focuses on communications, tools, resources, and professional services. In the last year or two we have increased the emphasis on communications—in particular our career website. We recently added a director to head up that group. And our latest hire is someone we call our career content lead. Across the CMC, all our people—and particularly the advisors—are very knowledgeable about career management, self-assessment, how to find a job, how to explore individual industries and employers, how to interview and negotiate offers. They have useful content and relevant information. We needed someone who can take this varied content and package it—brand it—so that it is actionable, available, and accessible to students when they want it and can make best use of it.

A priority in the four years that I’ve been here is to build out a systems infrastructure, including investing in some of the best available tools. We have also designed an underlying platform to support the increasing preponderance of just-in-time hiring opportunities.

CA: Can you provide prospective applicants with an overview of the recruitment process at Stanford? When does it start? How does it unfold? How has this changed in recent years, if at all?

My message to prospective applicants to the GSB is that you have an opportunity to explore and we encourage you and support you in your exploration. We want you to explore the amazing array of opportunities that will open to you when you get here. We also want students to understand that the process—and the opening up of opportunities—truly begins as soon as you are admitted.

At Stanford, we do have an “academic adjustment period,” which for us means no recruiting until the sixth week. This is designed to give our students time to assimilate, acclimate, and get used to being back in school. Once the academic adjustment period ends, recruiting begins in full, and it can feel overwhelming. Suddenly you have an array of job choices all at once and a short span of time to get ready.

When students arrive on campus, we educate them about on-campus interviewing, which is customary for consulting, technology, and finance companies. These companies want first pick of MBA students. A lot of our first-year MBAs will sign up for on-campus interviewing to experience what recruiting is all about. Of course, I have seen students come in who have no interest in on-campus recruiting and then within a week or two find themselves considering it.

If you are going to participate in on-campus recruiting, the interview preparation is demanding. You are going to have to convincingly present a case or demonstrate that you know how to pick stocks. There is a lot of work to get ready. Even so, many of our students go through the entire process, receive offers, and then decide not to take them.

This is because the majority of our students decide they want to look for a singular, best fit job, something that fundamentally interests them. For this they are solving for industry, function, level, geography, and constraints (such as needing to pay off debt) and then picking the job and career that suits them best. In these cases, much of the activity happens later in the year, because many of the opportunities don’t show up until the spring or even summer.

Stanford is obviously known for its proximity to Silicon Valley and the tech industry. And yet technology drew fewer students this year than in the past and was second to finance. Does that surprise you?

MR: Our students continue to be very interested in tech and in entrepreneurial activities, but more particularly, they want jobs and careers that offer them agency, rapid accountability, and impact. Often that means finding roles that depend on doing things in non-traditional, breakthrough ways.

There was a pretty big shift in technology this past year—we went from 33 percent of the Class of 2016 taking jobs in technology to 25 percent of the Class of 2017. But I don’t believe that is a trend—I wouldn’t make too much of it. If you go back and look over the last five to 10 years, technology is very volatile.

There is another factor at play, which is that technology is more pervasive today. Technology is showing up in traditional industries—healthcare, manufacturing, finance. Increasingly, there is expansion in technology verticals, technology-centric business models, and roles that require greater technology literacy and experience.

Finance inched up a percentage point, from 31 to 32 percent. However, I actually think the consulting rebound—from 16 to 20 percent—is the bigger news. And overall, I think the shifts reflect more of a balancing of the scales between the three top industries.

Finance has always been strong at Stanford—our students have always been interested in private investing. Private equity and venture capital firms did a lot of hiring this past year, and we often see strong interest in hedge funds. Yes, finance is a significant number, but that’s because it’s made up of three or four or five of the things our students really like to do (PE, VC, hedge funds). I should point out that there always has been a strong interest in private investing, but the interest in investment banking and public investing is much lower.