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GET A JOB: 1995 Grads Find New Opportunities in Improved Market

May 30, 1995

NEW YORK (AP) _ Like other prospective business school graduates, Pilar Joyce needed a job. From October to February she went through about 40 interviews and eventually got three offers.

Joyce will soon start a management training job with Rubbermaid Inc. in Knoxville, Tenn., a position she hopes will allow her to make a difference and to use her four languages.

``I felt I had the potential to shine″ at Rubbermaid, said Joyce, a 1995 graduate of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

Joyce’s experience is similar to that of many other members of this year’s graduating class, who find more choices in an improved job market.

The climate has changed from the early 1990s, when recession meant many companies stopped recruiting new graduates, and employees in general felt less secure in their jobs.

This year’s offers don’t necessarily include the years of security graduates could previously take for granted. But many of the new positions will mean more of an immediate hands-on role at a company, a chance to acquire new skills and often better working conditions, career development personnel say.

``Students want to be in an interesting, challenging environment and they want to make a difference,″ said Elizabeth Katsivelos, assistant dean and director of MBA (masters of business administration) career services at Columbia University’s business school.

``And the more attractive opportunities provide international experience early on.″

Among Fuqua students, according to career services director Dan Nagy, ``there has been a strong interest over the last couple of years to go into business and have a significant impact.″

Companies are responding to that desire by breaking mammoth enterprises into smaller units where individuals have more control, management consultants say.

``Employees have heard the message from employers that they are now responsible for their own careers,″ said Maury Hanigan of Hanigan Consulting Group. ``Any company that comes in with the old attitude of `come in and pay your dues and it will pay off down the line’ are losing out. The students are saying that isn’t soon enough. There might not be a `down the line’ and future employers might think all they are capable of is low-level work.″

For the second consecutive year, recruiting by major companies on college campuses has increased, up over the last 12 months by 9 percent, Hanigan said.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers in Bethlehem, Pa., 53 percent of colleges reported an increase in on-campus recruiting this year, while 29 percent said the level remained the same.

``The companies that cut their recruiting during the early 1990s are seeing they don’t have the management pipeline they need and are trying to bring in new skills, capabilities and talents,″ Hanigan said.

Companies, she said, are looking for all kinds of graduates. She has seen a 38 percent increase in recruiting for students with doctorates and masters degrees in science.

``Companies are feeling confident about their business results,″ Hanigan said. ``They are willing once again to make investments in research and development.″

Another change Hanigan and others have seen this year is that consulting firms are taking large numbers of business school graduates, competing head-to-head with the financial institutions that in previous years dominated campus recruiting.

At some business schools, consulting firms have taken as many as 30 percent of the graduating class, she said. At the same time, because of last year’s losses among Wall Street firms, there have been significant declines in hiring by investment banks.

At Columbia, Citibank historically employed the largest number of graduates, but this year that top spot was occupied by the management consulting firm Booz Allen & Hamilton, Inc., which hired 25 graduates Katsivelos said.

Still, unlike other business schools, Columbia hasn’t seen a decline this year in the percentage of graduates moving into financial services. About 35 percent have accepted jobs in investment banking and 22 percent chose jobs in consulting, up from 16 percent last year, she said.

Overall, preliminary figures show about 85 percent of the 600 graduates in this year’s class already have jobs.

At Fuqua, company recruiting has risen about 60 percent over the past two years, Nagy said. Although hires by financial institutions are down from 22 percent to 12 percent, consulting and manufacturing firms have picked up the slack, he said.

And pay is getting better. With the market more competitive for graduates, he said, many companies are offering signing bonuses of anywhere from $2,000 to $50,000, bringing some salary packages into six figures. The average base salary for a graduate this year is $63,500, he said.

At the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, about 86 percent of the graduating class has at least one job offer, according to preliminary results from a placement survey, said Alysa Polkes, assistant director of career development.

``Things look rosy this year,″ she said. ``It looks like we have hit a record for placement at this time of year.″

Once again, consulting jobs were leading the way, with one-third of Wharton students accepting jobs in that field. Besides high salaries, consulting firms offer the attraction of not having to specialize right away, Polkes said.

``Students will be dealing with a wide variety of problems so it’s good preparation for other jobs″ Polkes said. ``It’s the industry de jour, the hot thing to do, especially given fact Wall Street is not as profitable.″

Hanigan said business school graduates who aren’t certain about the industry they want to pursue often choose consulting.

``MBAs understand that once they accept a job, for example, in the telecommunications industry, they are pegged to that industry,″ she said. ``Consulting will let them learn more about a specific industry and they can make a career choice later on.″

Companies recruiting on campuses, however, are increasingly looking for specific skills, technical knowledge and prior work experience, recruiters said.

After cutting thousands of employees over the past two years and staying away from most college campuses, International Business Machines Corp. is looking this year to hire between 2,000 and 3,000 graduates, said a company spokesman, Tom Wesdorp.

The company has been recruiting on 58 campuses nationwide, many of them technology schools, he said. IBM particularly wants graduates proficient in new software.

General Motors Corp. has also returned to the college campuses this year, said Betty Anderson, the company’s director of education relations.

Like IBM, the company’s needs are primarily for skilled and experienced professionals from the top technology schools, Anderson said.

``Because there was a period of time during which we were not hiring, we now need professionals for certain projects,″ she said.

And because team work has become an important part of the business, GM is looking for employees who communicate well both orally and in writing, she said.

But despite the new focus on technology, Hanigan said her research has shown most business school students are not prepared. A survey of 250 business school students showed that between 70 percent and 75 percent did not use the Internet at all _ or used it only for sending e-mail to their friends.

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