Magazine

Commentary: You Don't Get What You Pay For


After graduating from the executive MBA program at the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School in May, Nicole Benedict found a job with "the perfect fit," as a manager of customer service at art.com, an online retailer. But one thing still rankles: Her alma mater provided no help in finding the job. In fact, its career resources were off limits to EMBA students. Benedict paid for her $51,000 degree herself, with no support from her ex-employer, yet the school said she was on her own in her job search.

Of the EMBA alums who responded to BusinessWeek's survey, Benedict is one of the 31% whose companies paid less than 20% or nothing at all toward their degree. Paying students -- with tabs between $50,000 and $100,000 -- have much the same expectations for the mid-career program as daytime MBAs do. Problem is, the schools haven't caught up with the new reality. Only one-third of survey respondents said they had access to their B-school's career services -- and many reported that access ended at job postings. "The [self-sponsored] EMBA student is left in the cold," complains Benedict.

UNC officials say they will now offer EMBA grads limited access to career services, but not many schools are following suit. The resistance to opening the doors for EMBAs has more to do with the past than the present. Historically, almost all EMBA students were supported by employers. Giving career advice to students whose companies pay their way was and is still a no-no for preserving corporate relationships.

But schools that keep ignoring the needs of the growing ranks of self-sponsored students are missing an opportunity. EMBA grads are a powerful group of experienced managers -- many with 10 or more years under their belts -- who could be conduits to jobs for a school's MBAs and undergrads. If the career office helps them find satisfying jobs, EMBAs will be more likely to steer their companies toward their alma maters in spending executive-education dollars.

Teaming up with an executive search firm is one way to find fitting jobs for more seasoned EMBA students. Another is to make key MBA employers aware that EMBA students are available for senior-level jobs -- simply lumping EMBA students in with younger grads won't be enough.

B-schools have changed over the decades and now have multiple constituencies. EMBAs are a growing cohort, and helping them with their careers could plump the corporate Rolodex and lead to jobs for other types of B-school students. That's an equation any MBA can understand. By Susannah Chen


Steve Ballmer, Power Forward
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