Dick McCracken is the director of Graduate Career Services at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University (No. 18 on BusinessWeek's 2004 list of Top-30 business schools).
McCracken arrived at Kelley's Bloomington campus nearly a decade ago after serving as director of sales operations for Ameritech. An Indiana University graduate and native of Bloomington, McCracken says he feels right at home. He advises students to leverage the school's unique curriculum to open up their minds to all sorts of job opportunities. McCracken recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Francesca Di Meglio. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:
Q: How have your MBAs fared in the recent job market?
A: The market was showing recovery in 2003, and we started off strongly but ended sourly. Companies were cautious, and things were quiet for us from May, 2003, into early 2004. But by graduation 2004, about 50% of students had a job offer, and 90 days later that number rose to 70%. Now about one-quarter of our students are still seeking [jobs]. Our office supports students for a year after graduation without fees or hesitation.
Q: What's the average MBA starting salary?
A: Just below $80,000, and there's room for negotiation. Negotiating might be a little tougher than it was four or five years ago. I think signing bonuses are tighter, but I saw an uptick in the number of signing bonuses offered to graduates.
Q: How have you helped MBAs overcome the obstacles of a tougher market?
A: Our professional-development staff includes two fast-track Kelley MBAs who left corporate jobs to come back to campus. They're former corporate recruiters and offer improved coaching for our students, which enables me to [visit companies]. We do reasonably substantial coast-to-coast personal marketing in addition to making phone contacts.
Q: How do you market Kelley MBAs?
A: We're doing a branding initiative right now to provide a more definitive answer to this question. Historically, we've explained that our students come from different places across the U.S. -- from California to New York. They're highly geographically mobile, and that's not always the case at some metropolitan schools. They have skill sets they can apply immediately and tend to be loyal to employers. At the same time, Kelley students have had many leadership opportunities.
Q: What are the most innovative services you offer MBAs?
A: Academies, which are like concentrations and represent an area of interest such as investment management or sports and entertainment, are the core of the unique Kelley experience. Students apply to 1 of the 11 academies, which are led by faculty and offer a more advanced set of industry-specific knowledge. Typically the academies have boards of directors or advisers who expose students to jargon and trends.
Career services weave into the academies in a variety of ways. Our office provides base-level support on r?sum? and basic interview and networking skills. Then, academies provide an industry focus that students may not ordinarily have. The academies also make road trips to familiarize students with various industry contacts. Investment Management Academy [members] could take trips to New York, Chicago, or Boston to meet people in the industry.
Q: What about students who come to B-school unaware of exactly what they want to do?
A: Academies are a strategy for students who want to make a career transition. Early in the first weeks of class, students have an opportunity to hear from each of the academy directors to make choices about what they might want to do. Students sometimes change academies.
Q: If you had it your way, what efforts would students make to prepare for the job search before attending B-school?
A: Get acquainted with the career-services staff -- at least by telephone or e-mail -- to see what the year ahead looks like. Students should also always have a solid Plan B. It's nice to work with someone who has dreams, but sometimes the market supports [those dreams], and sometimes it doesn't. There are so many opportunities that are below the radar, and students should be open to everything.
Q: Is there a certain type of MBA who has more success than others?
A: Recruiters [need more] operations managers. One of our three newly formed academies, a supply-chain academy, feeds that demand. [The other two are corporate finance and business-to-business marketing.]
Q: Which recruiters are coming to campus?
A: Fortune 500 companies. We have a wonderful lineup of brand marketing, consumer-product, and technology companies. We're making an effort to bring back consulting firms. We prepare students interested in investment banking to do leg work on their own, because the investment banks tend to recruit on few campuses.
Q: Are students showing any interest in emerging industries?
A: Six of our top 10 recruiting companies last year were in the life-sciences area -- Johnson & Johnson, Lilly, and Guidant, to name a few.
Q: Do recruiters have a say in the curriculum?
A: Recruiters have a lot of say about what goes on in the academies through the advisory boards. This year, in response to recruiter suggestions, we started a Friday course for first-year students called Leadership, Professional & Career Development. I have time slots in that course to discuss career strategies, and I wrote and delivered a case study on an internship search.
Q: How do you serve international students?
A: I sent a note out today to different segments of our international population asking them to form a task force to help us think of creative ways to better represent foreign students to recruiters.
Q: Do they want U.S. jobs, or are you encouraging them to take jobs back home?
A: The market helps them make that decision. We just want to make sure that students have opportunities. There are more companies recruiting for foreign nationals on campus for home country opportunities. For example, about a week ago, Intel China hosted a presentation for our Chinese national students.
Q: How are international students stacking up to domestic students?
A: Our students from India and Latin America do as well as our domestic students in attaining placement. Japanese and Korean students are in heavy demand in their home countries. Many of our Chinese students are working hard to get a job in the U.S. They're having a more difficult time. That trend might change as China continues to become a major player in the global market.
Q: How would you characterize Indiana's alumni network?
A: As the bubble burst, alumni came under increasing pressure. Thank goodness we have people who have patience to talk to our students. But some people got gun shy because they got too many phone calls. The key is to rely on recent alumni who have graduated within the last five years. They're more apt to help current students. They give a lot of support and time, and continue to be advocates of the school.
Q: What is your one hope for the school's graduates?
A: In addition to their good work ethic and the contribution they'll make to companies, graduates should have an affinity for the Kelley School.