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Kathleen Dolan is the director of MBA Career Services at IESE Business School at the University of Navarra (No. 7 on BusinessWeek's 2004 list of top non-U.S. B-schools) in Barcelona, Spain. Dolan, an American, graduated with a bilingual MBA from IESE in 1997 and then worked as a training and development consultant in Chicago. She returned to IESE in late 1998, first as an associate director of career services and now as the unit's leader.
As the European Union continues to grow and its influence on the Continent's affairs expands, schools like IESE, which can see as many as 55 nationalities represented in one class, are becoming more valuable to recruiters. Dolan says her students' multilingual exposure to different cultures make them highly attractive to multinational and European outfits. Dolan recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Francesca DiMeglio. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow:
Q: How has this recruiting season compared to last year?
A: The market has really picked up, especially in Northern Europe. Last year, 96% of graduates had jobs three months after graduation. This year our goal is to reach 90% by commencement.
Q: Where do your students end up geographically?
A: Last year we had 4% of graduates go to Eastern Europe, 4% to the U.S. and Canada or other non-European countries, 4% to Latin America, and the [remaining 88%] landed in Western Europe.
Q: Did your recent graduates face layoffs during the economic downturn?
A:The only ones who were hurt were those who started their own business around 2001. People were still willing to take risks, then the markets fell, and the money was no longer there. Otherwise, we have very loyal recruiters and they didn't rescind any offers.
Q: What are the highlights of career services at your school?
A:For Career Week, [which takes place] before classes start, we bring in over 200 alumni to sit on panels [dealing with] everything from entrepreneurship to luxury goods. During that time, we also have workshops covering self-assessment, cover letters, and the other basics. Actual recruiters come to campus to conduct mock interviews with first-year students at another point in the 19-month IESE program.
At the Career Forum, which is our biggest event of the year, our top 40 recruiters come for two days to take care of their company presentations and on-campus interviews. For the last four years, we have run about 800 interviews with the second-year students over the two days. The companies really love it because no single recruiter ends up getting first dibs. They're all on equal playing ground.
Q: Is it easier to get a job in one industry over another?
A:After the recent entrance of countries from Eastern Europe into the European Union, heavy industry has become a strong one for MBAs. One of our top recruiters last year was a company that is buying plants in Eastern Europe as it tries to become the continent's No. 1 metal company. As heavy industry grows, it needs MBAs to help it strategize.
Q: What nontraditional industries are booming right now?
A: Pharmaceuticals and energy. More companies representing general industry, [rather] than banks and consulting firms, showed up at the Career Forum this year. We have specialists in career services in every area -- automotive, energy, etc. We go to the competitors of companies that already have a great MBA recruiting program and try to sell them the idea that they, too, should hire MBAs.
Q: Do you offer recruiters any perks?
A: We offer them a lot of branding opportunities that other schools can't offer. Morgan Stanley (MWD
) paid us so it could handle the cover letter and CV-writing workshop for finance students during Career Week. They wanted to be the only financial firm on campus doing that. Companies like Johnson & Johnson (JNJ
) send representatives to do mock interviews for first-year students. It makes the students feel as though these companies are really giving back to IESE.
Q: In general, what are you doing to get more recruiters to notice the program?
A:Every year, we conduct a survey of the incoming class about what companies they want to see on campus. Companies that aren't already among our recruiters go on our target list and we pay them a visit. Partnering with our student clubs helps because they bring in speakers and show a definite commitment to a particular industry. That makes it easy to get recruiters to talk to our students.
Q: What do you see in the future?
A: Companies will need people with different insights. You can't take, let's say, the German method to do a job and bring it to Holland or the United Kingdom. You have to have a more global perspective and work as a team to come up with strategies for this ever-smaller world.
Q: What is the No. 1 piece of career advice you hope students take with them when they graduate?
A: Don't just go for the money. Find work you're passionate about.