Business Schools

"Personal" Job Advice at Cambridge

Peter Reid is in his first year as MBA careers adviser at Britain's Cambridge University Judge Institute of Management. Before joining Cambridge, Reid spent 10 years running his own business, Success Factors, which provided coaching and business training for executives around the globe. He recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Jeffrey Gangemi about conducting a successful job search. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: At a one-year program such as Judge's, do students begin their job search immediately?

A: The students matriculate in the third week of September. In the first few weeks, we run seminars and workshops on r?sum? and cover letter preparation so we can prepare our r?sum? book for early dissemination, both electronically and in print, to employers. We get students to think about their achievements and how they'll present them, as well as how to market themselves as an excellent product.

Q: How similar is the recruiting schedule to those of major U.S. schools?

A: Clearly, there are major MBA recruitment programs that tend to happen over the fall and winter. However, recruiters at some top banks and consulting firms are beginning to realize that students at one-year programs aren't prepared as early in the year as second-year students at a two-year program. We had one of the major consulting firms come here and do a presentation in February to promote some opportunities, which we took as a good sign.

Q: How do you view career changers?

A: People do MBAs for two reasons. One is to get some advancement in a career direction that they've embarked on. The other is to change their career path completely. Last year, about 60% of our graduates changed their job function, about 40% changed their sector, and nearly 40% changed their country of employment. Some students changed all three. We have a small program with only 104 full-time students, so we're able to offer a real personal level of service to help facilitate any career changes that our students require.

Q: How international is your program, and how does that affect your job?

A: We have 104 students, 35 nationalities. Only 10 of those students come from the U.K. We have more students from the U.S. than from the U.K. We arrange a lot of activities involving global companies and work to educate students about recruitment practices in different countries. Many students come here with the desire to work in the European Union, which is more liberal than the U.S. in terms of immigration law.

Q: How do you build international networking opportunities into the curriculum?

A: Students do three consulting projects during the course of the program. The first is a team project with a small entrepreneurial company based in the U.K. During Easter vacation, they conduct another team consulting project anywhere in the world with any organization. Right now, we've got teams doing work for BP (BP) and J.P. Morgan (JPM), as well as with nonprofits in East Africa, among others. The third project is an individual project and may be some kind of continuation of one of the team projects. I got an e-mail from a senior recruiter at BP who was thrilled with the work a Cambridge team had done for her company and was interested in possibly hiring some of them in the future.

Q: How do you teach interviewing?

A: Behavioral interviewing is consistent all around the world. Students need to be prepared for some of the more traditional questions. We try to get students focused on selling their strengths as well as determining what impression they'd like to leave behind. We also do preparation for case-style interviews, which are being used more broadly now than just by consulting firms. Success in the interview process is about preparation and focus, not just about having stock responses to questions.

A lot of people don't realize how competitive an interview situation is, especially with companies like McKinsey and Goldman Sachs (G

S). We try to help students step up to those plates.

Q: What are some common mistakes that MBAs make during their job search?

A: Not being specific enough. People need to do the research early. They need to find out what is between the words in the company Web site and tailor an approach to the company accordingly.

Q: What's the starting salary and placement percentage for your students?

A: The average starting salary for Judge graduates in 2004 was $110,000 [including bonuses]. The number is quite high because most of these students [who have worked an average of six years] are very experienced even before the MBA program. Our average student received an 80% increase in salary from prior to his or her MBA. In terms of placement percentage, more than 80% of students had firm job offers by three months after the end of last year's program. The others were in the final stages of negotiations or had decided to pursue further studies.

Q: What are some of the main hiring companies for Cambridge grads?

A: Some of the main companies are such global players as Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Barclays (BCS), Accenture (ACN), A.T. Kearney, Bank of America (BAC), Lehman Brothers (LEH), Fidelity (FNF), L'Or?al, and Vodafone (VOD) just to name a few. We do hit the range of top names as well as smaller companies and the New Zealand Trade Promotions Authority.

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