MBA Students Give Career Services a New Assignment

B-school career offices chase a new breed of employer as students look beyond Wall Street

When the University of Chicago Booth School of Business first contacted Groupon in 2009, the school had no idea that the startup, then a year old, would later be valued at $4.75 billion. Booth's career services department heard about the coupon site from students and alumni and contacted Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mason to make the case for hiring business school graduates. This year the company interviewed students from Booth and six other MBA programs for summer internships.

Once upon a time, B-school grads were happy to land a job on Wall Street or at an S&P 500 company. Now, a growing number are setting their sights on less conventional careers. That has schools reaching out to startups, nonprofits, and other employers that don't traditionally recruit on campus. Career-services officers are spending more time networking and accompanying students on treks to visit companies. Many B-schools are hiring additional staff dedicated to identifying potential employers. "We have to be much more proactive," says J.J. Cutler, who manages career services at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. "I need to have thousands and thousands of relationships with these small firms around the world."

The shift is driven by students, Cutler says. "Part of this is a reaction to the financial crisis, part of it is a generational shift, part of it is that they are coming from much more diverse backgrounds."

Amit Koren, a 29-year-old student at Booth, interned at Groupon over the summer and is working there while he completes his MBA. He didn't meet with any of the big employers recruiting on campus last year because he wanted to work at a young company. "I was looking for a place where I could have an immediate impact and grow with the company," says Koren, who before starting business school worked at the Monitor Group, the Cambridge (Mass.) consulting firm co-founded by management guru Michael Porter. "The opportunities are so much greater. You can get your hands dirty, you can learn so much more."...

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