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by SixFigureStart | June 04, 2009


An MBA used to impart a certain extra shine to a candidate, telling prospective employers here is someone with more insight, more depth, more commitment. Then, suddenly, in the middle of this decade, everyone was going for MBAs, and a small backlash ensued. Both enrollees and hiring firms were asking: What is an MBA degree "worth"?

These days, it seems, the answer is unclear. Due to the boom in layoff actions, what used to be a stratified, pyramidal job market, with clearly defined groups each competing within (more or less) clearly defined job classes -- is just one big messy crowded pool. Notably, post-graduates who expected to land in finance or investment banking now see a much different landscape. MBAs now compete with recent grads and downsized staffers and lower/middle management workers for many of the same open spots. (Due to the scarcity of open positions, former employees from the middle-level haven't shied away from applying for lower-grade opportunities.)

So what to do? BusinessWeek presents options to help MBAs maximize their prospects. For degree candidates, take full advantage of internships, which if they don't lead to a firm offer, still seriously up the experience factor. Even unpaid ones, for lack of something better, are worthwhile for the network that comes with them. (One new graduate quoted by BusinessWeek says, without a trace of irony, that an unpaid "internship is a free experience.") Whether newly minted and looking, or experienced and laid off, MBAs should definitely tap their career services office; at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Business School, dealings with alumni are up 21%, and at the Olin Business School (Washington University), counselors now spend half their time on alumni career services requests, compared to 10% or 20% previously. And don't be afraid to take advantage of fellow alumni -- yes, they're technically the competition, but they're also invaluable sources of information. (Plus, you can play the guilt card if you help someone secure a spot but you're still jobless.)

Do you have a story? If you're an MBA degree-holder who's been cut, and can offer a killer search tip, let us know!

--Posted by Todd Obolsky, Vault Staff Writer


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