It could be described as “job triage” – offering professional guidance to those business school alumni who have been affected by the current economic turbulence.
At Warwick Business School in the UK, Carol Rue, director of personal and career development, is giving phone consultations to alumni in need of advice. So far, 10 alumni have signed up for the service.
The requests for the one-on-one sessions run the gamut from a newly minted graduate reconsidering her recent foray into high finance to the 50-something vice-president who finds he has been made redundant. They are in need of career advice and they are turning to their alma maters.
“For people who have been directly affected by recent events, the first step is getting them back on their feet emotionally,” says Ms Rue.
“We get them to calm down, tell them not to panic and that there are plenty of opportunities out there. We then work with them to develop a practical action plan.”
In a season that has seen Bear Stearns sold to JPMorgan, Lehman Brothers file for bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch bought by Bank of America, business schools around the globe are working with alumni who have been displaced by the deepening crisis on Wall Street.
They are holding seminars targeted at alumni, tackling topics ranging from career transitions, networking, CV and cover letter-writing and job interviewing. Many schools are also giving alumni access to online proprietary jobs databases and offering customised career counselling sessions.
Other schools – including the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania – are hiring dedicated staff members to deal specifically with alumni career issues. Jillian McGowan, director of alumni affairs at Wharton, says she has seen an increase in inquiries from alumni who have not lost their jobs but are interested in expanding their networks in these uncertain times.
“I think they’re being realistic,” says Ms McGowan. “We have a high population based in New York. They realise that the landscape is shifting and they have to keep their options open.”
As the corporate recruiting season looms, career advisers at smaller schools are helping students navigate their job searches, as well as advising alumni making career transitions.
Cathy Butler, careers director at the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge, is offering assistance to the handful of alumni who have contacted the school because they have lost their jobs, but she is also busy with students who will graduate this spring.
“We have limited resources because of the recruiting season,” she says. “Everyone is generally worried – not just in financial services. Everyone feels it.”
NYU’s Stern School of Business created a career services centre specifically for alumni in 2003 after the dotcom bubble burst. The Career Center for Working Professionals has a full-time staff of five and also provides services for part-time MBA and EMBA students.
Last month, the centre saw a 43 per cent increase in the number of alumni wishing to make appointments for individual career counselling. The lion’s share of requests came from people who had lost their jobs in the financial services industry, according to Gary Fraser, the Stern dean of students who oversees the school’s office of career development. About 40 per cent of Stern’s full-time MBA students enter the investment banking industry.
“Certainly it’s a tough market and we serve to remind people of the fundamentals of the job search: how to get the most out of the network they’ve developed and how to brush up on their resumé writing and interviewing skills,” he says. “The goal is to get people focused.”
A recent workshop on the fundamentals of social networking – which helped alumni come to grips with websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook – was particularly popular. “They realise a lot has changed from when they graduated business school,” he says. “Particularly older [alumni]. This may be the first time they’ve faced a situation like this.”
UCLA’s Anderson School of Management has a series of eight “webinars” – internet-based conferences – taught by career professionals that walk alumni through the basics of how to conduct a job search.
Pat Palleschi, Anderson’s alumni career services coach, says she used to deal with alumni who wanted to switch jobs to earn more or have a better work-life balance, but now she deals mostly with alumni who have lost their jobs.
Some career advisers are helping alumni craft a “plan B” – encouraging them to expand their career options and look at different sectors.
Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA career centre at Northeastern University in Boston, says alumni working in financial services have a “skill set that is eminently transferable to corporate finance, consulting and venture capital”.