SOM adapts to economy

The economy may be in tatters, but students at the Yale School of Management remain hopeful about finding opportunities in the current job market.

Despite the drop in internship and job offers in popular sectors such as finance and consulting, new opportunities have arisen as students and administrators reach out to the school’s alumni base. In interviews this week, SOM administrators also reported an uptick in interest from niche industries and various companies offering one-time-only internships.

Sharon Oster
Dean, Yale School of Management
Courtesy SchoolofManagement
Sharon Oster Dean, Yale School of Management

“It’s kind of cliché, but there’s kind of a cautious optimism [among students],” Andrew Weinman SOM ’09 said.

Although job and internship placement figures for the class of 2009 are not yet available, past numbers reveal that students at the SOM were already shifting away from finance and consulting prior to the recession. Only 58 percent of students who accepted jobs in the class of 2008 went into those two sectors, compared to 67 percent the previous year.

Kristin Irish, deputy director of the SOM’s Career Development Office, said the school’s small class size — the class of 2010 has 193 students — and traditional focus on the nonprofit arena gave the school flexibility in finding different opportunities for students, both for the summer and after graduation. She reported increases in job offers from sectors including consumer products, energy and health care.

Irish credited the school’s alumni base as the driving force behind these new opportunities, though she added that contacting alumni is only the first step in the door.

“It’s about developing the relationship beyond the alumni and into the organization,” Irish said of the school’s success in establishing these new opportunities.

Support for the students has come not only from alumni, but from within the school itself. SOM Dean Sharon Oster announced in January that she will donate $100,000 of her salary to the school’s internship fund for internships at Yale.

The fund will support 12 internship opportunities within the University, with emphasis placed on real estate and the arts.

“SOM has a tradition of very strong commitment to service,” Oster said. “I thought I could make a commitment that on its face would have some real impact.”

The school plans to attract more firms at its spring career fair, which will be held on March 6 at the Yale Club of New York, Oster added. Although in past years, the fair has focused on sectors which traditionally recruited later in the school year, Oster said the SOM is working hard to reach firms who may have had positions open in recent months.

The four SOM students interviewed said despite the difficult job market, the SOM has remained relatively sheltered from the downturn’s full impact.

“All the firms that usually recruit here are coming here, but because numbers are down, people are getting more creative about how to differentiate themselves,” Todd Watts SOM ’10 said.

Watts added that many students are taking initiative to research and network, especially with the school’s alumni base through the Career Development Office.

Other students are seeing the weak job market as a incentive to pursue a career at a nonprofit organization, if only temporarily. Although John Bourne SOM ’10 said he plans to enter consulting, he said many of his friends are taking advantage of the SOM’s traditional strength in the nonprofit sector.

“Students are saying, ‘If I can’t find a good job, maybe I can do some public good with my MBA,’ ” said Bourne.

Still, the current job market remains tight. Aaron Silverman ’02 SOM ’09, who interned with General Electric this past summer, said he is still searching for a job.

“Had it been any other year, I would have had an offer [from General Electric] in my back pocket going into my second year at SOM,” Silverman said. “Now I count myself as one of those people where if I have an offer by March, it’d be great, but I’m not counting on it.”

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