Tom is Executive Director of the MBA Career Center at the Paul Merage School of Business, University of California, Irvine. He is an incorporator of MBA CSEA and attended the first formal meeting in 1994. He is past President and a past recipient of the MBA CSEA Service Award for Significant Contributions Over Time.
1. What was it like being around when the organization first began? What was going on in the industry? The job market?
Back in 1994, we had just emerged from another recession. The recovery began first in the northeast and midwest but the southeast, southwest and west were slower to recover. Real Estate, Defense, and Aerospace, the major industries on the west coast were hit hard. Back then, companies were still investing heavily in developing talent and there were a lot more leadership development and rotational programs for MBAs than we have today. Companies were more flexible than today about the specific work experience/requirements graduates needed to be considered for leadership development or rotational opportunities. The big recruiting season for full-time jobs took place in the second half of the school year and summer internships weren’t as important as they are today for landing a job with a major MBA employer.
Email was just being introduced within schools and we were all in the process of moving from manual to computerized systems for job postings, campus recruiting, etc. The internet or world-wide-web did not exist as we know it today so there was no computerized communications between schools and companies. Fax machines were used extensively to get job descriptions to schools and resumes to employers when we did not want to wait for regular mail delivery, and use of an express delivery service was very limited due to the expense. We spent a lot of time on the phone and traveled a lot for personal meetings. International students were a very small part of most MBA programs and there wasn’t much being done to assist internationals with their job search, especially for employment in the U.S.
We were experiencing our 4th Business Week ranking, and other publications were getting into the rankings business. There were no standards for reporting employment/salary data so there was no consistency in the way information was being reported by schools, or the way those publications ranking schools were requesting information. Imagine having to cut your data differently for every rankings survey you completed. We did a lot of manual data collection, analysis and reporting. It was a real skill back then to know how to use a spreadsheet; Lotus 1-2-3 was the most popular and Excel was just being introduced. Does anyone else still remember DB2 or WordPerfect?
There was no professional association for MBA career services. We were a specialty group within NACE (formerly NCPA) and with the regional associations, and had a breakout session at GMAC conferences. Due to the pressure of reporting employment outcomes, and a need for more customer service for employers, a major shift began in the way that schools were staffing their MBA Career Offices. Long time, traditional career counselors who headed career offices were being replaced by professionals with corporate and HR backgrounds and offices began to expand.
2. Why did you first become involved in the organization? (not sure if you meant why or when so I gave you both)
I made the transition from undergraduate to MBA career services in the fall of 1993 so was still fairly new to this “MBA” profession in the summer of 1994. I needed to learn more and knew the best way to do that was to network with others in the profession. I had been very active in MCPA and WCPA (former NACE regionals) during my undergraduate career services years and was looking for a similar organization for MBA career services. So I attended the MBA Career Services breakout session at the 1994 GMAC conference. I had no idea that there was a movement afoot and this meeting would be the start of MBA CSC. I continued to participate in the GMAC conference career services sessions and became part of an MBA CSC task force for several years (1995-1997) to provide feedback on the development of employment reporting standards. I hosted a session on the standards for west coast schools presented by Pete League during that time.
I also became active in planning our sessions for the GMAC conference as part of the Professional Development Committee (1996-1998) and took over chairing the conference when the current board VP/Conference Chair left the profession mid-year. I chaired the conference (1999-2000) Back then you were appointed and not elected to the board. I was on the board from (1998 – 2000)
I left MBA career services for several years and returned in 2006. I immediately reached out to MBA CSC to help get up to speed quickly on everything that had changed during my absence. I was elected to the board in 2007 and took over the president’s role from Jeff Rice. I stayed on the board as past president for several years and was also on several committees, including the marketing task force, awards committee, and most recently the branding committee and 20th Anniversary committee.
3. What is the biggest thing you’ve gained from your involvement through the years?
A powerful network of friends and colleagues who have provided tremendous insights, advice, and support throughout my career in this profession. The organization gave me the opportunity to develop and grow my leadership skills, contribute to the profession, and stay sane during all the ups and downs we have with the economy.
4. What, in your opinion, is our most significant accomplishment as an organization to date?
The establishment of the employment reporting standards provided the needed foundation and framework for measuring employment outcomes. The standards coalesced everyone in MBA Career Services by solving a common problem/challenge and allowed us then to grow and evolve the membership, conference, and support services to what we are today. MBA Career Services is now a true profession thanks to this organization and it all began with a common challenge.
5. What advice do you have for us for the next 20 years?
Don’t become complacent and do pay close attention to the revolution that is taking place in education, especially in business programs. Specialty degrees and online programs, declining enrollment by US domestics, significant growth of international populations, and global expansion are all impacting how we do our work. (and yes you can say that most of these issues crop up every so often but this time it really feels different.) How do we support the membership in managing these challenges? How do we stay on top of these issues and provide the needed voice and leadership? The ROI of investment in education has never been more in the spotlight and we are at the epicenter of the short range benchmark for ROI. I anticipate that schools will either ramp-up their co-curricular offerings, especially career services to meet these challenges, or will go away altogether. This growth and pressure with create tremendous opportunities for MBA CSEA to grow professional development offerings, membership, and expand the standards – how exciting!