Given the weakness in investment banking, hedge funds, and financial services in general, how do you react to applicants who say they want an MBA to enter IB, PE or a related field that has been devastated by the economic downturn? Is the reaction "What planet have you been on?" Or, are you willing to consider those applicants because you feel the market for these skills will come back in a couple of years? Would you like to know that IB et.al. is the primary goal? Would you like to see a Plan B? Is your reaction different if the applicant is coming from IB or a related field as opposed to someone seeking the MBA to change careers?
UCLA Anderson's Assistant Dean and Director of MBA Admissions & Financial Aid, Mae Shores, responds:
A few thoughts come to mind:
There is often a spurious relationship between what individuals identify in their applications as their intended career goal post-MBA and the careers they eventually purse. In some cases, prospective students make their original career plans based on incomplete information or are attracted to IB, PE or VC for their "sex appeal." In other instances, students have gained exposure to a wider variety of academic disciplines and career areas during the MBA and change their professional goals based on new knowledge and skills.
We are facing an unprecedented time in the history of the global economy, where all the rules that applied to past economic downturns may not apply. While the shape of financial services and how business is conducted may well change, there will always be room for the brightest MBA students to pursue careers finance and economics and be a welcome asset to the marketplace.
Given the uncertainty over the kinds of transformation that will occur with changes spearheaded by President Obama and the Economic Stimulus package, we do prefer that incoming students interested in IB, PE or VC have back-up plans or possess the flexibility to adjust to market demands. The beauty of the MBA, unlike degrees that are strictly devoted to finance, is the breadth and depth of skills one acquires that are applicable to broad industries, including the private, not-for profit and international agencies.
As admissions officers, we seek the best and the brightest students across industries and disciplines. We do not admit individuals based on their areas of interest as these do change during their two-year exposure to not only finance, accounting, statistics, and operations, but communications, leadership, entrepreneurship.
Please let me know if I may help in any other way.