Part of an ongoing series "MBA in Finance: Forget It?"
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?
Isser Gallogly, NYU Stern's Director Full-Time MBA Admissions, and I spoke on the phone. The paraphrase of his response follows:
NYU Stern is, as always, seriously considering applicants who express interest in a career in finance. Financial services firms are still hiring our students. Yes, finance will evolve and change as a result of the financial crisis, but it will not disappear.
Applicants need to be aware of change in the financial markets and field, which is rapid now. We want informed students. When we review applications and interview applicants we want to see how informed they are. Are students actually absorbing and studying the situation? Are they reading The Wall St. Journal? Are they reading the headlines or the full articles? Are they networking in their industries? Can they bring specifics to bear? I sometimes will ask an applicant, "How would you advise Barack Obama?" Some applicants have fantastically informed and specific ideas. Others provide more general and generic responses. That tells me something about the depth and seriousness of that applicant's interest in finance and economics. Considering the historic events of the last six months, if you are serious about your career in finance, banking, or a related field, you should have an informed opinion.
When the economy is down, we frequently like to know about contingency plans for applicant's post-MBA career. Students need to be flexible. We are interested in hearing about related, secondary choices.
As I said, finance is not going to disappear. Companies are scaling back, but have not stopped hiring. Stern finance students are still getting multiple offers. When I last checked with Career Management the numbers were looking solid. Some companies are hiring fewer students, but there are companies recruiting too.