Berkeley’s Peter Johnson: Finance from an Admissions Perspective

By - Mar 3, 11:07 AM Comments [0]

Part of an ongoing series "MBA in Finance: Forget It?"

My question:

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 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?

The response from Peter Johnson, Director of MBA Admissions at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business:

Thanks for writing and for your question, which I'm sure is on the mind of a number of candidates.

Despite the current challenges in the financial services industry, there are still great opportunities as well, and I do expect the industry to recover over the next two years.  It won't be the same, however--Wall Street will reinvent itself, and I think it's hard to guess how the investment banking industry will emerge from the current crisis. Suffice it to say, there will be great opportunities for the right people.

As with all candidates, we are always looking at the underlying motivations for career direction.  If an applicant wants to switch careers, do they really seem to understand what their target industry is all about?  Has their past work experience given them the opportunity to begin developing the necessary skills? Do they understand that challenges they will face in pursuing the career they seek?

If a candidate can demonstrate a legitimate interest in a financial services career and can demonstrate that they understand the challenges they will face and how we might help them to prepare, they'll be just as attractive this year as they were in the past--in fact, perhaps more attractive, since we know they are not pursuing a career only because they think it's a guaranteed route to a lucrative career, but instead based on professional challenge, satisfaction and financial reward.

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