What are some of the trends you are seeing both in regards to MBA students and the business world?
We are seeing more students with unique career backgrounds like attorneys, creative professionals, journalists, teachers, etc. and I think this is influencing the career paths our students take. They are exposed to an even wider variety of classmate and industry. Additionally, a number of our students are seeking jobs in more diverse industries like clean teach, non-profit/corporate social responsibility and entrepreneurship. And for many years we have seen an interest in technology companies, but with the success of companies like Apple and Google, we’re seeing even more demand in this area. As a result, our recent grads have landed jobs with Apple, Google, Yahoo!, Amazon, etc. We have also seen a growth in opportunities and jobs within the healthcare space as well. There has been a shift towards more meaningful work and in many cases students see the healthcare industry as a way to give back while also pursuing a more corporate career. With the economy in the state that it is, the interest in entrepreneurship and creating new products and jobs has grown.
Have you seen an increase in the number of students hoping to go a more untraditional path, such as working in a startup or starting their own startup instead of a large organization on Wall Street? If so, what do you think has contributed to this?
As mentioned above, some students are seeking different industries but also forgoing the typical corporate opportunity. However, we still have a large number of our student population that are targeting and landing jobs with large well-known companies. I think there has been a lot of bad press in relation to Wall Street and many big companies that has shifted the perception of the typical MBA job. There is a group of future leaders that place equal emphasis on salaries and a connection to their values. And for many students, they feel they can create that environment for themselves. The success of entrepreneur’s like Steve Jobs has inspired today’s students to challenge the norms and improve outside traditional environments. The community UC Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business is located in, Orange County, CA, is so entrepreneurial that there is a lot of support for these efforts. In fact, one group of 2011 graduates launched their product “Stacked Wines, LLC” which appeared on Dr. Oz earlier this week and has been popping up all over the place. It’s exciting to see students seek the entrepreneurial path and see success on top of it.
In the US, recent policy changes make it easier for people to crowdfund their ideas since they now can offer equity. Do you see this trend as impacting the MBA / business school world? In what way?
There is definitely potential for this trend to impact the MBA world in the way students seek funding for start-ups, making it possible for more business ideas to make it off the ground. We offer a course called EDGE, which addresses the topic of how students can gain funds online, how to promote those businesses through social media, etc. I think it’s only a matter of time until companies like Kickstarter come to the forefront.
The marketplace is demanding new skills such as collaborative, horizontal management and digital skills. Social media makes it so consumers demand ethical businesses. This is quite different than traditional business culture. How has your school adapted to these changes? What other changes do you for see in the business school world?
Our school has always had an emphasis on information technology, analytic decision-making, strategic innovation and collaborative education. Our Dean and university see these as key elements to adapting and anticipating how technology will impact business in various capacities and how to prepare our students for that environment. For instance, MBA graduates no longer need to know just how to collaborate in a physical team but also through virtual teams and how to be effective. The Merage School recognizes the importance of a global education and where that intersects with technology.
Back in 2006 we started the EDGE class, which aims to teach students to better identify, understand and act upon the big picture catalysts for change that can transform entire industries. When the class first began in 2006, the class focused on social media platforms like Twitter, when it was in its nascent stages and forced students to evaluate this social media platform and what potential it may or may not have to impact industries and businesses. It would be interesting to go back in time and into that classroom to hear what they predicted and if it lines up with what we see today.
We recently launched a Center for Digital Transformation, which serves as a bridge between The Paul Merage School of Business and the business community. The aim of the Center is to generate and disseminate knowledge that helps businesses, governments and society adapt to and leverage the possibilities enabled by emerging digital technologies.
Additionally, as our MBA Career Center works with our students, they focus on social media and the role is plays in job searches and maintaining a personal brand. These are essential tools for anyone seeking jobs in today’s digital world.
Finally, we have seen more and more Business Schools offering online or hybrid education platforms through their universities. I think we will see even more of that in the years to come.
It seems that these changes also change the type of personalities that might be best suited for management. Are you seeing diversity in the types of students that are applying to business school (such as artists, etc.)?
Yes! We are seeing a lot of diversity in our applicants and many have really interesting backgrounds and make a great case for why a business school degree and management are crucial to their industries or career growth. We’ve seen students with backgrounds and careers in entertainment, journalism, law, cosmetology, art, non-profit, etc. Business School is no longer just for consulting, finance and marketing professionals. It’s extremely versatile and professionals from more non-traditional industries are starting to recognize the value.
The world has gone global. Gen Y and Z have grown up talking to people in other parts of the world during things as simple as playing online games. In the US, Latinos and Women have become an important growth market because of their numbers and significance online. How are business schools addressing this shift in the market?
We have seen the demographic changes in those who are interested in MBA education as well as the expectations of companies recruiting our MBAs. Our MBA program, like many, is diverse nationally, internationally, demographically, socio-economically, and with different academic backgrounds. Latinos and Women are represented in our programs and in many Business Schools throughout the world and provide that perspective as a student in the MBA experience. In fact, we also offer clubs related to Women in Business and Diversity to encourage interaction with the business community on this topic and engaging our students even further.
Also, MBA programs are offering study abroad opportunities for a quarter or week long trips to get exposure to that global business experience. At the Merage School we offer a number of courses that equip students for these types of shifts in the market. For example, in the marketing area, our students do real projects for companies in Southern California where these companies are on the front edge of those customer shifts and as a result discussions are revolving around that growth market. We also offer a unique micromarketing course which equips students to dig down deeply using technology to help companies understand how these demographic changes are dispersed geographically to help guide marketing initiatives.
Why has HR become such an important field in the wake of the digital revolution?
Human Resources has become such an important field in the wake of the digital revolution because company brands are no longer just perceived solely on company lead marketing and advertising efforts. Beyond customers sharing their thoughts on brands, employees are also more accessible through social media. The importance of how employees interact online and represent themselves has changed. Through social networks the line is blurred between personal and professional. As an employee of a company, we are reflection of that company and are often expected to uphold those standards even in the realm of social media, which often times is exactly that, social, not always professional. But how does a company and an HR team regulate that? For HR teams, finding best practices for how people represent themselves online and how that impacts the company through these mediums is still developing.
Additionally, with the growth of virtual teams, it becomes even more challenging to evaluate personnel. If a manager only meets their teams once or twice a year, the way a company evaluates their employees may need to shift. On top of that, the way a company delivers the message of their internal brand to a global organization changes too. People are consuming information in different ways and companies need to embrace the ability to reach more people than was previously possible.
Next, HR has more transparency when it comes to the candidates they recruit. With social media they have access to what job applicants are doing and saying. Again, it comes back to how people represent themselves online. That is why our MBA Career Center focuses so much time on social media because it can make or break opportunities and a student’s professional brand. Also, social media has made it easier for HR teams to recruit great talent because they have more accessibility to talent through networks like LinkedIn.