Graduate students network in New York

Amid rising unemployment and an uncertain economic future, dozens of students from the School of Business trekked to New York last week to build connections of their own with several leading companies.

Almost 40 finance and marketing students embarked on the 2008 MBA New York Career Trek to meet with alumni working in banks, investment firms, nonprofit organizations and media companies. Though many of the students said they appreciated the opportunity to make important connections with alumni and their companies, some said they were still uncertain about the number of jobs that will be available for them when the graduate.

“We’re moving in a downward turn,” said Philip Flaherty, trip organizer and assistant director of the business school’s career center. “There’s no doubt about it.”

The job market is particularly unsteady for business students as Wall Street layoffs are expected to surge past 200,000, according to the Associated Press. On last year’s New York trip, students met with Merrill Lynch, a financial company that laid off 500 people last Wednesday.

“It’s a very chaotic time in the financial sector,” Flaherty said. “We just don’t know.”

Students quickly learned in their meetings that the best way to secure a job is to meet the right people. Flaherty said he has found that 85 percent of students get jobs through networking. During a time of potential recession, students are feeling the pressure to do the networking legwork themselves, he said.

“Everyone is seeing difficult times,” said Eran Goudes, a second-year graduate student and a trip coordinator. “It will take more on our part to make the right connections. I’ve seen people get laid off at my own internship so I know that if I want a job in this market, I need to take the initiative and do the work to get it.”

Brianna Lux, a first-year MBA student, was able to use a connection made at an information session at The New York Times to get her name out to the right person.

“All of the companies already had our resumes,” she said. “And even though The New York Times presentation was on marketing, I was able to go up to the human resource speakers there and they immediately pulled out my resume to talk about.”

Paul Knight, who received an MBA from GW in 1985 and now works for global investment firm Thomas Weisel Partners Group, treated Goudes and fellow trekker Zach Parham to an alumni dinner meant to build connections between students and professionals in the field. Though Knight could not promise openings at his own firm, Goudes is optimistic about the connections he made.

“After dinner, I learned that I probably won’t get a job right after graduation,” he said. “But Mr. Knight said the best way to get a job is to network. The idea is that the connections made in New York will help me get my name to the right person.”

After meeting with GW alumna Jennifer Lasko of Johnson and Johnson, Lux said her human resource background could give her an edge over her classmates in the job hunt.

“I’m in a pretty good spot because I’m not a finance major,” Lux said. “Jennifer explained that she went from working as a chemical engineer to marketing which showed me that I can take my interests in different directions.”

Goudes said some companies were less than encouraging.

“Jefferies and Company said the job market is blatantly not good,” he said. “I would use other words to describe how they see the situation, but they wouldn’t be appropriate.”

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