Kelley’s ‘Operation Snowball’ Helps MBAs Land Jobs

Last week, we alerted readers to recent efforts made by top business schools to boost job prospects for MBAs. Today, we bring you a closer look at how Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business has pulled out all the stops to help their students secure employment despite the sluggish economy.

Dean Daniel Smith and the career services team at Kelley launched “Operation Snowball” in March as a seven-week, comprehensive approach designed to help first-years land internships and graduating MBAs find jobs.

During tough economic times, students can feel like they’re bombarded with bad news everywhere, akin to being hit by snowballs, says Graduate Career Services director Erik Medina, in explaining the metaphor behind the name.

Kelley’s “Operation Snowball” consisted of three primary components:

Fully engaging the base. Dean Smith reached out to roughly 26,000 alumni with a call for help email that allowed recipients to learn more about individual Kelley students looking for jobs by sorting through candidates based upon areas of expertise (e.g., entrepreneurship/corporate innovation, finance, management, marketing, strategic analysis/accounting information or supply chain/operations).

From there, alums could view short introductions by these students and download their resumes to jump start the hiring process. According to Medina, the response was overwhelming. “We couldn’t follow up fast enough,” he says.

Arming student leaders with information, training and support. Recognizing that MBAs are more likely to accept advice from their peers than the administration, the school identified and trained student leaders who already had job offers, and created a job board for them to administer. These students worked one-on-one to help their peers secure employment.

Keeping detractors close. The Kelley team was concerned that some students would become frustrated with the job search and isolate themselves. “The worst thing which can happen is when a student disconnects from coaching so we needed to find a way to reengage these folks,” Medina explains.

For these MBAs, the school developed a weekly “watering hole” meeting that allowed them to vent about the process, and discuss best practices with the aforementioned student leaders who had jobs without needing “to hear the harping of staff, coaches or administrators,”says Medina.

According to the school, these efforts have paid off: as of late May, 74% of the school’s 2010 graduates had offers and 94% of 2011 graduates had internships.  Medina relates that he’s never seen this kind of positive energy, even in the best of economic times.

And the payoff continues: this well-received initiative solidified a process by which Kelley can offer support in the fall and spring of the next academic year based on learning gathered from this year’s activities.

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