How the Marriott School Is Helping Students Land Jobs and Internships
Jack Peterson came to the Marriott School’s MBA program with a clear goal: to graduate with a better job so he could provide for his young family.
After his son Jack Austin was diagnosed with autism, Peterson felt strongly that he needed to get additional education. He wanted to qualify for a career that would enable him to provide his son with necessary health caresomething beyond what his engineering job provided.
A BYU MBA made sense for many reasons: the Marriott School is a top-ranked business school with an impeccable track record and an aggressive placement program. Less than a year into his MBA program, Peterson is on his way to achieving his targeted career goals, having lined up a summer internship with Boeing.
But securing that position wasn’t easy. “Boeing was at the top of my list. However, during my first phone interview, I was anxious and didn’t present myself that well,” Peterson says. “But the MBA program organized a trip to Seattle, which gave me a second chance to showcase my abilities and land another interview with Boeing.”
Like hundreds before him, Peterson is a beneficiary of the Marriott School’s successful career placement initiative—currently placing about 90 percent of graduate and 75 percent of undergraduate students.
The career placement initiative is a multipronged, school-wide effort to help graduates make the transition from degree to paycheck. The initiative has three major objectives: reach more companies, place more students, and increase the number of offers students receive.
In fact, when it comes to offers, Marriott School leaders don’t just want to coax the number up a bit, they want to double what is already an impressive number. The idea is to make sure students have more than one option when they graduate.
The main cog in this initiative, and the tool for overcoming BYU’s geographic isolation from major population centers, is school-sponsored career trips.
Career placement trips take students to major cities on the East and West coasts and in the Southwest and Midwest to experience a corporate atmosphere and meet with recruiters from Fortune 500 companies and other major employers. The trips give students an opportunity to meet with prospective employers and leave positive impressions.
“BYU students are phenomenal, but they’re not well known in some areas of the country,” says Jim Engebretsen, assistant dean for corporate relations.
The major reason for this is that, unlike any other top business school, BYU is geographically isolated in the Mountain West. Richard Lyons, dean of UC–Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, has indicated that the Marriott School fits the mold of a top-thirty school, with two exceptions: age of the university and distance from a major population center.
The average distance for top-thirty MBA programs from a major U.S. population center, such as New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, is about forty miles. BYU is more than six hundred miles from the closest big city.
“We can sit back and accept our fate, or we can be more aggressive and overcome the challenge of location,” says Dean Gary C. Cornia. “We decided to do the latter.”
Doing this has meant investing time, resources, and careful planning to get more students in front of recruiters—from Amazon to Cisco to Goldman Sachs.
The effort is paying off. This past year Marriott School placement rates increased 14 percent for graduate students and 5 percent for undergraduate students.
“When we go to these big companies, the students’ eyes are completely opened to what it’s like to work for them,” says Paige Gardiner, who leads the undergraduate marketing trips. “When they step on these corporate campuses, they can start to dream about their careers. It’s hard to shoot for a goal you can’t visualize.”
|1. Reach more companies
|2. Place more students*
|3. Increase quantity of offers**
* Percentage of Marriott School students seeking employment who accepted jobs within three months of graduation.
**Average number of job offers per student seeking employment—includes those who did not receive any job offers.
Preparing for Takeoff
In 2004 Engebretsen started taking a small group of finance students to Manhattan to meet with current and former colleagues from Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan, and Goldman Sachs and with contacts from alumni in the area.
Almost immediately, internships and job offers started cropping up. As opportunities opened, interest in the visits increased, both from students and companies.
To accommodate the growing interest from companies, Keith Read, vice chair of the school’s National Advisory Council, began making large conference rooms available at the Cerberus headquarters on Park Avenue and invited companies to present to students.
Now finance trips include visits to a few major company headquarters—such as Goldman Sachs—as well as meetings in Cerberus board rooms, where dozens of companies come to the students.
“We bring in six or seven companies a day on three different tracks,” Read says. “We have between forty and fifty companies making presentations during three days: investment banks, commercial banks, investment firms, private-wealth-management companies, and investment advisors.”
Read says the students break up into groups for the back-to-back-to-back hour-long presentations. Each company does a forty-five-minute presentation with a fifteen-minute Q&A.
Having the majority of the companies come to one site saves time and allows students to maximize every minute of their three- or four-day trip.
“To try to shepherd forty kids through the New York subways and then have them registered at a company site would take a lot of time,” Read says.
What started with five or six students is now up to 110 students annually, says Kim Smith, managing director of the Peery Institute of Financial Services.
As the New York investment-banking trips grew more popular and successful, the Marriott School started doing the same thing in San Francisco with venture-capital and private-equity firms.
Now there are thirty to forty students who trek to the Bay Area each October. Last year students took a career placement trip to Los Angeles as well, and Kim says he hopes to keep Los Angeles, along with potential trips to Boston and Washington, D.C., as part of the annual rotation.
“If you want to get a job and you sit here in Provo, it’s not going to happen,” Kim says. “We are competing with the Princetons and the MITs of the world, which are all so close to these major firms. If we don’t do things to help our students get out there, then they are at a substantial disadvantage.”
Recently graduated finance major Matt Komenda can attest to the importance of getting out there.
The former president of the Marriott School’s Investment Banking Club, Komenda made four trips to New York City—sleeping on his brother’s couch—before he secured a position with Goldman Sachs.
Komenda, a Mesa, Arizona, native, believes trips to Manhattan not only provide opportunities to meet with potential employers but also give students a glimpse of the New York minute.
“New York is very different than Provo, and determining whether the lifestyle there energizes or drains you is an important first step,” Komenda says.
Kim says it’s just as important for students to learn about the city as it is for them to meet with finance professionals.
“Some students may be interested in finance and living in New York City in theory, but they’ve never been there,” he says. “Some go and realize that it isn’t something they want to do. And that’s perfectly fine.”
Whether or not students decide these big cities are for them, company executives quickly learn that Marriott School students are capable, strong, and qualified to fill positions.
Getting Their Boarding Passes
Currently, the Marriott School organizes career placement trips for junior undergraduate students and first-year MBA students. The summer after each of those two academic years is the most crucial time for students to find internships.
With the goal of securing these internships, the career placement trips primarily take place in the fall. The undergrad trips are open to majors across the university, with students from engineering, humanities, economics, and other programs joining accounting and finance students.
Interested students submit résumés to trip advisors, who put together résumé books of the most qualified candidates. The books are then sent off to the companies students will meet with.
“The books also help recruiting for the school as a whole because instead of getting just one or two students, companies are looking at hundreds of strong candidates,” Kim says.
Students who are selected for a trip attend a number of preparation meetings, where advisors put them through mock interviews, question-and-answer sessions, general grilling, and fine-tuning. Advisors also help students choose professional clothing.
The most vital part of their preparation may be the research that is built into the preparation meetings. Selected students study up on the companies they plan to meet with and produce reports on those firms, which are presented to advisors prior to their official visits.
Students generally are assigned two or three companies to research. Advisors also help them come up with at least three solid questions for each of the companies.
And since most of the trips include flying on red-eyes across the country and meeting with executives only a few hours after touchdown, faculty also provide strategies for staying awake and besting jet lag.
For the past seven years, Dick Smith has been taking MBA students to Silicon Valley. As opposed to the finance trips to NYC, where companies come to the students, Dick leads his group to the headquarters of each company on the itinerary.
Dick, director of MBA career management, says the trips started as a service to both the students and the tech companies.
“We started placing students there, and they were saying, ‘Gosh, this is so expensive,’” he says. “So we took them out there so they could understand the cost of living and know the area better.”
Almost immediately, BYU MBA students saw great success in Silicon Valley, landing internships and jobs with Apple, Cisco, Symantec, eBay, Adobe, and others. Dick estimates that 95 percent of the students who make the trip to Silicon Valley eventually land offers at companies there.
The trips have been so successful that he and his team have started taking MBA students on tech trips to Seattle as well, where students have visited companies like Microsoft, T-Mobile, Boeing, and Amazon.
The Seattle excursions usually last three days and include visits to eight or nine companies. Like Silicon Valley, Seattle is becoming a hub for MBA placement.
“We’ve developed such good relationships with Amazon that we’ve become one of their core schools, even though they don’t come to campus,” Dick says. “We have a great product here; we just have to show it off.”
Last year Amazon took twelve BYU interns, six of whom ended up in full-time positions. Another Seattle success story happened this year with a group of students who visited Boeing. Seven students organized the first-ever BYU MBA visit to the airplane manufacturer. Six of those students were interviewed for positions and three of them accepted internships, including Jack Peterson.
“This was the first time Boeing had hired interns from the BYU MBA program,” Peterson says. “The recruiting coordinator said we were really well prepared.”
Peterson is a first-person witness to the preparation the Marriott School career placement initiative provides students. From interviewing strategies to résumé building, Peterson says the program trains its students well.
“Coming into the MBA program I felt that I was good at interviewing, that I had a strong résumé, and that I knew how to network,” Peterson says. “But after participating in the program, my eyes were opened to the possibilities of how I could better position myself to showcase my abilities.”
Another major offering of the initiative is access to networking opportunities with Marriott School alumni.
Some of the career placement trips include face time with alums, many of whom work for the companies the students are visiting. The meetings are often informal, such as pizza dinners in church cultural halls, and are sometimes organized by Management Society chapters.
Alums talk about housing, cost of living, the pros and cons of the area, and anything else the students have on their minds.
“Our alums in these companies have gone ahead of us and have made it really easy for us to get in,” Smith says. “Their support has made my job a lot easier.”
One way to accomplish the school’s placement objectives is to make BYU a strategic recruiting school—or core school—for as many companies as possible. As a core school, BYU would be one of a half-dozen schools a particular company turns to when hiring.
But there is another purpose that goes above and beyond the business aspects of the Marriott School.
Before Kim joined administrators at BYU, he was an executive at Goldman Sachs and an area seventy for the LDS Church. While living in New York City, he witnessed strong growth in church membership but a lack of leaders.
He noticed that when BYU graduates took jobs out East, they not only helped strengthen the reputation of the school but also provided needed leadership and strength to the growing congregations.
“I got a lot of grief when I left New York to come to Provo, but when I said my goal was to replace myself two hundred times with younger and more energetic BYU students, the tone of the conversation changed,” Kim recalls. “As I’ve talked with church leaders in other areas, they are extremely interested in this effort. It’s helping BYU students find jobs, and it’s a great way to build the kingdom.”
Stoddard Awards Provide a Tailwind for Students
Students, being students, usually don’t have enough of the green stuff on hand to fly across the country to visit hiring companies.
The Marriott School, with the help of generous donors, has developed a solution to lower the financial barrier that might keep qualified students from boarding airplanes.
The George and Elma Stoddard family has lightened travel costs with the recently established Stoddard Career Advancement Awards. The awards help business students reduce their out-of-pocket expenses by providing financial help while looking for work in a major city. The awards have helped about seventy-five students this past year, its first year in existence, with a goal to help more than three hundred students annually by 2021.
“The commitment for the students is that they go somewhere with a group organized by the school,” Kim says. “The awards are for those who have expressed strong interest to work outside the Wasatch Front.”
Kim and other career placement professionals who work closely with the students make recommendations on which students are the best fit for the awards. To qualify, the candidates have to do extensive planning and research on the companies they want to visit.
Family members say George and Elma Stoddard’s generosity stems from the value they placed on education and diligence.
George Stoddard was only sixteen when he left his home in Queens, New York, to study at BYU. He graduated in business in 1937 and was the only Utah student awarded a scholarship to Harvard Business School. Stoddard earned a master’s degree from Harvard and married Elma Skelton in 1942 while serving in the Navy.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have the Stoddard Awards and have this program available to our students,” Gardiner says.
Article written by Todd Hollingshead
Illustrated by Jack Molloy
About the Author
Todd Hollingshead graduated from BYU with a degree in communications in 2004. After working as a reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune, Todd joined BYU’s University Communications office in 2007, where he works as a media-relations manager. He and his wife, Natalie, live in Orem with their two (and a half) children.