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More Grads Enter Job Market, Fewer Pursue Graduate School

By Brian Keegan

An improving economy is driving an increasing number of MIT students to work full-time after graduation rather than pursue another degree. But as the job market improves, the competition has become fiercer, leading some students to interview more than 20 times even for summer internships.

Data from the MIT Careers Office for the past three years shows the percentage of undergraduates continuing on to graduate school declining from a high of 67 percent in 2003 to 47 percent in 2005. At the same time, the percentage of undergraduates going directly into the workforce rose from 33 percent in 2003 to over 40 percent in 2005.

This year’s Tau Beta Pi Career attracted 47 companies hiring for both full-time positions and summer internships. Of the random selection of companies polled by this reporter, nearly all still had full-time positions open, with most assuring that they hire year-round.

There has been a “resurgence of the war for talent,” said Steve Caneli, manager of recruiting and staffing for General Electric. GE might see increases of 10 to 15 percent in interviews and graduate hiring in coming years, he said.

While finance recruiting was similar to last year’s, there was an increase in demand for computer science and engineering, said Jason W. Carver ’06, director of Internal Operations for the Sloan Undergraduate Management Association.

Barry Beneski at Orbital Sciences said that there is a “very good job market in aerospace and defense. The industry is growing with the country’s increased defense spending.” He anticipated employment at Orbital would reach an “all-time high” in 2006.

Graphics hardware company nVidia is looking to “double its efforts” to hire recent graduates, with 200 internships available in both its software and hardware divisions, said Venessa Huffman, who leads their recruiting efforts.

While the companies participating in the TBP career fair had opportunities for electrical, mechanical, and aerospace engineers, representatives from many companies indicated strong demand for computer science majors and students with strong programming backgrounds.

Show me the money

Early February is also prime time for recruiting summer interns in the financial and consulting industries. MonsterTrak’s InterviewTrak showed over 150 resume drops were available between mid-January and mid-February from companies like Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, UBS, Bain & Company, Boston Consulting Group, and others.

Vivek A. Shah ’07 said he had 14 interviews total for trading, banking, and consulting firms with two offers, three second rounds, and two rejections so far. “The number one thing to do is get an externship at a bank,” he said. “It’s all about experience and coursework.”

Erik J. Lampe ’07 said he has 25 interviews scheduled for summer internships in finance and consulting. “Recruiters told me how all the resumes look the same. You need to have something that stands out” from the others, he said.

To prepare for his sales and trading interviews Anastatios V. Giannopoulos ’07 read books and newspapers, and had mock interviews. “Last week, I saw a lot of the same people in the waiting room every day. You’re competing with everyone else,” he said.

Going out for the same jobs as friends can be stressful, said Tristan Almada ’07, but “it’s also encouraging that others are going through the same things as you.” During an interview, “I try to feel them out and tell them what they want to hear,” he said.

But Jarod Tsoukalis SM ’07 said he had not prepared for his interview because he had previous job and interview experience. “I asked one interviewer what they’re looking for and he said they just don’t want any particular major, they just want good people.”

Underclassmen Shut Out?

While the job market seemed strong for many companies looking for interns, some representatives said they were cautious about hiring freshmen and sophomores. But other recruiters said they look for anyone who fits the bill regardless of year.

Recruiting for Microsoft, Justin C. Marks ’02 said his company looks for top talent and strong passion across class years as it sponsors the 6.370 programming contest, 6.171 (Software Engineering for Web Applications), and the College Puzzle Challenge.

Christopher Resto, director of the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program, said that up to 85 employers have shown up at its informal networking events for approximately 100 sophomores, “a sign that the economy is improving.” He said that strong student interest in obtaining life science and finance internships has made these internships harder to obtain than those in other fields like software engineering.

Elizabeth Reed, director of the Careers Office, said that many companies are looking to narrow their recruitment activities by working with major-specific student groups like the Biomedical Engineering Society.

Several career fairs are upcoming — the Office of Minority Education will hold one on Feb. 22, and the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department will on Feb. 28. The Ivy+ online eFair will take place between Feb. 28 and March 3, and the Careers Office is also sponsoring a Career Exploration and Networking Fair for Freshmen and Sophomores on March 4.