Business school students may have a pretty vivid picture of where they see themselves in two years, but that does not mean that they are absolutely set on their career paths. As an article published in the Wall Street Journal last week notes, the Graduate Management Admission Council’s (GMAC’s) latest Alumni Perspectives Survey shows that about 31% of 2012 graduates were employed in a different industry than the one they had planned to pursue upon admission. Since 2001, GMAC, the organization that administers the GMAT, has conducted a survey every September of recent business school graduates and alumni, collecting data on their first jobs held after graduation and looking at their career progression in subsequent years.
The WSJ suggests that industry switching may pay off during a difficult job market. A seemingly higher rate of employment in the Class of 2012 (92% of the survey’s 834 respondents reported being employed upon graduation, up from 86% for the Class of 2011) could be accounted for by the fact that students are willing to be adaptable in their career goals, perhaps accepting whatever job offer comes their way. Yet, despite this speculation, the trend of industry switching is actually down slightly from last year, with 33% of 2011 graduates reporting that they accepted jobs outside the industry they originally hoped to enter. Although schools may struggle to predict a candidate’s employment prospects, the most reliable path to that dream job will most likely require balancing both well-defined objectives and a good measure of contingency.