WHERE THE 1988 MBAs ARE GOING The new grads are rejecting Wall Street in favor of entrepreneurial adventures or jobs in -- can you believe it? -- manufacturing. They say they're after more than money.
By Peter Nulty REPORTER ASSOCIATE Patricia A. Langan

(FORTUNE Magazine) – IF STUDENTS are a bellwether of trends, then listen up. The get-rich-quick fever that over the past few years drove business school students to Wall Street like hootch-crazed prospectors bound for the Klondike has broken at last. Placement administrators of MBA programs from Cambridge to Palo Alto report a sharp decline in the number of graduates signing on with investment banks and brokerage firms. For example, only 11% of Harvard's 1988 MBA class will enter investment banking, compared with 30% of last year's class. Ah, you say, October 19 and all that. Surprise: The change under way seems to go well beyond a redirection of the lemmings toward the next high-dollar cliff. Evidence is mounting that MBAs have begun to look for more from their careers than just megabucks or a guaranteed spot on the fast track. They are expressing greater interest in entrepreneurship and -- hold your breath -- manufacturing management. In a survey by the University of Pittsburgh's Katz school of business, MBA candidates at 11 top schools listed their personal and career concerns in the following order of importance: family, health, ethics, and leisure. Money and power came in seventh and ninth. The new trend, if that's what it turns out to be, may even siphon talent away from business schools. Applications to MBA programs are suddenly slackening. The Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers a standardized test for applicants, estimates that the number of test takers will rise only 2.6% this year, compared with an average annual increase of 6% over the past three years. Next year, says GMAC President William Broesamle, the number of test takers may actually decline. At the same time, law school applications have jumped 19% this year. Asked why, Thomas Jackson, dean of the University of Virginia law school (where applications rose 28%) says, ''We're stunned. I'd guess it's partly L.A. Law and partly October 19.'' Jackson isn't the only expert to cite the TV program as a major force in shaping the career decisions of supposedly bright undergraduates. The show's message, reading between the bed hopping and the probono work, seems to be that as a lawyer you can have fun and serve your conscience too. Black Monday, however, may not have been much of a factor: Law school applications started rising before October. The market crash did rattle dreams on many a business school campus. ''When the big Wall Street firms started cutting staff,'' says Linda Stantial, director of placement at MIT's Sloan school ''you could see the dollar signs disappear from student eyes.'' Indeed, for some students, the dollar signs turned to tears. Karen Dowd, placement director at the Darden school of the University of Virginia, tells of one student weeping in her office at what seemed blighted prospects for a career on Wall Street. ''Remember,'' says Dowd, ''that many of our students give up well-paying jobs and go into debt to get their MBAs.'' Last winter, recruiters from investment banking houses who visited Sloan, Dartmouth's Amos Tuck, and Stanford business school couldn't fill interview schedules that had been swamped with eager applicants in previous years. One team of talent scouts from an investment house arrived at Sloan on the very day that an alumnus who had just been cut by the same firm appeared in the library to research new job opportunities. ''Word like that gets around,'' says Stantial. Campus disaffection with Wall Street was welling up even before Black Monday. Scandals like the Ivan Boesky affair raised questions about ethics. Moreover, says Stantial, students who interned on the Street started complaining to their classmates about 80- and 90-hour workweeks spent as number-crunching drudges. Wayne Firsty, 25, who spent a year at Comex in New York trading silver before enrolling in Sloan's MBA class of '90, recalls those days: ''It was easy to get caught up in the deals. But when I went home at night, I felt like I had been eating air.'' Now Firsty plans to go into manufacturing. Says he: ''I want to make something real.'' Partly in response to shifting student attitudes, business educators have begun to rethink their schools' curriculums, now heavily weighted toward financial skills. Many are looking for ways to introduce more material on international business, on manufacturing and operations management, and on ethics. Says John Rosenblum, dean of the Darden school: ''This is the perfect time to change. We have the opportunity afforded by shifting student interests and the strength afforded by the popularity of MBA programs.'' (Roughly 67,000 graduate business degrees were awarded in June, compared with 21,000 in 1970.) No single business has, as yet, inflamed campus passions quite the way . investment banking did in the mid Eighties. The placement profiles of individual schools vary considerably, depending on each school's location and on longstanding relationships it may have with particular companies. To get a more comprehensive reading, FORTUNE combined the preliminary data on 1988 graduates from seven schools -- the University of Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, Northwestern's Kellogg, Stanford, Tuck, and Wharton -- that have standardized some of their placement reporting. THE GRADUATES fanned out widely. (See chart.) Consulting, real estate, and manufacturing firms were the major beneficiaries. To understand why, you need only ask MBAs who have gone into these fields. William Johnson, 29, a Kellogg graduate, says he interviewed with investment banks but chose instead a job in real estate with Trammell Crow Co.: ''They want me to knock on doors and learn the business from the customer. In three or four years, I'll have a chance to become a partner and take an equity position in projects.''

Within the manufacturing sector, students understandably favored challenging and prosperous industries such as computers and pharmaceuticals. But just because an MBA picks a manufacturing outfit, don't assume that he or she is headed for a supervisory job in a factory. In fact, most go after positions in marketing or finance. David Rothschild worked four years as a consultant for Ernst & Whinney before attending Sloan. He now is a marketing manager, looking for ways to sell computers to schools for Apple Computer. Says Rothschild: ''I didn't see any fun in Wall Street. When you watch kindergarteners trying to use a spreadsheet program, you feel you're having a different type of impact. It goes beyond making big bucks.'' The torrid rate of increase in starting salaries of the past few years may be cooling, partly because the bidding from Wall Street has died down. For example, the Tuck school reports that the average starting salary for its graduates -- $51,000 -- was 4% higher in 1988 than in 1987, when it was up 7%. The average paid by the manufacturing sector rose from $44,000 to $46,000, while the average in service industries rose from $50,500 to $52,500. In the absence of a new Grail to replace investment banking, many students are simply scratching their heads about what job to take. Elizabeth Meyer, director of Stanford's Career Management Center, says the big surprise at Stanford this year is the number of students who are sitting out the summer undecided about where to go next fall -- about 33% of the class, compared with 23% at the same time last year. Says Meyer: ''This is a nontraditionalist group who appear to have a different set of values. They have turned away from some of the usual careers and are going on long vacations. I hesitate to call it a trend because it could be completely different next year.'' Indeed it might. But several career paths eagerly discussed on campus have the potential to become the new favorites. Much will depend on how well the blue suits now arriving in these jobs perform. If they do well, employers presumably will rush to hire more MBAs, salary competition will heat up, and new trends will be born. Passion is often piqued by rising pay scales. PERHAPS THE MOST intriguing new path is manufacturing management. Like young Wayne Firsty, a growing number of MBAs think they smell an opportunity, as well as a good cause, in going into the factories. Carnegie Mellon, for instance, reported that 12% of its 1988 class entered manufacturing operations this year, up from 5% last year. Says Colin Blaydon, dean of the Tuck school, which also saw a modest increase in students headed toward the shop floor: ''With automation in the factory, quality control, and inventory management, manufacturing has more appeal. We're seeing a real comeback of interest among students.'' One MBA who can testify to this is Virginia Deely, 26, a 1986 graduate of Carnegie Mellon. She entered business school intending to go into finance, but on graduation accepted an offer from General Foods after enjoying a summer internship in a Jello factory. Today she is production manager in a plant in Modesto, California, that makes Post cereals, Kool-Aid, and Country Time lemonade. Says Deely, who sometimes recruits MBAs for the company: ''Two years ago the majority were more interested in money. Now they want challenge. A lot more are interested in manufacturing and engineering. It's back to basics. I think the yuppie craze is ending.'' Would-be assembly line jockeys still come up against some heavy peer pressure, a more potent force in shaping career decisions than you might imagine from the apparent self-confidence of so many MBAs. Stacie Soule, 27, a Tuck graduate who now supervises manufacturing at a GM Packard Electric division plant in Clinton, Mississippi, that makes wiring for General Motors cars, says that some of her classmates thought ''I was a bit off my rocker.'' Her GM supervisors even tried to talk Soule into working in a bigger plant in Ohio, where she would have had more visibility. But she believes that the Clinton factory is making innovative changes that she wants to master so she can transfer the technology to other plants. Soule considered a career in consulting, where starting salaries average about $60,000, compared with about $45,000 in manufacturing. But she says that in consulting she would have missed the ''reality check -- you never stick around to see if your idea works.'' In response to their students' interest, many business educators are trying to beef up the courses they offer in manufacturing management and to encourage manufacturing companies to consider hiring MBAs for line operations. Richard Thain, University of Chicago business school dean of external affairs, organized a conference on manufacturing and the MBA last spring and was surprised when 40 companies and 160 students showed up. The Sloan school has organized a manufacturing management program underwritten by $40 million donated by nine major companies including Kodak, Boeing, and Digital Equipment. When the first class of 20 students completes the course in 1990, they will be awarded master's degrees in both engineering and business administration. Even at Harvard, the school of choice for many Wall Street trainees, student interest in manufacturing is on the rise. Says W. Earl Sasser, a professor of production and operations management who in his basement office in Morgan Hall helped keep the embers of manufacturing know- how from winking out at Harvard: ''At last we're starting to get some respect.'' Harvard has added two new courses in manufacturing management. In the past three years, enrollment in such courses has jumped 50%. MANY DEANS and placement officials still fear that MBAs and manufacturing make an odd couple. Edward Mosier, Carnegie Mellon placement director, says he senses a pretty broad awakening of interest among manufacturers for MBAs as agents of change. But recruiters for these companies also want potential hires to have a technical background, such as a bachelor's degree in engineering, or otherwise ''it's a pretty hard sell.'' Students worry that career paths in manufacturing are insufficiently defined. Says Chicago's Thain: ''Most manufacturers need top talent, but right now they can give only the muddiest idea of where operations managers can go. Our students are not the type to spring for that.'' A second area of growing interest is in small to midsize companies or entrepreneurial ventures. Small companies that only occasionally have managerial posts to fill often don't enter the recruiting sweepstakes. As a result, many MBAs with this bent look first to jobs with venture capital firms as an avenue into smaller businesses. But Martha Craven, director of placement for Kellogg school, is trying to encourage what she calls ''correspondence opportunities'' -- smaller companies invite MBA candidates to apply for positions by mail. Last year Kellogg received 873 such invitations, up from 843 in 1987. Two years ago the University of Chicago founded a nonprofit institution called Arch to form start-up companies for manufacturing and marketing new technology developed at the university and the Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois. (A Federal law passed in 1980 permits private companies to exclusively license research paid for with taxpayers' money.) Chicago business school students can join in by conducting market studies and drafting business plans. So far 55 students have participated, and one company has been launched -- HealthQual Systems Corp., which will soon market a laptop medical computer. ''The charm of small companies,'' says Thain, ''is that our graduates can go where they really shine -- and maybe get a piece of the action.'' Two who have succumbed to the siren song of entrepreneurship are Bill and Kate Duhamel, both recent graduates of Stanford business school. Kate worked for a time at Kidder Peabody, and Bill was a consultant for Bain & Co. and then a marketing manager for Tandem Computers. But early this year the 27- year-olds decided to strike out for the Black Hills of South Dakota for an opportunity Kate calls ''irresistible.'' The Duhamels, together with some members of Bill's family, are in the process of buying out a 20-year-old cable television company, South Dakota Cable, located in Deadwood, South Dakota (pop. 3,000). Kate figures that subscriptions (about 10,000) in the franchise area can be expanded by as much as 15%, after which they plan to expand by acquiring other cable systems. ''Bill will probably be president,'' says Kate. ''We're basically co-managers, the titles are unclear.'' But Deadwood? ''We like the area. We will be owner-managers with a good base to grow on. We are building equity and working hard, so it's rewarding. We're having fun.'' International business has become a third focus of attention on campus, though the interest here may owe as much to the educators' view of the needs of American management as it does to student enthusiasm. Most schools are looking for ways to strengthen their curriculums with international subject matter in response to a perceived trend toward the globalization of business. Tuck, for instance, this September is opening a business school in Japan, where few such institutions exist. So far it has raised contributions from 800 Japanese companies. The students will be mostly Japanese, but the faculty will be half and half, the American professors rotating out to Japan on three-year assignments from Tuck. Colin Blaydon, Tuck's dean, says he hopes that Tuck professors returning from Japan will share their experiences with Tuck students. It's a start. Blaydon notes that in the 1920s, 30% of the school's elective courses were in international business subjects, compared with 10% today. But then in the 1920s, Tuck also required all students to study a foreign language. The key to having a world-class corps of international business managers pretty clearly is fluency in foreign tongues. Multilingual MBAs will find opportunities aplenty. Take Brad LaPray, 28, a 1988 Carnegie Mellon graduate. He got a bachelor's degree in engineering from Brigham Young after taking two years off between his freshman and sophomore years to go to Japan as a Mormon missionary. At business school he intended to seek an investment banking job. He admits that he was discouraged by the October crash, but says that recruiters, including some from Goldman Sachs and First Boston, remained very encouraging because of his fluency in Japanese. ''That was my only advantage,'' he says. Perhaps, but what an advantage. LaPray was also approached by several Japanese companies (''They promote mostly Japanese to higher positions''), and had offers from consulting firms and manufacturing companies such as Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. In the end he decided against his first dream, investment banking, because ''I wanted to watch my kids grow up.'' LaPray accepted an offer from TRW, where he is helping to mount a joint venture with Fuji Valve Inc. of Japan to build a new engine valve plant in Tennessee. When it is completed he will be responsible for production control, purchasing, information systems, and project management. Some people can have it both ways. LaPray will be in both international business and manufacturing management. If the trends keep running his way, by the time this codger is 35, young graduates may look up to him with the awe once reserved for investment bankers.

CHART: NOT AVAILABLE CREDIT: NO CREDIT CAPTION: WALL STREET'S LOSS Grads of seven top schools are still drawn to high-paying consulting jobs, but more are going to manufacturing companies now. DESCRIPTION: Percentage of MBA graduates who have entered jobs in manufacturing sector and various fields in nonmanufacturing sector in 1987, 1988.