MBA job forecast: it’s cold outside

A sobering thought: Of the 362 graduates in the class of 2002 at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, about three-quarters – 269 – were still seeking jobs at graduation last spring. (Seven more started their own business, and another 11 were not looking for work for various reasons.)

So when students from the famed business school gathered on Jan. 16, for a high-tech, high-touch networking session at the suburban Boston offices of venture capitalists Atlas Ventures and Castile Ventures, they were aware it wasn’t only the freezing temperature outside that was making this a chilly season.

Still, among the 50 or so students making connections, Christopher Lee donned his best economic outlook as well as his sport jacket. “I wouldn’t use the word optimistic, but there are opportunities there,” Lee said.

Like most first-year Sloan students, Lee, who wants to work for an enterprise software company, is looking for a summer internship to complement his two-year MBA program and catapult his career. Second-year students, however, are job hunting. The 50 companies at the reception (part of the Tech Trek, a student-organized series of briefings that students use to scout job and internship opportunities) come from Boston area venture capitalists and computer industry vendors big (EMC Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc.) and small (SpeechWorks International Inc., a voice-recognition developer, and Edocs Inc., an e-billing software maker).

This kind of turnout buoyed the spirits of students like Justin Steinman. “If you’re dreaming of working at Bose,” Steinman said, “you can find the Bose exec and introduce yourself.”

At the very least, the Tech Trek provides the students with a realistic view of the hiring climate they can expect once they graduate. So far, it’s a dogsled race in slush: 80 percent of 375 members of Sloan’s class of ’03 are seeking jobs or internships. (Fourteen have won summer internships, and one has started a business. Leading internship companies: Citigroup Inc., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.)

“This is a sobering experience for most students,” said Phil Rossetti, senior partner at Boston-based corporate law firm Hale and Dorr, one of the Tech Trek sponsors. “That so many companies are participating in the Tech Trek said that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. They are hiring, but it’s very targeted.”