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4 Major Ways Millennials Are Changing Business School

Millennials in Business SchoolMillennials, also known as Generation Y, are doing a great job of getting under the skin of their superiors in the halls of academia and later in the workforce. Their elders gripe about their misplaced priorities, enthusiasm, and optimism. In other words, it's like every other generation before it.

Just like all the rest, these young people are ruffling feathers because they are driving change. Already, Millennials have begun to influence both the delivery and culture of business education in ways big and small. Here are four examples of their power at business schools:

1. Career placement offices are transforming their offerings

Traditionally, MBA grads have sought jobs in high-paying industries, particularly consulting and finance. While those fields are still on the radar of some students, they don't have the same pull with this group. Part of the problem is that typical employers are hiring fewer MBAs than in the past. But at the same time, Millennials are displaying a unique set of priorities. Admissions committees at top business schools have reported that more and more applicants express interest in sustainability, social enterprises, nonprofits, microfinance, and other non-traditional fields in their admissions essays and interviews.

Career placement staff at top schools have had to hustle to make contacts with potential employers in these emerging fields and approach the job search in a completely different way. Since these are not the usual employers, they are not coming to campus and don't have structures in place for MBA recruiting. Some of them need an education on the perks of hiring MBAs.

As a result, students, with the support of career services, are taking on more independent job searches that have them setting up meetings, suggesting positions, and sometimes waiting for last-minute hiring as opposed to getting a job offer right after those once coveted internships. Of course, schools have spent the last few years bringing these non-traditional subjects, such as sustainability and social responsibility, into their curriculum as well.

2. Traditional recruiters have to sweeten the pot

Granted, traditional recruiters, particularly those from the finance sector, have not been hiring MBAs in the droves that they once did. But they're still hiring. To entice Millennials, recruiters have to recognize a shift in thinking about work-life balance. Sixty-four percent of Millennials keep a standard work schedule, but only 47 percent expect the same in five to 10 years, according to an online generations survey of 1,215 professionals from the Baby Boomer, Generation X, and Millennial generations conducted by Ernst & Young in June 2013. And 33 percent of Millennials said they would be more likely to walk away from their job in the absence of day-to-day flexibility.

Companies are responding to these concerns by slowly changing the culture in their offices. For example, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is encouraging teams to devise ways for members to be more flexible. One team had chosen one day a week they'd all leave early, and another allows for telecommuting during the week, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. The company also offers flexible summer schedules, and hires temporary workers to pitch in when necessary.

3. Their tech-savvy ways are penetrating the classroom and beyond

Millennials were born into a world that already had the Internet, cell phones, tablets, and technology of which other generations only dreamed, and this is a serious advantage. In fact, 70 percent of respondents to the Ernst & Young survey said that Millennials were social media opportunists, and 78 percent said they were tech-savvy. As a result, business schools have had to work to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to technology and how they use it in and outside the classroom to educate students.

This relationship with technology is also influencing career services. For the first time ever, in 2013, more graduates of Stanford Graduate School of Business took jobs in technology (32 percent) as opposed to finance (26 percent), according to the Wall Street Journal. The trend was evident at other MBA programs, too.

"Elite business school graduates are increasingly heading to work in technology over finance as the lingering aftereffects of the financial crisis -- along with Wall Street's long hours and scaled-back pay -- sends newly minted MBAs elsewhere," according to the Wall Street Journal article.

4. They truly believe in and understand diversity

In the Ernst & Young survey, Millennials scored high for their abilities to build culturally competent teams and refrain from discriminating based on race, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc. Such diversity skills will serve them well as they begin to manage an ever-changing and dynamic workforce, says James Kindley, director of the MBA program at the College of Charleston.

"I do see this generation being more tolerant of other viewpoints and work styles," he adds. "They are also pretty concerned with concepts of fairness and equality despite the fact that pursuing an MBA is an effort to separate oneself."

Indeed, Millennials are demonstrating a more open-minded approach to business and everything else. Their interests in better work-life balance, innovative technology, and meaningful work that does more than pay the bills is already influencing business schools, not to mention the rest of the world.