March 01, 2001

A top executive recruiter told a business school audience that the nation's underlying economy remains strong and that the continued strong demand for top talent means that job prospects for MBA students are brighter this Spring than many believe.

Speaking at "Kogod Interactive 2001," a day-long conference sponsored by American University's Kogod College of Business, Paul Villella said that while the "Internet Party" is over, there are still plenty of good job opportunities with well-funded, well-managed technology growth firms and with traditional companies building their e-commerce capabilities. Villella is President & CEO of HireStrategy, a Reston, Virginia-based, Web-enabled executive recruiting firm serving technology businesses and professionals.

"The sky is not falling," Villella said. "The job market is still remarkably robust for the millions of Americans in managerial, technical and professional positions and for newly minted MBAs. The talent shortage that has plagued employers for the past several years has not gone away. Many companies have a backlog of positions they must fill - regardless of the slowdown in the economy. Unemployment is holding steady at its lowest level in half a century and new hires continue to outnumber layoffs."

Villella said there is a gap between the "psychological" economy and the "real" economy: "The psychological economy reflects our perceptions, fears and expectations, based on what we read in the newspapers and see on television. The real economy reflects our day-to-day experience. This real economy is much stronger than the psychological economy, where the prevailing mood is one of anxiety about the economy and the job market."

"Certainly, the economy is slowing, but the employment outlook is still quite good. It has been our experience that most of the technology workers being laid off in the Washington area do not stay jobless for long. Good people will always find jobs. If you can produce great results, solve problems and find more efficient ways for a company to do things, you don't have to worry about being out of work."

Villella said this year's MBA graduates have a wealth of opportunities with investment banking and consulting firms, health care and technology companies. "Some of the best jobs will involve managing key relationships - with customers, with employees and with strategic partners. Jobs associated with managing talent - are becoming more and more important. And MBAs who can operate with ease in a global marketplace are in great demand."

Villella said he believes the Washington area will escape the worst of the current nationwide economic slowdown. "Our diverse technology base, the presence of the federal government, our growing global business role, our highly educated workforce, our network of creative entrepreneurs and the availability of capital ensures that our economy, the nation's fourth largest, will remain the hottest technology region in the country."

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