Making hay during a dustbowl: how companies and students thrive in the near-term economy

The goal for this blog is to provide some means for our users to pierce the corporate veil, and look inside the heads of the folks who make choices here at Next Acropolis. I think that helps us; when we think something, we believe that others will want to know what makes us tick, and how we percieve the world.

Our business model is based on students, and the value we place on their excellence. One observation we are seeing, is an increasing tendency for young people to choose to apply for graduate degrees during the probable economic downturn.

I did this very thing in 2003, as the economy was slumping. I found that as I departed school, yet another boom was taking place, and I was immediately employed in a very senior position as a software architect at a startup. I worked on advanced tools for the mortgage lending industry, which very soon evaporated, and the startup, with it. Now, two years later, economic conditions are beginning to look as they did in 2000, and 2003. The economy needs another recession to weed out all the crabgrass.

As much as it pains us to see hardships across the economic spectrum, from foreclosures in Newport Beach (CA) to layoffs on Wall Street, we also see the fundamentals of our business model improving.

Our product, first and foremost, helps students understand the broader implications of their research, and see how their term papers connect to opportunities inside the broader economy. Our goal is to provide an unprecedented window into how your skills reach out and connect to corporate, government, and social initiatives for progress, while providing access for those very organizations to find you. We provide the impetus for students to be engaged in real-world problems, activate the university as society’s source for creative thinking, then connect that work to the economy. Academia will change, and industry will change, and opportunities will reach more individuals in school as firms locate the right people for their initiatives, based on preparation, commitment and passion.

What is shifting in the economy is the volume of students entering graduate school. [1][2] As firms shed workers and students read headlines about the receding economy, applications to graduate schools increase. This is no new phenomenon, as I have said. I participated in a similar boom in graduate education, and it seemed to benefit me in my work. The extra professionalization I gained as a graduate student added a significant new dimension to my persona, and granted me additional expertise in areas I would not have reached on my own.

If the number of applicants to graduate school increase, this will produce a significant advantage to national economies. This will create an additional layer of preparation and insight on behalf of the educated work force, and provide a smorgasbord of new talent for companies as they weather the recession. Even if we experience a protracted slowdown, students will embrace new alternative, budding industries that can propose solutions to what ails the broader market. (I espouse clean/green tech, bioscience, social entrerpreneurship, law, government, agriculture and all facets of engineering as clear paths to success as well as the ever-present need for sales people)

If our own business fundamentals demand for a strong supply of students, we believe that if we offer excellent access to opportunities that suit them, that the economy will benefit in lean times. We see this opportunity in the fact that as firms must economize on human capital (hire lean teams), that they will seek the best prospects for talent in our ecosystem.

We also believe that a recession will benefit corporate america if it learns to restructure itself in favor of delivering the most value for share holders with an optimally efficient expense on payrolls. This takes place when persons of merit achieve productivity gains above and beyond what is possible with ‘warm bodies’ in the seats. Firms will not need just ‘the best talent,’ but they will need individuals who can legitimately adapt and contribute to the specific business objective. This means that simply because a student graduates from an elite institution, that their contribution will be inherently better. We know that the best performers in any industry do so out of their optimal orientation, attitude, insights and work ethic. Just because a person went to Stanford does not mean they inherently understand a topic. The student you want may actually pursue the perfect preparatory routine at another school.

In the emerging economy, the recruiter needs access to whomever has the wherewithal to deliver results, and the talent pool has never been bigger. That is, until the exodus of the baby boomers begins, in 2012… Then it gets interesting.


About stefan bund

Founder of Next Acropolis. MS in Information Systems and Technology, Claremont Graduate University... Background in software engineering and teaching.
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