...Difficult Times

This is not an easy moment for me to write this column. Not only am I in the middle of the semester, busy with the usual class preparation, grading, coordinating, and serving in multiple committees, but also I have been feeling somewhat inadequate when I interact with my practitioner friends and acquaintances.

Essentially, the driving fact appears to be that the Education industry hums to a different beat than the rest of the economy. This might actually be good news for organizations like NSHMBA, as many graduate business programs are expecting an influx of students who might find themselves furloughed or downsized, or simply are redirecting their careers. It is not unlikely that the supply side of our annual conference and job expo will see more growth in the near future -let's hope that the demand continues to grow as it has until last year

As a Professor of Management, I have already started to see more students in my classrooms. Also, during the past few months, I have been chairing a search committee to hire two new colleagues (a very rare occurrence as several departments, including mine, had been declined hiring even one position the previous year). This has meant reviewing and scoring a few dozen applications, resumes, transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc. All of that in preparation for telephone interviews with about ten "short-listed" candidates, and then setting up interviewing schedules for five finalists, working in coordination with a search committee. As I write these thoughts, one job offer has been extended, another one is being processed, and I have my fingers crossed that the negotiations will be prompt and successful so that my colleagues and I are better able to serve our constituents this Fall semester. If any of the offers are declined, I will have to go back to the pool of applicants and see whether others are not just qualified and fit with the department's needs, but also whether they have not yet accepted an offer from another Business School!

I am not trying to portray the Education world as "a bed of roses," in cheerful expansion. I am fully aware that there are several universities that have frozen their hiring plans for a future semester due to the revenue cuts that are expected as a result of the recession (for a few examples, see: Chronicle of Higher Education article on academic hiring freezes). But the fact of the matter is that, while we, educators have no access to seven-figure salaries, ESOPs, well-funded expense accounts, or the first-class treatment that many of our former students had grown used to until last year, neither are we as likely to experience aggressive "right-sizing" as corporate America has in the past few months (knock on wood!).

Simultaneously, I have been serving in several committees within and outside the university (most of the time it's both a pleasure and a career responsibility). One of my service opportunities is within the Society for Human Resource Management's Global Expert Panel, through which I share some of my expertise and obtain a great deal of "intelligence" from the field. It is becoming increasingly apparent to me that even strong companies are facing budget cuts, deferred capital investments, and similar measures designed to weather the economic storm that we are currently navigating. I have felt somewhat inadequate sharing with fellow panelists the good news that are happening in my career or on my neck of the woods. Just imagine sharing that I am getting ready to give a seminar in Argentina or that I just got a workshop accepted for the most important academic conference for Management researchers or that last year I made about seven presentations in cities in three countries, while several of the panelists have seen their travel budgets slashed and one or two have signaled that they are exploring opportunities in other organizations.

As Sgt. Maj. Velazquez expressed in his January column for the bottom line (see p. 2), perhaps this is the "kick in the pants" that our society needed to wake up from "our self-induced greed coma." I agree that we must keep our spirits up even in the face of uncertainty and poor economic prospects. Ultimately, it is what we do within our circle of influence what matters for those around us.

We definitely are "living in interesting times," as the allegedly Chinese curse says...! Please feel free to email me (drolivaslujan_at_gmail.com) or post your thoughts online clicking the link below.

¡Hasta la próxima!