New MBA Student? Start Your Job Search

You’ve just figured out your class schedule, course syllabi, and some good (and cheap) eating spots around campus.  Studying is well underway with the usual demand of a top MBA program (with many questions about accounting material and something called marginal cost).

Bzzzzzz.  In your email appears a message from Career Services with the subject line, “Resume deadline – NEXT FRIDAY.”  And, they keep coming:  Career panels, workshops, corporate events, student group events, learn about case interviews, hear about marketing projects, how to prepare a stock pitch, sign-up for Training the Street.  Bzzzz, Bzzzz, Bzzzz!

“I can’t even think of just a few words to describe the first year recruiting process,” says Beni Chhun, a second-year MBA at The University of Michigan Ross School of Business.  “It was a huge learning process – very exciting, a tremendous opportunity, and fairly ridiculous all at once.”

I think Beni’s thoughts reflect a common sentiment of first-year MBAs. The pace of the job search comes surprisingly fast or feels even faster than described by alumni or second-year classmates. There is a lot of activity to keep up with – the calendar and deadlines might make you feel like you are looking at the flight schedule of an airline rather than the calendar of an MBA student. But, thinking about the timeline and your career plans in advance allows you to plan and react differently when the mobile device starts to rattle vigorously. You will feel more prepared, controlled, and confident.

MBA Job Search Timeline

The MBA job search for first-year MBAs moves on a fairly standard timeline.  It is unique to each school based on the academic calendar, recruiting schedules, and policies, but, generally, the timelines are similar across programs.

  • July/August – Resume: Provide an updated resume in the school’s standard template/format
  • August/September – Career Exploration/Focus: Learn about MBA careers, evaluate your long-term career goals/passions, and narrow your focus for your internship position.
  • October – Resume (Again): Provide a revised resume for the school’s resume database, purchased by companies who hire MBAs.  Resume books are released mid to late-October.
  • October-December – Company Events: Network with recruiters and professionals from various companies, including formal presentations or meet-n-greets/networking.
  • December/January – Applications: Submit resume and cover letter to companies, this application is used by companies to invite candidates for interviews.
  • Late-January-March – Internship Interviews: Conduct interviews (one or more) on-campus (“at your school”).  For off-campus interviews (from jobs posted by companies or organizations you contact), this can extend to the end of the academic year.
  • March-April – Internship Acceptance: Communication of decisions about offers are expected within 2-4 weeks, depending on the firm and the policy of your school for on-campus interviews. This can extend to the end of the academic year for off-campus opportunities.

Most of the career centers for the schools conduct numerous workshops and appointments during the fall – these activities cover career choice and focus, resumes, networking, cover letters, interviewing, and researching companies.

Something to highlight:  One of the major benefits of your business school experience (and tuition) is career support. The career centers at the top schools are outstanding – take advantage of their services.

Preparing before Matriculation

I’ve observed there are many motivated, ambitious professionals who allow the time between application submission and matriculation to sit idle. (Matriculation:  the proud moment when your feet hit campus and you are officially an MBA student.)  That is unfortunate. This is a great time to do some proactive career preparation. You might be asking, “What in the world can I do at this point, I don’t have any career resources.” Not true. I talked with several current MBA students and recent alumni who shared several lessons learned, advice, and resource ideas. Here’s some guidelines:

  • Revisit Career Goals: In your MBA application, you write about your career goals. In this time, think more deeply about those goals. Does your application reflect what you “really” want to do? Have you modified or clarified your thinking since? Get clear about this.

“It is hard to believe,” says Cosimo Leipold, of Chicago’s Booth Class of 2009, “but, you have so little time to think when you get to school. You can’t do it all – meaning, you can’t learn about all the different careers. Take time to do this before school starts.”

About the Author...

Pam Schilling

Pam Schilling is an Executive and Career Coach, and Founder of the Career Advisory Services practice with The MBA Exchange, which serves pre-MBAs through MBA graduates, particularly those focused on career change and pursuing career passions. Formerly, as Associate Director of Career Management at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Pam guided hundreds of students and alumni on their job search. She holds an MBA from Chicago Booth and has 17 years experience in management consulting and financial management. She also serves as a faculty member at North Park University’s School of Business and Non-Profit Management in Chicago.