Three hundred and forty-eight days. That’s how long it took me to find a job after my MBA. Which also happens to be the number of times I was asked, “How come you don’t have a job yet? What’s taking so long?” (Cue eye roll.)
I embarked on my MBA journey almost two years ago (more if you count the countless hours spent studying for the dreaded GMAT), and if I am being completely honest, I went into the MBA not really knowing what I wanted out of it. I was a “soul-searcher” — a term coined by our then-dean at IE Business School. Surprisingly, I wasn’t the only one. As expected, there were many students who had very clear visions of where they wanted to go; whether it was a promotion at an existing company, taking over a family business or networking into a specific job in a specific company, these students were razor-focused on their goals. However, a good number of students came into the MBA with no clear endgame — and when you don’t have a clear endgame, your job search tends to take much longer. Unfortunately, the success stories we often hear are not about these students.
I quickly realized that an MBA is about more than just gaining a basic knowledge of the business world. The biggest lessons I learned had little to do with what my professors were lecturing about. But I digress — let me get back to the question at hand: Why did it take me so long to find a job?
I’ve thought about this long and hard over the last few months and I’ll start by saying that there is no ideal timing for finding a job post-MBA. We’re made to believe (and sometimes even promised) that we will have jobs right after graduation, or even before, but that’s not always the case — nor is it always the best option. Some of my fellow MBAs started working during the MBA, some shortly after; some really hate what they’re doing, some love it, and some have already switched jobs. Others have gone on to start their own businesses, or have gone back to previous companies — and yes, some are still looking. But none is unsuccessful. They’re all just on different paths of success.
As I said, my biggest lessons during the MBA didn’t occur in the classroom. The year after I graduated was the perfect year to take a step back from my life, my routine, my career, and think critically about what I wanted — and I don’t just mean what job I wanted. The more important question was, What kind of a life did I want? I took the time to do a lot of self-reflection and to understand what really matters to me, and I asked myself time and time again, What makes me happy? Over the course of the year I was able to build a much clearer picture of what I wanted. This picture wasn’t driven by a company name, title, or salary. It went beyond, and it painted the type of life I want to have and the type of person I want to be.
I realized that who I work with is more important than the role I have. Now, that doesn’t mean I want to be stuck in a job I hate but surrounded by great people — of course not. What it means is that I am interested in companies and people that I feel share my values and support my life plans; later in my search I looked for positions that also would be a fit for my skills and interests. I researched like never before, cold-messaging and calling contacts to find out about their experiences, and trying to build an understanding of what kind of working environment I would be dealing with before applying or going for interviews. This allowed me to focus my search, while also building a network of like-minded people.
Whether baking a cake or looking for a job, timing is everything. Even after figuring out my priorities and finding great companies, timing is what dictated a lot of my search. Whether it was fiscal year-end, waiting on a new project or budget approvals, these were all elements that influenced the hiring process and which I could not control — and I often found that frustrating. But I patiently waited and, as promised, good things did eventually come.
Many will be surprised to know that the job I currently have is not the first that I was offered … nor the second. The first, though an amazing opportunity to work in a noble field, didn’t fit my life priorities; it would have taken me even farther away from my family, which was not something I was wiling to sacrifice. The second, a consulting position many MBAs would do anything for, was not a good fit, and though the work may have been interesting and the prospects bright, I couldn’t see myself working productively with the team.
The third (and final!) offer came after several months of phone calls and interviews. I knew it was a good fit right away: The company aligned with my personal and professional values, and the role would provide me with enough challenges to keep me on my toes. It was also in a location that would bring me closer to home and family. It was what I had been searching for, and the timing eventually worked itself out.
Most importantly, though I really like the job I have, what I love is the life it allows me to have.
Every MBA graduate has a different path to success post-MBA, and what you get out of it can be completely different than what your classmate does. But that doesn’t mean one is more or less successful, or more or less happy, for that matter. If you’re still searching, know that it will one day come; if you know someone who is searching, resist the urge to ask them, “Why don’t you have a job yet?” Don’t worry, they’ll tell you when they do.
Ewelina Krzyzanowska is a 2016 IE Business School graduate, currently living and pursuing her personal and professional dreams in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Always choosing the road less travelled and constantly searching to improve, Ewelina brings that passion to her current challenge in the retail industry. This article was originally published at LinkedIn.