Cosimo outlined some tactical steps for research: 1) List out the careers of interest, 2) Speak to alumni in those careers – find out about “the day in the life,” and 3) Prioritize the list, cross off what is not a great fit, and later, stick to this list during your recruiting activities.
- Consider Paths to Achieve Goals: There is no one way to make a career journey. A long-term interest in becoming a CEO has many pathways and options. Management consulting builds great skills, corporate rotational programs give general management experience, and if you want to focus for example, on industries that value marketing, maybe brand management should be pursued. Options – Think about these to determine what the right path is for you.
Heather pointed out a couple things she did. “I knew I wanted a corporate role and had a longer-term interest in turnaround work. Over the summer, I researched Michigan’s job database, identified who recruited on campus and for what roles, and found contacts at those firms and spoke to them. This was really helpful to do some advance planning and to begin mapping out how my internship would get me on the right path for my career goals.”
- Prepare for Specific Careers: Thinking about Marketing? Read Ad Age. Finance on your radar? Pickup and really read the Wall Street Journal. What do consultants do? Check out cases and white papers by the firms from their website. Not sure about that summer reading list? Between magazines, newspapers, and endless business books, it should not be hard to put together.
“I tell students during our admit weekend (usually the April timeframe),” offers Alfred Cho, Ross MBA Class of 2011, “the schools have great resources to guide your summer prep. Look at the curriculum and review courses for the career path you are considering. Talk to second-year MBAs and reach out over the summer. It helps with understanding different careers and eventually, your interviews will include technical or industry specific questions where you need to be well versed. Starting early has huge payback.”
- Determine what Makes You Tick – The value of understanding what you like doing and what you are good at has tremendous value in the job search. You can filter options and avoid unnecessary efforts when this is clear. It is easy to get swept up with what your classmates are doing, the lure of what “sounds” great, or what you “think” is the right career. One ingredient for success comes from being energized about what you are doing.
Heather Dobbins, Ross MBA Class of 2009 reflected on her recruiting approach. She says, “I wish I had spent more time reviewing and thinking about the diagnostic tests I took over the summer. I should have sat down with a career coach to get input on these. I could have been more proactive in thinking about the career function where I would be successful AND really enjoy my work. Instead, I looked at cool companies – I should have evaluated more thoroughly the culture, fit, and role to be sure I was pursuing what was right for me.”
- Get Ready: I offer some tactical advice. Spend time updating your resume. Gather your most important professional accomplishments – MBA resumes really focus on this. Determine your best approach to organization and time management. You will appreciate it when the calendar starts to fill up.
The Ultimate Benefit of Advance Preparation
Most important: This was conveyed by all the MBAs I spoke with – Focus. Know your career goals and generate focus before the hustle and bustle of business school begins. The wave of your classmates going in one direction can sweep you up or pull you under – advance thinking helps you swim strongly and progress forward based on what is best for you.
Beni expressed this: “Be focused. Go for what you want. Know what you like, and know what you’re good at. Don’t settle for less than what you want, but be open-minded at the same time. Don’t waste your time with places where you feel you may be miserable, just because other people think these places are prestigious or pay a lot. It’s not worth it.”
The value of focus: You are better prepared, more convincing, and a little (or a lot) less exhausted. The result: You are more likely to get the job you want that is right for you.
Business schools publish the recruiting calendar on the career website – take a look at this for your program. Prepare in advance and make the most of this time. You are energized and excited about attending business school – become well informed and ready to put that energy towards the right things to position you for success in the job search. Bzzzz…This time, it’s the recruiter sending great news!
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 searches. 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.