Congratulations—you have been accepted to your target business school, so you are one step closer to realizing your professional goals. But this is no time to rest on your laurels! In fact, the work of finding and securing your dream job is just beginning.
When MBA orientation begins in August, it will be an exciting (and intense) time packed with opportunities and activities. You will be meeting new people, acclimating to studying again, learning about your school’s career resources, and exploring a new city. Amid this flurry of activity, finding time to reflect on your job goals and to create a plan to achieve them will be challenging. So the key is to start now!
Arriving on campus with a clear idea of the role you want to pursue, a resume already tailored to that role, and a list of eight to ten target companies means you will be able to immediately engage with and make a positive impression on employers. You will also have less need to attend information sessions, club events, and employer briefings that do not relate to your career goals. This will free up valuable time in your schedule, which you can then use to focus more on your classes, enjoy social events, and pursue all the other interesting opportunities your MBA program has to offer.
So what is the best way of accomplishing all this? We have devised a four-phase plan for doing the kind of career-focused groundwork that will position you for success from day one of your MBA experience.
Phase 1: Figure out what you want.
To begin, you will need to be introspective about what drives your satisfaction and motivates you. Start by writing down the name of each of your previous employers and the role you held at each company. Next, note what you liked most about each role, what you liked least, what you learned in each one, and why you ultimately left. Then, carefully review and analyze your notes to pinpoint key trends and themes. Reviewing each bullet point on your resume is a great way to identify your proven skills and knowledge and to reflect on which activities and responsibilities you liked most and least.
Phase 2: Research your primary areas of interest.
Take the time now, while you still have some to spare, to educate yourself about your target industry, potential employers within it, and their services and products, as well as how the MBA recruiting process typically works. Read industry guides such as mbaMission’s free Career Primers—which cover such industries as investment banking, asset management, marketing, real estate, tech, and consulting—to better understand the kinds of roles MBAs often enter and what those positions entail. Once you have decided on your target roles, review the LinkedIn profiles of people in those positions, paying particular attention to these individuals’ previous jobs, accomplishments, and skills. Connect with friends (and friends of friends) who work in your area of interest to discuss the realities of the job in more detail.
To become better acquainted with relevant firms, read trade publications and industry resources such as TechCrunch, Shop.org, and CB Insights, and review target companies’ websites. You can even set up Google Alerts on the firms that interest you most to stay abreast of company news and developments.
Phase 3: Master your professional story.
To best prepare yourself for job interviews, you must determine how you will talk about your interests, experiences, and strengths in a way that will be clear and compelling to your target audience. First, based on your understanding of the key qualifications for your desired role, identify and write down your six to eight most relevant experiences and accomplishments, both personal and professional. Consider what these experiences say about you, your skills, your motivations, and your interests. Also, talk to your current colleagues about how they perceive you as an employee and the value you add to the firm.
Phase 4: Update your resume and LinkedIn profile.
Find out whether your MBA program has a required resume template, and if so, convert your resume into that format. Make sure to highlight skills and achievements that are relevant to your target audience and to quantify the impact you had in your past roles. Indicate on your LinkedIn profile that you will soon be an MBA student, and be sure to share this news with individuals in your network as well.
Employers seek candidates who know what they want and why they want it, and who can articulate how they will contribute to the hiring organization. Completing the tasks we have outlined before you get caught up in the excitement and workload of your MBA experience will give you a distinct advantage in meeting these employer expectations and help you excel in the recruitment process. You will likely secure more interviews and will perform better in those interviews, thus increasing your odds of landing your desired internship and giving you a greater return on your MBA investment. In addition, it will give you more time to bond with your classmates and make great memories. So take steps now to set yourself up for success!