I’ve spent the last decade attending MBA career conferences: first as a student, then as a company recruiter, and finally as a career coach for Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. Over the years, I’ve witnessed three mistakes that MBA candidates consistently make that thwart their chances for success.
This guide will help you maximize your experience at a career conference and leave with an employment offer.
Craft your personal narrative (A.K.A “The Elevator Pitch”)
When you set foot into a conference showroom, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. There will be hundreds of companies, thousands of MBA candidates, and long lines gathering at each company’s booth. In these crowded forums, your elevator pitch is the single most important thing you can prepare to be successful. It is the first gate you must pass in order to advance and gain consideration for a role.
Your elevator pitch must clearly communicate who you are, what you want, why you want it, and what you bring to the table. The tricky part is communicating this information both conversationally and concisely. Resist the urge to talk too fast and save the long soliloquies for Shakespeare. This is about the discipline of essential communication. Once you’ve crafted your pitch, try it out on a few people.
At Goizueta, we host workshops for MBA students to craft and practice their pitches and receive real-time feedback. Whatever practice method you choose, make sure you’ve said your pitch out loud before you attend a conference.
Distinguish yourself with company research
This is going to sound obvious, but you must have a baseline understanding of the company you’re interacting with. I can’t tell you how many candidates wait for 30 minutes to get to the front of the line, and then ask “So, what roles does your company offer?”
Showing a company representative that you have not done research is a sure way to end up in the “no” pile of resumes. Do company research before the conference; company websites and Google News searches are good places to start. When you finally get in front of a recruiter, ask questions that reflect your research in order to distinguish yourself.
Don’t miss the early bird advantage
If you can discipline yourself to start preparing early for the conference, you may be able to bypass the long lines at a company’s booth. A select group of students comes to career conferences with interviews already booked because they applied to roles in advance. Company representatives typically review early applications at a minimum of two weeks out, so they can set the interview schedule before the conference.
Yes, they leave interview spots open for candidates they meet in person, but why not avoid the stress of the line altogether by securing an interview early.
Final thoughts on how to maximize your MBA conference experience
You’ve done the necessary preparation and are ready to show up at the conference like a rock star. Don’t blow your chances on a foolish mistake. Nothing feels worse than bombing an interview because you didn’t invest the proper time preparing.
Also, there is the baseline expectation that you wear the appropriate professional attire and send thank you notes after an interview. Reach out to your school’s career center in advance to get resources so you are adequately prepared.
Finally, remember why you wanted to get your MBA – this is the time to change the trajectory of your career. Make sure you check-in with yourself and make decisions based on what’s important. This experience is about you, but it’s also about building relationships. Your network is one of the biggest assets you will ever have.
Make sure you take the time to make authentic connections. Sometimes it’s not about success in the moment, but the longer-term value of interactions. Learn how to enjoy the journey and appreciate the people you meet along the way.
Monique Jackson is an Associate Director in the MBA Career Management Center at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. In addition to being a career coach, Monique is also a certified health coach and a speaker that specializes in helping high-achievers on the path to burnout to reclaim their vitality and find the work that inspires them. Prior to starting her coaching career, Monique had a career in brand management and earned her MBA from Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC Chapel Hill.