It goes without saying that for the vast majority of MBA students, the primary goal is to get a great job after graduation.
A job certainly isn’t something that is handed to you when you get your diploma, but there are concrete steps you can take to maximize your chances. Here are five things you can do, starting right now, to get the best job you can after you graduate.
1. Start early
It’s never too early to start the process.
Thinking about your motivations for pursuing an MBA, and considering what you want to do after you finish, is a good way to start, even before you apply to MBA programs.
And indeed, many business schools can help with this process, even before you set foot on campus.
“We try to engage with our students right from the minute they apply for the program,” says Sue Thorn, the director of “CareerPlus,” the career development department at Warwick Business School.
Before they start the program, students enrolling in the MBA at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management participate in a series of self-assessment activities that are designed to help them analyze their strengths and prepare for their career search.
“It's really helpful for students to do a lot of self-reflection and engagement in research on career choices prior to actually coming into their MBA program,” says Angela Petrucco, the assistant dean for career services at Whitman. Because once you start an MBA, having clear career goals will help you make important decisions, such as which electives to take and which networking events to attend.
Starting early has the added benefit of helping to narrow down your MBA search. For instance, if you know you want to work in the United States after graduation, you might decide to focus on US-based business schools, rather than those in other countries.
2. Know yourself
“For any individual, the first step in successfully managing a career is knowing what you want, and if you have the skills needed to get it,” according to Yvonne Li, the director of admissions and career services at China’s CEIBS.
Indeed, knowing what you can offer to potential employers can help you hone your career path. But it’s also about knowing what you want out of a job, as well as what workplace aspects you’re not prepared to compromise on.
According to Warwick’s Sue Thorn, a prospective MBA should ask herself, “If I had a blank piece of paper, what would my starting point be? What would my ideal role be?”
To do this, there are a variety of tools, such as the Keirsey personality assessment test and other career assessment tests, which can be helpful.
3. Set realistic career goals
Armed with a better sense of self-awareness, you can start thinking about what you want to be doing after you finish your MBA. Take somebody who has been working as a scientist, for example. The scientist might ask herself what her assets and transferable skills are.
The scientist might decide that, based on her interests and having accrued a set of analytical skills in her work, she might be best equipped to go into marketing, or perhaps another quant-heavy field like finance.
For some students, it can be challenging to think outside of the box.
“I think one of the biggest challenges,” says Warwick’s Sue Thorn, “is following their own career path rather than following the crowd.”
“It's quite easy to get swept up in thinking that, 'oh, everyone is applying for investment banking or consulting, perhaps I should do that.’”
In this sense, it’s important to research a number of different career paths and even meet with people working in a variety of different fields, in order to get a sense of what’s out there.
4. Leverage internships and other hands-on experiences
For many MBA students, internships are one of the most effective ways to land a job. Indeed, according to a recent corporate recruiters survey from GMAC, some 85 percent of the surveyed companies who had MBA interns last year ended up offering full-time positions to these individuals.
This is because many companies see the internship almost like an “extended interview” where you can actually prove your worth on the fly.
But perhaps more importantly, an internship can be used to add skills to beef-up your profile.
For example, Whitman’s MBA students can take advantage of consulting projects with real companies, where “they're applying the business skills that they're learning in the classroom to real-life problems, and they're gaining experience that they didn't have prior,” according to Angela Petrucco.
5. Stand out by taking advantage of b-school resources
All legitimate business schools have some kind of career services support. This can include everything from leadership-development seminars to networking events.
Networking, in particular, can be a great way to generate career ideas and find job leads.
Networking can start early on in your studies. For instance, each September, CEIBS’ career development center organizes a “Career Exploration Day” for incoming students.
“We invite business leaders/CEIBS alumni to share their expertise on various industries/functions, individual career planning and job searching strategies,” according to Yvonne Li.
Many career services departments will also help with the nuts and bolts of the job search process: the resume prep, the cover letters, and even the interviews. According to Angela Petrucco, staff at Whitman’s career center will do one-on-one mock interviews with MBA students; and students even have the option of using an online system to record their interviews and review them later.
These and other resources are there for every MBA student, and taking advantage of them during your program will help give you a leg-up during your job search. Because landing a job, in the end, is about more than just the degree.
“Most recruiters post-MBA are not just looking for someone who gets high academic marks,” says Warwick’s Sue Throne, so “take as many opportunities as you can to meet as many people, and really embrace everything that the MBA can offer you.”
“Because what you're trying to do is stand out, rather than just say that you have an MBA.”
- Header: "Curating Job Interview Questions" by Laura Pasquini / Flickr (cropped)
- "Careers and Guidance" by Andrew Bowden (Flickr)
- "California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Lincoln Park/34th Avenue, San Francisco, California, The Thinker (Le Penseur) by Auguste Rodin" by Andreas Praefcke / Creative Commons (cropped)
- "The grindstone" by Kathryn Decker / Creative Commons
- "Workforce 2011 Job Fair @ Blaisdell Center" by Daniel Ramirez / Flickr
I didn't have the luxury of doing an internship during my MBA, but I, and quite a few of my fellow students, landed jobs via on-campus interviews.