MBA Career Advice: Are You Inadvertently Limiting Your Post-MBA Options?

In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews. 

This past Sunday, the New York Times published an article by Ben Carpenter entitled “Is Your Student Prepared for Life?”—a compelling call to action for parents and colleges to engage students more actively in career management to help solve the problems of unemployment and underemployment. You may be wondering why we are bringing this piece to your attention. After all, our readers are pre-MBAs, MBA students, and newly minted MBAs, most of whom could not possibly be old enough to be parents of college-age “kids.” So, again, what gives? Well, Carpenter is addressing an issue that affects not just college students but also students at every level and indeed almost every person—the question of “What will I do post-graduation?”

In his call to action, Carpenter writes, “Career training must start early because getting students to decide what job they want—and teaching them how to thoroughly research that job, get internships and conduct a job search for a full-time position—is not a quick or easy task.” Indeed, this is true for students in any program, but especially those in business school.

Yes, we said especially those in business school! “Why is that?” you ask. The reason is that at business school, many recruiters are hoping to determine your fate. Carpenter worries about the joblessness that can result from a college student’s lack of planning, but emerging MBAs should not have trouble finding jobs. Instead, you should worry about being sucked into the wrong job because of a lack of planning.

After laboring through the GMAT and the grueling MBA admissions process, most admitted business school students assume that they are on easy street and that everything will just fall into place once recruiting starts. Many imagine themselves enjoying a buffet of jobs, just waiting to choose the right one. Few truly understand that when that buffet arrives at their door, so too will the recruiters, badgering them to choose their “dish” right away or lose the chance to ever have it again.

Let us move past the metaphors. MBA recruiting starts early at most schools, often just a few weeks into the school year. Some MBA programs allow recruiters to extend summer internship offers to first-year students within the first 120 days of the program, and many firms select their full-time hires from their pool of summer interns, meaning that those 120 days can determine your future. Clearly, MBA recruiting happens fast. In the end, some students will find themselves wondering, “Why did I accept this offer? I came to school to get out of consulting!” Others might be thinking, “I wish I hadn’t followed the banking herd!” Some will definitely say, “I can’t wait to get started—I am on my way to my dream job!” We would never deny that reality, and in fact, we congratulate the students in that position! But if you want to avoid going through the process passively, just choosing from whichever positions are ultimately offered to you, you must first define what you want and then pursue your dream job in a disciplined manner.

College and MBA educations are huge commitments, not just in terms of money, but also in terms of time. In return for your investment and hard work, you deserve to get the job that will launch a meaningful career after you graduate. We cannot offer blanket advice that will help everyone reach that point, but we do offer a free 30-minute consultation to at least start you on your way. We challenge you to define the position you seek before recruiting begins and be ready to pursue it determinedly. Your reward will be… fulfillment.

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