In this new blog series, our mbaMission Career Coaches offer invaluable advice and industry-related news 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. To schedule a free half-hour consultation with one of our mbaMission Career Coaches, click here.
Congratulations on your acceptance to business school! Take some time to celebrate this exciting accomplishment, but do not forget to spend some time preparing for the recruiting process before you arrive on campus.
Having worked with hundreds of MBA applicants over the years, we wanted to share five key preparation steps that will help you hit the ground running and excel in the recruiting process:
Step 1: Engage in thoughtful self-discovery to understand your professional interests and skills. This takes time and requires you to be introspective about what drives your satisfaction and motivates you. Here are a few recommended activities to help you identify your career goals:
- Use CareerLeader. Developed by two Harvard professors, this online assessment tool analyzes your interests, skills, and values to identify potential career matches. It can be an excellent catalyst for contemplating what is really important to you in your career.
- Create an Excel spreadsheet with the following information: name of previous employers/roles, what you liked most about each role, what you liked least about each role, what you learned in each role, and why you left. Review and analyze your notes for trends and themes in your interests and skills as well as in the type of work or work environment you desire.
- Review each bullet on your resume. Write down the skills you used for the tasks/accomplishments described in each bullet. Analyze your findings for any themes or key insights. Look at both the type of work you want to do and the skills you want to use.
Step 2: Learn about jobs that match your interests, and make a list of eight to ten potential target companies. A number of resources can help you with this step; try the following:
- Read our mbaMission Career Primers. We cover such jobs as investment banking, asset management, marketing, real estate, tech, and consulting.
- Review the LinkedIn profiles of people who have your target roles. Analyze their previous positions, accomplishments to date, and skills. Before you sleuth around LinkedIn, be sure to turn off notifications so people will not see that you have viewed their profiles (look under privacy settings).
- Educate yourself on your target industry, companies, and products. Read trade publications (e.g., TechCrunch, Shop.org, GMA SmartBrief); many of these are available as free email newsletters.
- Consider whether you have other ways of gaining the necessary skills for your target role(s) before starting business school. Perhaps pursue a pre-MBA internship or an online class? Perhaps volunteer for a task force or a new assignment at work?
Step 3: Define your personal brand. Use the following ideas to brainstorm how to talk about yourself in a compelling way to your target audience:
- Write down your six to eight biggest accomplishments, and look at what those accomplishments say about you, your skills, your motivators, and your interests.
- Talk to current colleagues about their perceptions of you and your value add.
- Draft a one- to two-sentence “headline” about who you are and what you would bring to your target role.
- Update your resume and LinkedIn profile to appeal to your target audience. Read our blog for tips about resume and LinkedIn profile writing.
Step 4: Learn about the recruiting process for your target companies. Consider the following actions:
- Make a list of questions you want answered, and figure out the best venues for obtaining your desired information.
- Attend your target school’s “welcome weekend” and talk with students who interned in your area of interest. Learn about the support available from your school’s career services department and professional student clubs.
- Connect with friends who are already attending business school to learn about their recruiting experiences.
- If you have told your employer about your plans to attend business school, talk with current colleagues who are MBA alumni about their MBA recruiting experiences.
- Read the “Careers” section on your target companies’ Web sites. Look into and apply to pre-MBA programs or fellowships offered by your target firms.
Step 5: Update your network on your plans to attend business school and your career goals. Tackle the following steps:
- Make a list of all your friends, former/current colleagues, mentors, and business school recommenders. Include where these contacts work and where they have worked in the past, as well as any particular areas of knowledge or expertise. Consider with whom it makes sense to reconnect for a career conversation.
- Look at your network on LinkedIn and see who your connections know. Ask for warm introductions and/or seek individuals’ advice on your career goals.
- Prepare for these conversations. Are you seeking information, advice, or referrals? How do you want to talk about yourself? Check out our advice on networking elsewhere on our blog.
Have you been admitted to business school? If so, do you want to get a head start on defining your career goals? Do you need help preparing for job interviews or learning how to effectively network with your target employers? Or maybe you want to be a top performer in your current role but are unsure how to maximize your potential. Let an mbaMission Career Coach help via a free 30-minute consultation!