Recruiting Testimonials – Nick Johnson, Stern ’15
Recruiting Testimonials are submitted by prospective, current, and alumni MBAs. They offer firsthand experiences with the business school recruiting process and practical advice on how to navigate it successfully.
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B-school recruiting: on one hand it brings up some of the few unfond memories of my two years at Stern. On the other, it was a new kind of challenge for us fresh-faced MBAs, and the typical type-A business student is not one to back down from a challenge. I tried to do my best to polish my networking skills, confirm my career ambitions, and (of course) position myself to land an internship, but there are certainly a few things I wish I’d known before I started. If I had to bucket them into a top 3, they’d probably go as follows:
1) Knowing your goals is a goal unto itself
OK, so this didn’t actually apply to me post B school enrollment. I was 90% set on management consulting coming in, and the internal roles I applied to were all very consulting-like. That doesn’t mean that everyone feels like this, or that they should. Think of your career goals at a high level. Not, “I want to be a strategy consultant,” but instead, “I want to work on transformational projects that have direct impact on an organization’s strategic direction.” Or even simpler, “I enjoy working with numbers and have a talent for quantitative thinking; I want a career that leverages these skills.” You’ll be surprised what you find, but the caveat is that a wider net takes time to cast. Try and set a timeline for yourself to nail down a list of target companies or job functions and really dig into them by mid-October/early November depending on the respective recruiting schedules. Deciding to make a late switch? It may be possible, and you should leverage your classmates that are deeper in recruiting to understand how possible this may be (e.g. for banking, probably a no-no.) No one is holding you to that “What I will do with my MBA” essay, and the world is your oyster; just don’t let any opportunities slip by on the intense path that starts early on.
2) No one person is a company, and no company is one person.
Some start-ups are close to exceptions here, but this is more guidance than a rule and probably more for bigger firms and corporations. You’ll meet a lot of people at corporate presentations, happy hours, coffee chats, and through your program’s alumni network. Some connections will be great. You’ll have common professional and non-professional interests and really hit it off. These folks can be your go-to resources to learn about life at Company X, and they’ll likely offer to make introductions based on your interests. Take them up on that and get to know organizations on a deeper level to get a feel for how and where you fit. You’ll also meet people you don’t like, that won’t give you the time, and will be doing recruiting to “check a box” for their performance reviews. Don’t be discouraged and write a company off based on these. Attend a few more events, look in your LinkedIn network outside campus recruiting for folks to talk to. In a personal story, I was really iffy on one firm until I talked to a friend’s sister who quickly dispelled some of the perceptions I had formed. She helped me make contacts off the recruiting trail and the firm sky-rocketed to the top of my list. It’s totally fine to keep a mental force ranking, as you probably did with B–schools, but write that list in mental-pencil and keep it fluid.
3) Your career center is an asset, but don’t make it a liability.
I cannot say enough here about how awesome and helpful the people in Stern’s Office of Career Development (or OCD… fitting no?) are. They are so attentive, available, and knowledgeable, and I’m sure the folks at offices for other schools are as well. I went on to work for them as an MBA2 and develop a number of close relationships with the folks in OCD as the president of our Management Consulting Association. That being said, they send and control so much material and knowledge students got bogged down at times feeling like they had to report every move to OCD and that is… well, obsessive. You’ll probably have some mandatory tasks, like a resume review; DO THEM. From there, ask yourself what really helps. Sign up for sessions that answer your questions and seem relevant, but maybe take a pass on others that are more passing interests in favor of (actually) studying or getting some sleep. Develop strong connections with 1-2 folks in the office early on and get to know the others when your summer or full time are tied down and you can breathe again. With a few minor exceptions that shouldn’t take up much time, remember that these offices are one of many resources and you need to think how high or low touch you need to be to best achieve your goals.
Sounds simple right? No? Well it’s not. No matter what you are recruiting for there is so much to do and it can be tough to organize and focus, especially when the payoff of an offer letter feels far into the future. Remember this is your MBA and your only shot at it. Don’t take any approach to be a prescription and take all advice with a grain of salt. Most importantly though is to lean on your classmates and let them lean on you. It’s a tough time, but there is plenty of B school fun to be had throughout and as a reward for successful recruiting.