How business school helps with a job-hunt

ASK people who are currently studying an MBA what their top priority is and they will almost all tell you that it’s finding a job after they graduate. Always true, perhaps, but more so at the moment when the economic future remains uncertain. We asked four recent MBA graduates how they used their time and the resources of their MBA school to land their jobs.

SLAVKA KABAKCHIEVA
GRADUATED FROM FULL-TIME MBA AT IESE IN 2010 AND CURRENTLY WORKING FOR HAVAS MEDIA IN SPAIN.
The main objective for most people doing an MBA is to get a well-paid job at the end of it, but far more important is to find out exactly what you want this job to be.

Once you have that sorted your job search is focused and efficient and you save a lot of time. A number of my classmates spent long hours writing cover letters and crafting CVs, but their efforts were not targeted and many ended up frustrated.

I went to only one career fair while at IESE. It was helpful to see who is out there and recruiting MBAs, but the company presentations tend to be too vague to be of any real value.

In a couple of cases, when they had the right people presenting, it truly made a difference, but overall they can be a bit samey, and the effect is no better than reading the landing webpage of the company.

The alumni network was a very useful job-search tool for me. The Career Services department has a database of former IESE students, which is a good starting point.

Let’s say you want to go into advertising in Peru: they can find for you everybody involved in either advertising, or Peru, or both.

My fellow students were probably the best resource, however. Graduating classes at IESE are small; people get to know each other well and are warm and generous in their interactions. That’s an important aspect that sets us apart from the big MBA schools.

The Career Service’s contacts are useful, but not as much as the people with whom you’ve shared two years of classrooms, academic victories and sleepless nights.

MARTIN CORIAT
GRADUATED FROM THE FULL-TIME MBA CLASS AT INSEAD IN 2008 AND WORKS FOR FRENCH INSURANCE COMPARISON WEBSITE LELYNX.FR.
When I graduated in 2008 I saw that the alumni network can be really helpful for finding a job in turbulent economic times. In the good times the McKinseys and Goldman Sachses of this world all come to campus, but when things are harder you need more help. The alumni network can help you understand what niches there are.

For example, all a lot of people know about investment banking is that there are a lot of jobs in M&A or IPOs, but there are plenty of other opportunities, and alumni who have worked in that industry can help you identify them. The alumni and the diverse classmates are also great for research; you can go up to somebody in the cafeteria and say: “I hear you used to work for BP” and talk to them about it.

I got a job with Admiral, who I met at a careers fair. There are several INSEAD Alumni in the Admiral Group – a school like INSEAD is good for companies that are looking to expand internationally, because you can go and find an Indian and the same morning an American or a French person.

I used the careers service too, because I could go and ask them about the company and they could tell me what it was like.

RONAN MORRISSEY
GRADUATED FROM THE FULL-TIME MBA AT WARWICK BUSINESS SCHOOL IN 2010 AND WORKS AT BARCLAYS BANK
I was an engineer at Intel prior to my MBA and my objective for doing an MBA was to change my career. The careers service at WBS was fantastic: for the first term they had regular sector overviews where leading experts from a range of sectors such as finance, energy, manufacturing or the public sector would come in and do Q&A sessions about the opportunities in their sectors. That was phenomenally useful for me, in finding out what sectors I might be able to go and work in, because coming from the background I did, I just didn’t know.

They also had lots of CV sessions, and people came in and talked about dealing with psychometric tests and assessment centres. At WBS I also had a dedicated careers consultant who I could talk to about where I wanted to go and how to best tackle that.

They knew exactly what was going on with my job hunt because they were with me all the way along. They helped me decide what areas I wanted to focus on and were helping me apply for the jobs. That was a phenomenal help to me during my career search.

The alumni network was incredibly useful too. I got to talk to some really senior people at various companies who had previously been at WBS. In fact some current students have already been in touch with me. All the students also told each other where they might have useful contacts, which is a great help.

I’d say you spend about 30-40 per cent of your time on the job-hunt. It worked for me – I’ve managed to change location, job and sector, what they call the triple jump.

PETER LAWLESS
COMPLETED THE FULL-TIME MBA AT CASS IN 2009 AND WORKS AT ESAB HOLDINGS

One day a week at Cass was set aside for career development and I spent a lot of that time in workshops – they were about things like dealing with interviews, and they were run by psychologists. They helped me understand leadership and organisational behaviour but mostly they helped me understand myself and what I might be suited to.

It’s only when you get to know your own personal traits that you can know where you want to go. Having worked in sales, I had always had this perspective that you had to put on a false persona to impress people, but I learned that you have to be yourself.

For the interview workshops we were filmed and then watched ourselves back and you see all the nervous habits you have. That is always very embarrassing and I have tried to learn from that.

Having people come in and give talks was very instructive too. A lot of them were pretty forthright; for example people from financial services came in and said that you probably can’t get a job unless you have financial services experience already, which I think really focused people’s minds on what they were going to do. One of the best things about the course was getting to know yourself better, and what you might realistically expect to do.