12 Most Valuable Lessons for New MBA Grads

12 Most Valuable Lessons for New MBA Grads

In 2008-9 it might have seemed like a good idea to go for an MBA. The fine luster imparted by an MBA from a good school has revived many a stalled career; for those recent college grads with a history major, the extra degree is a necessity. There just aren’t that many things you can do with a history degree, even one from a top-notch school. So an MBA provides the focus, management skills, and a certain real-world maturity of thought necessary to join corporate America.

However, like recently-minted lawyers, who have some of the worst job prospects out there to go with their staggering debt (a study from Northwestern University indicates more than 15,000 attorney and legal staff positions have been eliminated since 2008) new MBA grads are entering an incredibly tight, competitive job market. The much-talked about “green” jobs have not materialized; salaries, if you find a job, are flat or down from 2010 numbers, as are signing bonuses.

With all this data pointing to a tough road ahead, I thought it would be useful to assemble 12 of the most useful tips for recent MBA grads.

1. Stay optimistic

According to a press release from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business “…optimists spend less time and effort searching for jobs and receive offers more quickly. And once in the working world, optimists are more likely to be promoted than their pessimistic peers in the first two years on the job.” Pollyanna, here we come.

2. Forget about those “green” jobs for a while

While businesses in that market may need your help, jobs focused on ‘sustainability’ are rare. Skills in demand include finance, supply and logistics and market research; look for jobs there and when you’re in, add sustainability initiatives to your list of to-dos.

3. Focus on segments where hiring remains consistent

Sectors which continued hiring through the recession include health care, education and government. Arguably all could use strong leaders. Look for internships in these fields and be prepared to describe how you could help these businesses improve operations and manage profitably.

4. Make the job you can find work for you

If you can’t find the exact job you want, think about that ideal job and narrow in on the attributes you seek from an employer (C- level access, travel, collaboration, analysis, and fiscal responsibility, for example). Then look for ways to bring those skills to bear on your current job – or the best available job.

5. Look somewhere unexpected for employment

You might want to work for a Fortune 100 company but believe it or not, working as a manager in a start-up, non-profit, retail or food service can provide you with life skills while it tests your leadership skills.

6. Look for ways to combine your BA/BS and MBA skills

To attract employers, market your combined skills from both degrees. For example, history grads have a sense of perspective that may be lacking in, say, process engineering. Take advantage of everything you know!

7. Join a Talent community (or two)

Workplace culture (“fit”) is becoming more important, pre-hire; it’s less about where you went to school and more about how you think. Take the top 10 companies you’d like to work for and seek out on-line communities built around them. Most big companies are building out Talent Communities now – get in early.

8. Network like mad

Once you’ve narrowed in on what type of job/employer you want, find events they are hosting in your geo and go. You’ll quickly see which employers are the best fit.

9. Use social media

Build a LinkedIn profile and update your skills or some part of the profile monthly. Seek out thought leaders in your areas of interest and comment on their blogs. Tweet relevant news articles – and be sure to make a smart observation to show you get it.

10. Volunteer

It’s a great way to build an interesting resume and a better way to make contacts. Big companies still underwrite good causes – look for a volunteer opportunity supported by a company you’d like to work for.

11. Live with your parents (wink)

Seriously. You need to stay current with interest payments on student loans. If the ‘rents will agree, consider this as a tactic to save money, keep your credit score from slipping and earn karma points. Don’t forget to do your own dishes and laundry.

12. Re-set your expectations

I put this last because although it’s not what you don’t want to hear, it’s the best advice I can give. Look around you. People with 20-30 years of work experience are driving cabs and working at the mall. An MBA won’t move you to the head of the line at hiring time. Be humble, be grateful and be pragmatic. You might not get the job offer you want right away, but you do have the power to make any job better if you have the right attitude.

New MBAs, what are you doing to stay positive, focused and an appealing job candidate?

Meghan M. Biro

http://www.meghanmbiro.com/

Meghan M. Biro is a globally recognized leader in talent strategy and a pioneer in building the business case for brand humanization. Founder of TalentCulture and a serial entrepreneur, Meghan creates successful ventures by navigating the complexities of career and workplace branding. In her practice as a social recruiter and strategist, Meghan has placed hundreds of individuals with clients ranging from Fortune 500s to the most innovative software start-up companies in the world, including Google, Microsoft and emerging companies in the social technology and media marketplace. Meghan is an accomplished consultant who has helped hundreds of individuals in all levels in the organization (V,C level executives, mid-career, mid-level managers, software architects and recent college graduates) and across generations (Gen Y to baby boomers), develop effective career strategies that propel them to achieve personal and professional success. Meghan is a speaker, practitioner, author, blogger and mentor who is passionate about the subjects of leadership, recruiting, workplace culture, social community, branding, and social media in HR. She is Founder and co-host of two Twitter Chats: "#TChat, The World of Work", a long-standing weekly chat and radio show and #HRTechChat, both communities dedicated to addressing the business needs of the rapidly evolving people-technology landscape. Meghan is an avid social community builder who is inspired by connecting the people and talent dots. Meghan is a regular columnist at Forbes and Glassdoor and her ideas are often quoted, featured on top publications such as CBS Moneywatch, Monster, Dice and various other HR, Social Media and Leadership hubs of your choice.

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26 comments
thecxguy
thecxguy

As I'm currently an Executive MBA student and job hunter, this was very well timed. I'm really interested in putting #7 and #10 into practice. Can you offer a little more detail as to how one goes about finding those opportunities? Even some examples perhaps

pbehnia
pbehnia

I'd also add... don't beat yourself up. It's easy for anyone (new grad or no) to get discouraged in this environment. Remember you're not the only one out there to keep things in perspective.

YouTernMark
YouTernMark

@KyleHarder Your comment to the 12Most post would make for a great blog, Kyle... would love to post on YouTern!

KyleHarder
KyleHarder

As a current MBA student, I would add one more... start looking for a job EARLY! Think of you're time in school as your opportunity to find the perfect job without actually needing one. Its a rare occurrence where your financial situation can afford you looking for a perfect job. Line up some offers and execute.

YouTernMark
YouTernMark

This is a great post, @MeghanMBiro... and not just for MBA grads; most points are spot on for just about everyone entering the workforce, currently looking for work or re-framing their careers. I particularly like No. 12. Tough (brave) advice, but so realistic -- and an absolute "must hear" in today's marketplace.

MeghanMBiro
MeghanMBiro

@pegfitzpatrick Hi there lady! When will you be near Boston/NYC again? Feel like we keep missing each other #usguys

BruceSallan
BruceSallan

I have an MBA. What it did for me - in MUCH easier times - was get me in the door. The networking side is so important as you wisely point out, Meghan. I used ONE class in my work - statistics - it taught me how the Nielsen ratings worked and no one in TV, where I spent a quarter century, could explain it as well as me!

dbvickery
dbvickery

I am a big fan of "9. Use social media", and I've presented to a few networking groups locally regarding establishing a LinkedIn profile at a minimum. I'll extend one more that I've told my kids as they've grown up: It is a worldwide economy. If you are mentally prepared to work anywhere in the world...you should always be able to find a job and keep a roof over your head.

I do know that a common recommendation for undergrads has been to stay in school and further your education (if you can afford it). There just are not enough jobs out there to go around (unless you extend that search per my suggestion above and go global).

I was just at a recent networking event where a quote was "I'd rather be unemployed in Colorado than employed elsewhere". Uh, that's a problem folks. Social/fiscal responsibility is to make every effort to be gainfully employed.

CareerSearchAM
CareerSearchAM

I think #4 is really important. So often people get set on a very particular job in a certain industry -- but, often many of the things that appealed about that original job can actually be found somewhere you least expected it. A lot of our clients have found themselves in that situation and gone on to say how rewarding and challenging (in a good way!) they found the alternative to be.

margieclayman
margieclayman

What a fabulous post!

I can speak to the History major thing. I think with any advanced degree, you have to be willing to look for a long time or be prepared to create your own opportunities. Like an MBA, the Masters in Library Science I hold seems very niche and specialized, but if you're open to it, you can use the training you have to put your own unique stamp onto any job situation. Just be on the look-out :)

douglaserice
douglaserice

Megan, thanks for the advice! I am halfway through my MBA program and am starting my own content marketing business. Until recently, entrepreneurship never seemed like a viable alternative. As job opportunities have become more scarce, though, I've realized that finding a customer may not be too much more difficult and a little more rewarding than finding a job. My MBA has provided me with very helpful case studies and group projects that I feel are going to benefit me significantly in the near future.

MeghanMBiro
MeghanMBiro

@YouTernMark Thanks Mark! I really appreciate your kudos. I'm a big fan of brave career, business and general life advice. My goal has always been to set realistic expectations to set people up for long term career success. Let's eliminate disappointments in an often challenging "jobs" landscape. Life + Career has it's ups and downs. This is reality. Best to be prepared now.

MeghanMBiro
MeghanMBiro

@KreusslerInc glad you enjoyed! Wondering why my last tweet showed up on my @12most blog post wyour other handle. See post for chuckles ;-)

PegFitzpatrick
PegFitzpatrick

@meghanmbiro Happy Day to you Meghan! We will have to plan another Boston Tweet up soon - hope your day is great!!

MeghanMBiro
MeghanMBiro

@dbvickery Thank you! Nice to connect. Great insight. Yes, #9 using social media is really important now. Even last year many were saying social was a matter of choice. It certainly is still is a choice - I would argue that now it's a stronger reality for every single generation entering or currently in the workforce. So much depends on where individual goals are targeted. People have personal and professional lives to manage and social media complexity factors often weigh in. Careerists are faced with many more choices on a daily basis on how to spend precious time.

The harsh reality of our jobs situation is key to keep in mind - the market has not picked up in several markets that were thought to be back by now. I've heard similiar comments at networking events and conferences in the last few years regarding "great places to be unemployed" - sign of the times for certain.

On a brighter note...the global economy is within reach for every generation. Very exciting news overall.

MeghanMBiro
MeghanMBiro

@CareerSearchAM Exactly! CSAM. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.

Yes - Tip #4 = Use your creatviity when seeking a new shiny role. In today's market career seekers do not have the luxury of being choosy in many cases. Plus, why limit yourself? The only way to really know is.....by doing...and taking on a few risks here and there. Right?

MeghanMBiro
MeghanMBiro

@margieclayman Thanks very much Margie! Appreciate your kind words.

Typically, we are driven naturally towards our major interests (in an ideal world at least). You have a Masters in Library Science? I did not realize this factoid about you. It seems you have transferred your skills quite well. Hmmm. A real life career case study = My favorite.

MeghanMBiro
MeghanMBiro

@danielnewmanUV Did I make you laugh Dan? Awesome news ;-) Valuable feedback on my post too. Thanks much.

I'm a life long learner (daily! as a matter of fact) and a former graduate student so I can speak from my own college and career experience. I'm in the camp of people who hoped Green Jobs would discover solid ground for career seekers and general market growth. Unfortunately, to date there is more hype than reality. I still hold out hope that the sustainability movement will flourish in the future. I never like to oversell to hopeful career seekers. Remaining pragmatic is often the best remedy...personal and community support helps in addition of course.

MeghanMBiro
MeghanMBiro

@douglaserice Hi Doug! So glad you liked this one. Talk about being in the right place in your schooling + life for this content. Entrepreneurship opens up en entire world of new opportunity for considerations. Of course, funding and true commitment is always an important consideration.

I'm curious - what type of case studies have you found to be most helpful?

douglaserice
douglaserice

@MeghanMBiro my most practical class thus far was an information systems class in which there was a new case study each week. One study was about an ad-supported natural remedy healthcare website. It's advertisers we're considering switching to more "credible" medical-based site. The challenge was to convince the advertiser that advertising on the company's "alternative medicine" site was a better investment. The company ended up convincing the advertiser by demonstrating that, though they did not have the reach the scientific site, their readers were more engaged with the content and, consequently, more likely to buy from advertisers. I learned a lot about the importance of depth in customer relations from that case study.

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