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.
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?