So, you graduated with your MBA and have no full-time job waiting for you?
Before we dive right in, let me just congratulate you on earning your MBA degree. I know that it took a large effort on your part, possibly a sacrifice on many levels, and was also stressful, fun, exhausting, and fulfilling. Well done!
Graduation itself was probably a mix of happiness, relief, and even a little sadness because you were saying goodbye to some good friends.
Maybe there was also something else. You knew that many of your classmates had full-time job offers waiting for them in a few weeks or months, while you had/have nothing lined up.
This article is for you.
I am reaching out to you because I was you six years ago. I graduated from Kenan-Flagler Business School (UNC) with an MBA in marketing and had no job waiting for me after graduation. I was a career switcher (Wall St. > Marketing) and despite many parallels between the two career paths, many recruiters and companies were not seeing the connection and instead were only seeing limited marketing experience on my résumé.
Any of this sound familiar?
Also, I know the income is needed. You have expenses, possibly including new student loans. I get it. I moved back home after graduation. I certainly don’t have advice for every specific situation but what I do know is that you cannot get down on yourself or let negative thoughts creep in and impact your next move.
You have a lot of value to add to an organization and now you need to regroup and find a way in. Keep in mind that this may take several months or longer, however if you remain persistent and focused, you will overcome this minor setback.
Allow me to offer some advice based on either my personal experience or what I learned in hindsight. I hope they are a help to you.
1. Don’t compare yourself to your classmates
You don’t know what you don’t know. Everyone is in a different situation. For example, some of your classmates got their dream offer, some possibly took an offer and now have a hint of regret, some maybe took the first or only offer presented to them, while others are returning to the companies that they worked at before business school because they have to.
You don’t know everyone’s story and it doesn’t matter. Your classmates are starting their new journeys and so are you.
Wish them well and focus on your next steps.
2. Take care of yourself
· Exercise at least several times a week
· Eat well
· Get enough sleep
· Get outside
· Laugh. Read funny books; watch comedies or stand-up comedy
Looking for a new job is stressful and is even more difficult if you’re sick. Stay healthy.
3. Get together with people
Reach out to friends, former co-workers, or classmates for coffee or lunch. It’s great just to catch up and have a good conversation. Whether they can help you directly is not the point. Meeting with them will very likely give you a boost and make you both feel good.
4. Attend networking events
Sites like meetup.com and alumni events are a great place to make a new contact or two. You never know where one meeting could lead.
5. Add variety to your day
Do not spend 8 hours a day just job searching. You’ll get burned out. Mix it up to stay motivated...and sane.
Take time each day to read the newspaper, different magazines, online articles, books on people or topics that you are interested in. You can get all of this information for free at your public library. It’s a great resource. Take advantage of it.
Additionally, while I know you just finished 2+ years of classes, there are also tons of online courses available if you want to learn or become more familiar with certain topics.
6. Think of where you want to go in the longer term
There’s a very good chance that you have an idea of where you want your career to go over the next 5 years or so. Keep that perspective handy and realize that your first job will be a stepping stone to the next opportunity all leading to whatever your larger goal is. Landing a job is not the end game. It’s a chapter in your larger book.
7. Set parameters for your job search…but be open too
You’ll regret taking just any job or the wrong job and you don’t want to be in that situation. Focus on where you want to work. Consider the commute, the hours you’re willing to work, what type of organization, what size organization, etc. If an opportunity comes up where you possibly need to make concessions, then you can make them at that time. Additionally, you may have an opportunity that looks interesting but isn’t necessarily what you are focusing on. At a minimum, be open to it and assess whether it will help you move toward your professional goals.
8. Do not endlessly apply to companies through their online portals
I made this mistake. Who knows how many hours I wasted filling out and submitting my résumé, cover letter, and other information only to never get a response.
Consider sending your résumé and a letter directly to a company that you’re interested in via USPS (not email) whether they have a job posted or not. Use LinkedIn to research and send your information to whomever would be potentially looking to hire in the department that you’re interested in. Let THAT person then reach out to HR.
8a. You need one good fit, not 100
Don’t wait to hear back from companies; keep moving forward. I don’t know when many companies started thinking that it’s acceptable not to communicate back to candidates, especially after you take the time to interview with them, but it happens far too often and there is one good way to deal with it:
Acknowledge that it’s the company’s loss, not yours, and move on.
9. Keep practicing your interviewing skills
It’s possible that you’ll have gaps of time in between interviews. Make the effort to consistently rehearse answers to common interview questions to stay sharp. You can practice with friends or even by yourself out loud. If you’re working with a recruiter, ask him or her to ask you some quick questions so you can answer and get immediate feedback. This will also help take some of the pressure off of you when the next interview comes around…which it will. (Thanks to Chris for the assist on this point)
10. Consider other approaches
This was the turning point for me.
After months of submitting applications to those online portals, I realized that one of the companies that I was interested in kept posting the same jobs over and over on their website. I decided to reach out to the UNC Career Management Center (Thanks Mike) in February of 2012 to ask for an alum who worked at the company. I figured I might as well just get in touch with someone AT the company instead of hoping a computer liked my résumé.
I received the information, reached out right away, and explained my situation to the alum, who was sympathetic. (Thanks Mark) While we were talking, I said to him that I would even consider an internship because in my mind I knew two things: 1) UNC had a strong connection with the company and their summer internship program and 2) I could not hear that I did not have ‘enough experience’ for a full-time job one more time. I figured the internship would be a no brainer for them and a decent back up plan for me.
Long story short, they wound up offering me the summer internship in April of 2012 which I accepted.
That’s right. One YEAR after graduating, I was now going to work in the field that I studied for. I was one graduate among 11 current MBA students who were in between their first and second years. I didn’t care. This was a win for me.
I worked hard that summer, learned as much as I could, and left in August with a résumé that now helped recruiters and companies see the ‘connection’. Ridiculous, right? The idea that I was now substantially more marketable because of a 10-week internship was silly. But, that’s how many people view it which is why I knew the internship would pay off.
A few months later, a recruiter helped me land a job where I remained for 4 years and 2 months. I was fortunate to work at that company because I learned and contributed more there than I would have at a larger company. In the end, this made the whole year after graduating worth it. I ultimately got to where I wanted to be at this point in my career.
Remember, you are not at a disadvantage for not having a full-time job at this moment. Your path just looks different - which doesn’t matter anyway. (Point #1)
Focus on you and realize that you have a ton to offer a deserving organization. Do not let yourself get discouraged and do not let any company or individual make you second guess the reasons that got you to this point.
There is no one right way to go about your career. Do what you need to do to set yourself up to keep moving towards whatever your short and long term goals are.
I wish you all the best.