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Finding a job post-MBA

Intro: Why did I write this article?

In the last 4 months I had a several Skype calls with some of the MBA-14 students from RSM. They contacted me for various reasons: some because they liked my LinkedIn profile (formatting only), some because they felt we have similar experience, some because I was one of the first MBA 13 students to land a job, 4 months before the official graduation, and finally some to ask me how to get a job at the same company I was working for.

After a few conversations I noticed one thing… No matter what they were calling for, the discussion was drifting every time to the same topic: how do I find and get the right job for me after graduation?  Because I have noticed this recurring question, which I tried to answer many times, I though maybe it would be a good idea to write it down in blog post. This way if we have a call we can get ahead start and focus on specific questions, which are more relevant to your case. In the same time, I hope this blog post can be an inspiration source for others who find themselves in a similar situation; no matter what school they graduate from.

What recommends me?

  1. I was one of the first students from the MBA 13 batch who found a job. My first day of work was 1st of December 2012 and I officially graduated in March 2013.
  2. I only applied for a few positions; I think 6 or 7 in total. I had a phone interview with almost all of them. I had 3 serious leads and was able to choose an offer.
  3. 7 month later, the project I was hired for got canceled. Before the end of the project I had 2 offers and very serious lead on a third position.
  4. I love my job

How did I do it?

  • Knowing what I want
  • Building on my prior experience
  • Showing I am the right guy for the job

Let’s start… 

How do you know what you do want from you future job?

Even though it sounds like a trivial question it isn’t. It can be quite hard to decide what is the right thing, the best thing or the most rewarding thing. So many things to consider, so many implications for your future.

Also, if you are an RSM Full Time MBA student, you just made some very big changes in your life in the last year. I guess you probably changed countries, stopped working, you are far from your family and friends, you have been working like crazy in the first few months of the year and you might be frustrated because of the different work-styles of your colleagues. Plus so many other things that are so different from you pre MBA life.

I know, I know. Been there, experienced that.

Here are a few things that you should consider when thinking about what do you want from your next job.

The money aspect

This MBA program was a big investment and after graduating you should be able to get a return on your investment. If you have a loan, like I have, you have a few intense years ahead of you.

From my experience, big international companies pay more than small start-ups, at least in Europe. If you can go to SF to work for a start-up, things might be different. Also, I believe that an NGO might offer you even a smaller salary.

Even though these are the trends, they are not set in stone. From my experience, it depends also on how you negotiate your salary and how well do you sell yourself in the interview.  You could get a good enough salary and work for a start-up ;).

So, my advice is to make the math, approximate your future monthly bills and estimate what could be your minimum salary. Next, research on sites like glassdoor.com to see which companies, geographical regions or industries could meet your expectations.

Now you have you have a better idea where your wants and needs meet.

Job satisfaction

Are you going to be happy doing your job? Will you come home tired but feeling great? Will you annoy your friends with the cool projects from work? Will you?

I’ve noticed that most people, not only MBA’s focus on the money aspect too much and forget to think about job satisfaction.

Think about it, in theory we spend ~9 hours at work, but in reality we spend much more. Studies show that we need to sleep at least 6 hours per night to have a healthy life. This means that we spend at lest 50% of our awake-time at work.  50% or 60% or 70% … that will also influence our personal life.

Some people end up working their ass off and feeling miserable for 340 days a year so that they can enjoy 25 vacation days a year. In my book, that is out of balance. Stay away from that.

The worst thing is that we get used to this work style and we cannot get out easily. So before you choose for one job or another please consider if it will make you happy or not.

Ok, so now you know my take on job satisfaction, next …

Quality of life

This is closely related to the previous point. Think about what do you want to do after work and how different choices might affect your personal lifestyle.

Do you like to run, do you like to travel, do you like to party, watch TV, play games, stay home with kids, visit your family… what is that you want to do with your free time? Does it matter when you can take days off and how many?

Different countries, cultures and cities offer different things.  Now you are in privileged position to choose something that will fit your needs so please take it into account.

For me, The Netherlands was a very good fit so far. I love the fact that I am in the middle of the Europe, everybody speaks English, I can travel quickly everywhere and I can bike/run everywhere and feel safe everywhere I go.

On the other hand I had to accept the always-cloudy sky and not having all my friends with me. So… decisions, decisions, decisions.

Next steps

Now that you thought about what you want, you can narrow down your options to those that fit best your needs: money, industry, country and so on.

Once you do that, write your CV for the job you want. Afterwards take it to CDC and ask them to me merciless, to tear it apart, to put as many bullet holes as possible in it. Of course they will not be always right and you don’t need to take every advice, but having a few experienced people evaluating your CV can only give you valuable insights into what is good and what needs to be changed.

Don’t feel bad if they rip it apart. Be glad it’s them and not a hiring manager during an interview.

Now to the second big point our discussion…

 Building on my previous experience

This was yet another thing that helped me get a job pretty fast.  If I have to compare myself to my colleagues, I have to admit I didn’t change many things post-MBA.

The main differences were the size of the company and my responsibilities. Form a 140 employees company I moved to a company that employed over 2.500 people. Other than that I was doing pretty much the same stuff at a higher level.

My second job after MBA is further away from what I used to do before, but I still use my social media and online marketing experience. Now I am a product manager for a startup in Amsterdam, and I am building a mobile app that does social video (B2C) and an online platform that curates and presents social media content for events and venues (B2B).

I know that all of you want to change some aspect(s) of your job: industry, function, country and so on.  My honest advice is to make that transition as smooth as possible and get the best out of it. Don’t put yourself in difficult position by changing everything at once. Build on your existent skills and experience and gradually change one thing or two at a time.

Let me give you an example from my last Skype conversation.  I was talking with a guy from India, a successful entrepreneur with good skills in IT, people management and consulting. Now he wants to move into marketing.

In his case I think the best thing to do is to get a position as a project manager, IT team leader or consultant at a company that builds or sells marketing services. This way he can leverage his vast expertise by firstly changing the industry. He can stay here for a year or two and then look for a different job, but this time with more relevant experience for a marketing position.

I see several benefits from doing this:

  • A good salary, as you don’t start on a junior role.
  • A choice. As an expert in a field you can choose instead of settle.
  • A smooth learning curve.  You will start learning about the new industry and gradually build personal brand, without being in a tough spot.
  • See if you would actually like to work in a new industry with drastic changes

And if you need yet another reason to think about a transition strategy consider this: what if you would have to employ somebody that asks you a lot of money, changes 4-5 things about his job and as relevant experience has only a few MBA classes?

So, how will you transition on your dream job?

And for the third and final item of our discussion…

Show them you are the right person for the job

This falls in the “dress for the job you want not for the job you have” category. Whenever you interview, show them you are the right guy for the job don’t just tell them.

dress for the job you want not for the job you have

 Here are my tips on how you can show you are the best person for the job:

  1. Choose the right attitude/angle when writing your CV and in interviews

Hiring managers are looking for somebody that can do the job. When you apply for a job focus on the things you can already do from the list of things they ask. Don’t start your intention letter or your LinkedIn profile with “I am a … that is very interested in moving into  … and I would like to find a job that allows me to learn more about…

NO NO NO NO!  You should not be interested; you should be an authority, an expert, a guy who can solve their issues.  A guy who is interested might or might not be the best guy for the job. If you are an MBA graduate most probably you are not looking for a junior position and if the employer is hiring an MBA graduate he is probably looking for somebody that can do the job not that needs to learn on his money. So be careful how you present yourself.

Even if you don’t have tons of relevant experience for the job you want, don’t introduce yourself by accentuating the things you can’t do. Dig deep in your past experience, your MBA classes, even your free time activities and find those few examples that qualify your for the job. Now take those examples and sell them like crazy.

I cannot stress this enough!! Whenever you introduce yourself, do it as a guy who knows what he is doing. Be confident in yourself. There are so few people that can project the “ I’m in control/ This is my game” image that anybody that can do that is immediately standing out and gets the pole position in any race.

I was telling this to one of the guys and he tells me: “Yeah, you are right, when I was hiring I was looking at the same things you just mentioned”. So my theory is that you already know all this but when you change roles from hiring manager to employee your miraculously forget it and you need to be reminded.

  1. Do your homework; Have a battle plan before going into the battle.

Firstly, prepare for every meeting or call you have with a recruiter or hiring manager. Google them, Google their company, search for them on LinkedIn, Facebook …. anywhere. Try to find as much as possible about the people you will take to. You never know when that passion for running, which apparently you both have, might come in handy during your conversation :D

Imagine this discussion:

HM: So anything else we should know about you. Do you have any interesting hobbies your think that are relevant for this discussion?

You: Well, not sure if it’s necessary relevant (you already know about his passion for running from that random Runkeeper update on FB and this is the perfect moment to use it) but I do like to run and I ran in two marathons in the last 2 years.

HM, smiling: Oh really, *adjusts his voice*, interesting.  Which ones, I was also thinking about running in the Amsterdam Marathon this fall.

BOOOM! You just got on his “I like these people” list.

Secondly, go into an interview as would go into a strategic meeting with the board of directors.

The night before the interview think of what you can already do for them if they give you the job tomorrow. Act as you already work for them. Open powerpoint and draft a few slides with your strategy. In the meeting bring you laptop/tablet and at the right time show them the ppt presentation. Talk about your concrete plans to make their business a success. They will be impressed, I guarantee.

Again, always try to prove you are the right guy for the job! Be inventive!

 A final word

This article is meant only as a mere source of inspiration, something that I would have enjoyed reading while being in your shoes. I am well aware that at the end of the day there are many more things to consider when choosing and getting the perfect job.

Take it as an inspiration source and come with your own little plan.

BTW, maybe you noticed that I used choosing a job not getting a job. I hope you will do able to do exactly that.

Good luck!

PS: Also I really hope this will help somebody and that I haven’t wasted a few hours from my Sunday afternoon for nothing. 

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