My Journey Map through MBA Recruiting

Considering a non-traditional MBA recruiting path? We’ll you’re in for a roller coaster ride in your second year, but it may be worth it. I went through it, so I thought I’d share my story and the few pearls of wisdom I can offer.

Darden’s CDC (Career Development Center, not Center for Disease Control) talked to us in our orientation week about ‘fit.’ They brought up this metaphor of a puzzle piece, saying we need to find the right career that fits best with our personalities, wants, dreams, strengths, etc. I naively thought, “Oh great, I wonder which is right for me: Finance, Consulting, Marketing, General Management, or Tech? A,B,C,D or E? I’m good at multiple choice….”

Well when you’re a traditional MBA candidate and your puzzle piece looks like this:

 
 

That’s easy to do. You pick B, consulting, go talk to the big firms, and execute your plan. You’ll find a fit pretty easily. BUT chances are if you’re still reading, your puzzle piece doesn’t look like that. Our puzzle piece looks more like this:

 
 

Congrats! You are a unique individual with special, perhaps rare qualities and skills that you won’t find often in a pool of MBAs. Look at that awesome lightning bolt arm! Is that your creative background? Did you work in the arts? We’re you an architect pre-MBA? How about a professional runner? Did you run an NGO? That’s pretty remarkable and I’m glad you’re complementing that experience with an MBA. Smart move.

But also here are my condolences. You’re about to have a hell of a time finding a post-MBA job and career that’s a good fit for you. After all, a match that looks like this:

 
 

will be very hard to find. Jobs and companies that look like that green piece are rare, and they don’t typically have long standing relationships with the career centers at MBA programs. As a result, your second year might look a lot like mine, and word to the wise, you’re in for a tough few months, BUT it should be worth it in the long run.

What do I mean by a tough few months? Well, my year looked like this:

In August I came back from my summer internship, happy to be back with my classmates and family in the idyllic Charlottesville mountainside. I got to sit by the pool and look forward to the more relaxed Darden second year I was promised…

Then in September that nagging feeling that I needed to re-recruit in my second year turned into a full-fledged decision. That decision added a very long list of to-dos to my already hectic MBA life.

October was an especially painful, anxiety-ridden month. It felt like all my classmates all had jobs lined up except for me.

But in November I realized, they all had jobs because they looked like that traditional blue puzzle piece and this fit nicely into the plethora of traditional MBA career paths at their disposal. Owning up to my idiosyncrasies, and seeing them as strengths helped me turn my downward spiral of anxiety around.

Then in December I began earnestly researching companies and roles that might be a good fit for me. Turns out, good news, there are many fish in the sea. The world if full of great people doing great things in teams, so your options are endless! That epiphany caught some wind in my sails and let me enjoy my winter break.

January and February brought me back down though. All those great companies posting jobs that sounded a lot like me and what I wanted to do, needed somebody immediately, not in August. They were hiring “just in time” and many had never heard of a MBA recruiting timeline. Most of my conversations would eventually hit a brick wall, when the recruiter paused to say, “Well you’re great, but when do you graduate? May?! Ok well call me then…” Big red stop signs that halt productivity like that left me feeling helpless. Sails deflated.

Then, all of a sudden around mid-March, an early summer start date wasn’t so far-fetched, and networking calls became productive again. Ooh feel that breeze.

Throughout the spring it was my turn to interview, and oh boy was I prepped. And interviews were so much easier because both parties were hopped up in that perfect-fit-feeling. When I asked, “how often will I get to be creative either in ideation or in execution here?” I wasn’t met with “Hmm. No? Never,” but rather, “at least half of everyday, for example…”

The job I had set my sights on in the fall, came through with a few weeks before graduation and I was elated. I had an early start date, right after the 4th of July, thanks to that just in time schedule and a project I couldn’t pass up. My first week on the job, I was able to hit the ground running, and had the calming closure that it was all worth it. The rollercoaster of highs and lows that made up my non-traditional recruiting journey were all worth it. Waiting, and taking the path less travelled paid off. (Shameless plug, I couldn’t be happier as a Senior Innovation Consultant at Peer Insight. Check us out, we’ve got a page on RelishMBA!)

That was my experience, and talking to other MBA alumni, it seems to be pretty common. And if you’re an MBA, chances are you like to plan ahead like me, so hopefully this helps you do that. Know what you’re getting yourself into, not just in terms of process, but also in terms of the added anxiety, and then make the right decision for you. Best of luck!

This article was originally published on RelishMBA, October 21st, 2015.