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Six Things to Remember During Your MBA Job Search

I recently shared my job search tips with the current MBA class at the Harvard Business School. The article is behind HBS intranet but many of my mentees asked for the article. While some of the tips (specifically tip 2 and 3) require access to HBS resources, others are very general and can be easily adopted. Enjoy the article :)

I knew HBS was a place for self-discovery before I even applied. Throughout the MBA program I was able to tap into my personal drive and connect it with my professional aspirations.

Discovering what will be the best post-MBA career path for you takes time and work. Here are six lessons I learned when it comes to the job search process:

1. Career decisions are not permanent: Keep in mind that you don’t have to stick to the same job, function, or even the industry of your first role. You can always change, and most do. An HBS MBA prepares its graduates to tackle a wide range of challenges throughout their careers. Embracing this mindset can alleviate so much pressure and enable you to make career moves with confidence.

2. HBS alumni are an incredible resource, use them: Alumni engagement is an effective tool that works due to the “pay-it-forward” model. All alumni have leveraged the networks of those who came before them at some point, and this well-oiled machine will continue to function for the foreseeable future. There are several ways to reach out, including the Alumni Directory, LinkedIn​, and references from professors.

3. Utilize CPD and Club resources: CPD and the industry-related clubs not only facilitate networking opportunities, but also organize mock interviews, such as product manager interviews by the Tech Club, case interviews by the Management Consulting Club, etc. Some interesting opportunities can come from attending the treks and conferences too.

4. Find creative ways to get a foot into the door: It's not always easy to get hold of the executives of the company you want to work at. Or maybe you are looking for a very specific opportunity, that is not even listed in a public domain. Turns out one can leverage indirect connections to get in touch with hiring managers. For example, professors serve on boards and assist top executives in a variety of businesses. They would be glad to provide such an intro. One can also reach out to the venture capitalists who are HBS alums and invested in the company you are interested in joining.

5. Be prepared to take a leap of faith: Sheryl Sandberg was given a job at Facebook that did not satisfy all of her requirements. Her supervisor at Google at the time, Eric Schmidt, famously quipped, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on." Rarely do you come across an opportunity that is perfect in every way. You must assess whether the opportunity has the potential to advance your career. Let’s say you don’t end up liking the role, you can always switch (see lesson 1). The downsides to taking the leap are very small, and the upsides are limitless!

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for a favor or helping hand: The best way to get what you want is to be brave enough to ask for it. Most sections and clubs have “Rolodex Nights”, where you can share your plans and request help. Favors might include an introduction to a notable entrepreneur or teaching a critical skill. You'll be surprised by how outstanding HBS's aggregate network is and how frequently requests are fulfilled. The same principle remains true in your professional career. If you believe you deserve a higher salary, a promotion, or to be assigned to a high-impact project, ask for it. While you may not be granted a “yes” at every step of the way, even one big success will make it all worthwhile.

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