o Start the process early and stick with it. The job search can be a full time job itself. It takes time to find the right firm, get that initial meeting and build rapport. Internships are not always advertised, and you may have to volunteer time to get your foot in the door.
o Be organized and diligent. As contacts and interviews expand (and die) exponentially, organization becomes more critical. Realize that some companies may be vague and noncommittal (a firm may be `looking’ but may not easily pull the trigger, while another firm may have an opening they have not yet begun to advertise.)
o Get in the door and position yourself for opportunity. Luck is not an insignificant element of a non-traditional job search process.
o Don’t be afraid to try something radically different from your previous experiences – this is the chance to do it. The summer is an especially good time to try something new without the full-time commitment.
o Understand that your MBA may get your foot in the door, but it may not warrant you any special treatment.
o Have a strong stomach. The companies that don’t recruit on campus typically recruit for immediate hire. The jobs will come, but they may come late.
Building your network
o Network aggressively but thoughtfully. Work your current contacts, and business school alumni. It’s far preferable to get an introduction, or a “warm” call, than to “cold” call.
o Your professors are terrific resources. Visit them during office hours and ask them what they think about different industries and companies.
o Second-year students are perhaps the most under-utilized resource by first years. Find out if any second years worked where you want to work – either before school or over the summer. They can also help you jumpstart your search by putting you in touch with the right people.
o 99% of alumni will agree to talk or meet with you. If an alumnus does not call back, assume he or she is busy and continue to call back until you are able to speak in person. But do not leave more than one voicemail message.
o Join industry organizations and attend conferences and other networking events.
o Use e-mail to follow up after a meeting or phone call. It is easy for them to forward around the firm or to other contacts.
o Be aggressive – especially for a summer internship. Pursue companies you have interest in first – A company that does not actively recruit will often give someone a try for the summer, particularly if you work for free or low cost.
o Thoroughly research each prospective employer. When you’re considering new media and internet opportunities, look at financial statements, backers, burn rate, examine the viability of the business model, and understand the competitive environment.
o Although the hardest thing to diagnose is culture, do your best to learn what you can. Fit is perhaps the most important factor for long-term success in these environments.
o Keep up with industry publications:
– If you’re looking into PE or VC, skim the last 6-12 months’ issues of leading periodicals. If you notice new fund raisings, new associate positions may be or become available. Typically, the best opportunities arise in anticipation of fund closings (i.e. before they have published the funding “tombstone”).
– If you want to work in Media & Entertainment or the internet, follow the trends and understand well the key metrics that drive the industry. Know where the future opportunities will be for the industry. Most companies are looking to you for vision and creativity.
– For those considering Hedge Funds/Money Management, consider this: you will impress fund managers with creativity and primary research. Go out of your way to demonstrate that your stock ideas are not based on the latest Barron’s cover story but on your own investigative work.
Interviewing and Job offers
o If you do not know the answer to a question someone asks you in an informational meeting or interview, respond graciously that you do not know the answer, rather than getting defensive. Potential employers often care more about how you conduct yourself and deal with difficult situations than what the actual answer is.
o Be thoughtful with your final job decision. It should be based less on money and more on people, culture, learning opportunities, firm reputation the overall organizational structure. However, when negotiating your compensation package, get as much in writing as possible.