The Joys of Job Searching

Well, our long, glorious winter break is over and its back to reality – snow, recruiting, and those things we like to call classes (right).

When I was trying to think about where to begin the column for 2013, there were so many things to chose from: the awesomeness of FIELD 2 (go Ghana!); the much-needed stretch of getting 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis; the gallivanting around the world we all seemed to have done pre-FIELD.

Instead, however, I thought I’d focus on something that has gotten many of us stressed out since our return: figuring out what the heck to do with our summers (other than you know, travel). Gainful employment: we’d all like some. Herewith are some of the things I observed in many people’s quest for avoiding joblessness come June…

Interviewing at the DoubleTree… definitely weird.

So we all came back from break and the first time we saw many of our classmates was in the “Student Lounge” at the DoubleTree hotel. At first it was all sunshine and roses catching up with friends, but then everyone realized that they’re interviewing for the same jobs. Awkward!

Even more awkward was having these interviews in actual hotel rooms, which just felt somewhat odd. The oddness was compounded by not being able to shake people’s hands hello (or goodbye) courtesy of some flu emergency in Boston (?!). Add this all up and what do you get? One very strange experience – not exactly how I pictured starting the semester.

Consulting and banking interviews: not for the faint of heart.

I flirted with the idea of going down the consulting path (something that was relatively quickly abandoned), but having witnessed the insanity of the case interviews I can safely say I’m glad that wasn’t for me. I won’t even touch finance, because that was something that was never in the cards, as my FIN 1 final performance can attest. But, I digress.

Back to the subject at hand – the interview process: intense. First and second rounds on the same day? Yikes. Random calculations to be done on the spot with no calculator? Yeah, that would not have worked out so well. And, all of this stress for literally one or two spots at your desired office of choice (when you’re up against a large number of your classmates) – not ideal.

I will say that I heard of people getting great offers from their ideal companies, but on the flip side, I was also surprised to hear just how few jobs there were to be had. Harvard people get rejected from things? Apparently so.

As bad as you thought your interview was, Bridgewater takes the cake.

I could probably write an entire column on the craziness that took place during the Bridgewater interviews (or so I hear – that place is definitely not for me – see my financial prowess mentioned above).

Some highlights: before you’re even invited to interview, you have to take not one, but three separate personality-based tests. Best metric? Being measured on one’s ability to mask the truth from others; the test itself even has a disclaimer stating something to the effect of “we can tell whether you’re telling the truth or not in your answers”. This is actually helpful information for an employer – I’m surprised more companies don’t measure this before hiring people.

In any case, if you were lucky enough to not be rejected based on your personality, you passed through to the individual and group rounds where you were subjected to different people taking shots at you as a human being. Sounds fun! There is a pot of gold at the end of this crazy rainbow, however. Rumor has it that pay at this place is pretty sweet – if your sanity and dignity can be bought for $250K as a starting salary that is.

Didn’t do much interviewing during hell week? You’re not the only one.

I would be someone who squarely falls into this category – partly by choice, and partly by a general lack of things to apply for that I’d be actually be interested in doing (OK, I have a startup idea that I’m working on, but that’s another story for another time).

Unlike many people who applied for things on the basis of having something (versus the terrifying nothing), if it wasn’t my jam, I didn’t bother. I’m holding out hope that (a) the few current options I have work out, and (b) should they not, Career Services is telling us the truth that 50% of jobs are posted throughout our second semester.

I’ve also come to realize that it really is true that if you’re following a so-called “non-traditional” career path, your fate falls squarely in your own hands. Not every company is going to post on the Career Hub – shocking information I’m sure. So if you haven’t been doing it already, it’s definitely time to start using that HBS network to get the job-hunt going. Because the more classmates you hear of getting offers, the more stressed out you’re going to be if you don’t have one (I may be speaking from experience here).

So what does all of this tell us? A lot of us had weird welcome back experiences – thank you, DoubleTree Student Lounge! Recruit for consulting and finance? Hats off to you for surviving what seemed to be a harsh re-introduction to HBS life! Interview for Bridgewater? We should either question your sanity or give you a hug! Still jobless for the summer (like moi)? Take a deep breath and realize its all going to be OK – provided you get your act together and get the job hunt going.

Lastly, if all else fails, thanks to regular CPD days, we have a semester filled with frequent 3-day weekends to look forward to. And that’s got to count for something.