5.1.1. Getting prepared

– Relax. Some students (and especially foreign students) are overwhelmed by recruiting information during the first few weeks at school. Even before classes begin, some schools have career fairs, presentations and workshops, leaving some students confused (my resume? I don’t have one yet), or feeling they are already behind in the process. Do not worry, you still have a couple of months to figure out the process and get prepared. Take it easy, without procrastinating. It’s very tough starting out because you don’t know the ground rules. Learn them quickly, and life gets marginally better.

– Begin with a conscious self-assessment: Before starting your career search, it is a good idea to know what do you like (and want to do), what your goals are, and what are you good at. This will help you focus your search, and make it more successful. There are counselors, numerous tests, books, and guides to do this. Ask your Placement Office for more detail. Do not go with the flow – most students are biased towards Consulting and Investment Banking, as they are the most prestigious and provide the highest compensation. Do not fall in the trap, and look for the job you really desire.

– Understand the process before you begin: Get a feeling of what the whole process is like. Do not just talk to people – get acquainted with the PO’s people and resources, watch interview videos, read other people’s resumes and cover letters, and compare information.

– Start early. Don’t procrastinate or leave everything for the last minute. Start early plotting your chart, and you will benefit from having plenty of time, and the resources available (e.g. the Placement Office counselors will be very busy as the interview season approaches).

– Go to corporate presentations: Right after classes begin, it is corporate presentation time at many schools. These presentations are targeted to second year students, but first-years can attend and benefit greatly from doing so. Talk to the recruiters (make sure you have a relevant conversation they can remember), make a lasting impression, and get their business cards – you will have an edge when contacting them later on.

– Get involved: Most companies are looking for people with a senior management profile. In their view, MBA graduates have an above-average chance of fulfilling this need. Recruiters like people who are involved in many activities and hold leadership positions. In fact, they usually go to recruit at Business Schools looking for leadership skills, and this type of position is the easiest way to prove yours. Additionally, if you are a leader in the group, hiring you for the summer means you will help them spread the word to many students in your group. Leadership positions are usually decided during the first weeks, so be alert. If being president of the class overwhelms you, try the international clubs, organizing sports events or even parties. Non-profit activity always looks great in a resume.

– Talk to second-year MBAs or recent grads: They are your best source of information on companies and recruitment. They can provide information on who is hiring foreign students, what industries or companies are “hot” and what to expect during interviews. Of course they can also provide useful names and contact information.

– Design your own strategy: There is no single strategy suited for everybody. With different interests, backgrounds, skills and personalities, every person needs to have a different strategy when approaching the job search. Start building yours from day one, put it in writing, and remember to review it every few weeks and make the necessary adjustments.

– Get your tools ready: Prepare your planner (PalmPilot), E-mail (signature file, autoresponders), web site, web bookmarks, voice mail, cellular phone. Don’t forget notebooks, guides, books, personal cards, formal suits, and documents. Leave everything ready – you will be too busy later on.