Friday, October 18, 2013

MBA Recruiting: Working the Game Plan

Cornell's Johnson School: Ready, set, network, interview
When recruiting season rolls around, MBA students in finance (including Consortium students in finance around the country) toss the books on the shelves and roll out the details of a game plan to secure a job for the summer or for full-time employment after graduation.

Student sentiments always seem the same year after year.  They never realize how much time, energy, effort, focus, and discipline the process entails.  Often recruiting season is launched right in the middle of midterms and just before first-semester exam season.

MBA students rejoice in the chance to dream of the opportunities presented to them and the chance to drift smoothly into a wonderful job in an ideal industry, making substantial impact, having meaningful experiences, and accumulating their fair share of sums of money.  That's summer-time luxury.  When recruiting season starts, the real world smacks right in the face.  There is time, but the game plan must be in place.

By the time information interviewing, networking, and corporate presentations are in full swing, the MBA finance student needs to have started the process of narrowing choices.  For most, it's not easy. When November approaches, it would be naive for a student to proclaim interests in investment banking, equity research, community banking, and derivatives trading (all of the above) and then be prepared to handle the tough interview process of three or more different finance segments.

Most MBA finance students at top schools know and understand the game.  They are surrounded by peers and career counselors. They discuss timetables, networking events, opportunities and career choices every day, throughout the day, in between classes and at wine receptions in the evening.  Most are open to advice, hints, and help from school advisers, alumni and contacts at major firms and companies.

Most understand and appreciate the value of information interviews and networking.  Students listen and learn and decide on corporate cultures, compensation incentives, work-life balance, and self-fulfillment on the job.

Many, however, under-estimate the importance of keeping up with current markets, deals, transactions and business and economic trends.  Case studies, projects, and exams often get in the way of knowing and understanding what's going on in current markets: recent deals, recent trends, recent regulation, or important discussions of corporate strategy and growth expectations in industry segments.

It becomes almost impossible to juggle preparing for a finance midterm with finding time to learn about Yahoo's latest earnings results, comprehend the interest-rate leanings of the Federal Reserve, or figure out why there were swings and dips in equity options markets.  But corporate interviewers and committee members who make selections tend to weigh heavily around the topics, transactions and activities they are involved with or familiar with.

Opportunities in finance are broad, and the hopelessness, fears and anxiety coming out of the crisis have receded. Finance students today have a buffet of choices.  Still, they must have a game plan ready, a fierce resolve and determination to go through the process, a refined idea of what they want to be and do and an in-depth awareness of what's going on in the financial headlines.

Tracy Williams

See also:
CFN:  First-year MBAs and Recruiting, 2011
CFN:  Gearing Up for Summer Internships, 2012
CFN:  MBA Job Hunting:  No Need to Panic Yet, 2012 

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