Choosing a Job
January 01, 2010
Before you decide which job or jobs to apply for, you should give some thought to your career path. There is a special section on MBA careers on this website. We suggest that you look there now or soon.
For what follows here we assume that you now have decided what type of job in what type of organization will fit your career intentions. The issues for you now are the specifics: when, where, and what.
When to apply?
If you are near the start of an MBA program or even of your final school year, don't start applying for specific jobs straight away -- few organizations will offer you a job to take up at a much later date. As a general rule, the end of your program should be in sight before you start applying -- organizations will want to know how you have performed in the program, as reflected in your grades and references from professors who know you. Generally, 6 months before the end of your program is about the right time to start applying.
If your school organizes recruitment "fairs," then find out when recruiters from organizations will be visiting your school and make sure you apply for any specific jobs that you are interested in before these begin.
- Keep an eye on what the others are doing. If your classmates are all applying for jobs, don’t wait to follow suit – they’re your competition!
- Manage your schedule. Corporate courtship can be a time-consuming process. Potential employers may expect you to meet with them several times, so try to avoid having to prep for interviews and final exams and papers at the same time. You know what your deadlines and critical times are -- external organizations don't!
Where to apply?
You need to research the organizations, first to identify ones that might interest you, and then to prepare for your application and any subsequent interviews.
Read the business sections of local and national papers and business magazines to find employers of interest to you. You can search job listings online, in your social or professional networking groups, or even ask your professors for advice. Don’t limit your focus to companies that are advertising job openings – many times, good jobs never get posted.
Once you have identified your target companies, it’s time for in-depth research. Familiarize yourself with the company website, and consult with a research librarian about what resources might be useful to you. Again, see if anyone in your personal or professional network is connected to the company, and also explore your school’s alumni network. You may wish to create a dossier on each company to organize your research.
Look for information including:
- The company’s size, location and ownership
- Its growth and profitability record
- The professional and academic background of senior staff
- Whether they invest in their workers and their professional development
- Inside reports on how the company functions, including criticism
- Who their competition is
What position to apply for?
Often you will have to decide what job, or what type of job, to apply for in the organization you have chosen. However, if you have little or no work experience, an organization may consider taking you on for some initial training before placing you in a position.
When you decided on your career path, you should have assessed your strengths and weaknesses. You want to use your strengths in the job – and they are what will help you sell yourself to the company – but you will also need to acquire new skills in each job you have, in order to strengthen those weaknesses and advance your career. So in choosing jobs to apply for, you should strike a balance between familiarity and challenge.
- Aim high, not low. An organization may offer you a job slightly below what you applied for -- but will rarely offer you one above.
- Know what the job will do for you as well as what you can bring to the job
- Understand exactly what the job involves – if necessary, ask.
- Find out whether it is a new job or what happened to the previous person who held it.
- Talk to people who have done this type of job before for an inside perspective.