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Advice for Recent MBA Grads Re-Entering the Workforce

Putting your career on hold to pursue a full-time MBA program may seem like a risky proposition, but the rewards are typically worth it. The experience and connections gained in business school can help give professionals both young and old the boost they need to climb the corporate ladder. Armed with their new credential, graduates may be presented with new opportunities in the industry they worked in before, or the chance to break into entirely new professional areas.

But before they can play in the big leagues, students need to learn how to properly market their skills and take advantage of the network they built at school. In the first part of our series focusing on different stages of the MBA process, faculty from five prominent business schools offer tips to recent grads re-entering the workforce.

"What advice would you give to MBA graduates that attended a full-time program, and are now looking to reassert themselves in the workforce?"

Mark Bannister, Fort Hays State UniversityFort Hays State University

Mark Bannister, Dean of the College of Business and Entrepreneurship at Fort Hays State University

"Keep in touch with your former colleagues and with the industry you worked in. You already have a connection head start and an experience base in that field. On the other hand, the MBA program may have opened you up to new professional areas and connections through student colleagues, faculty, alumni, and the university placement service. Be willing to shift direction if opportunities open. You should expect to re-enter the workforce with greater responsibility and compensation than you had when you left. Be willing to stretch and to take on more challenging and responsible roles; however, have reasonable expectations and do not expect to jump to the C-level suite if you only have a few years of job experience. Experience as well as education matter to many employers."

David Dams, Drexel UniversityDrexel University

David Dams, MBA/M.S. Admissions at Drexel University

"Take a look at the industry you are going back to or looking to make a new home in and understand the state of that industry now. If you were previously in that industry, it is possible there have been changes since you were last in the workforce. Even though most Full Time MBA programs are only 1-2 years long, depending on the industry there could be changes you might have missed while in the program. Also, utilize your newly developed network, i.e. your classmates, faculty, the Career Services department, and other bridges that were built through employee mixers and/or Co-ops or internships. Those relationships will not only validate how you have grown within the program, but might open doors for you that you never thought were there originally."

Wendy Tsung, Emory UniversityEmory University

Wendy Tsung, Associate Dean of MBA Career Services at Emory University

"Speak with people in your aspirational roles to better understand the skills required and the different career paths to that role. Inventory your skills to see what gaps exist and be prepared to address. Use the knowledge gained through your conversations to highlight key skills and identify different channels to achieve your career goal. Reach out to your alma mater's alumni career center for career support and your alumni network for contacts. Share your interests with as many people as possible since you never know who might be in a position to help."

Bruce Lloyd, Columbia Business SchoolColumbia Business School

Bruce Lloyd, Director of Employer Relations at Columbia Business School

"At Columbia Business School we take a holistic approach to the career search. We believe that success begins by having a clear notion of one's career goals. We advise each of our students to conduct a thorough assessment of all the aspects of a career that are important including their interests, skills, values, personal needs, etc.

Personal marketing materials are also important. A resume crafted to highlight the most relevant skills and experiences desired by potential employers is crucial. Added to that, candidates should include a well-written cover letter specific to each job that can help connect the dots from prior jobs to the new one, especially if the job seeker is changing or refocusing their career.

Presenting oneself effectively when meeting potential employers, either in a networking or formal interview situation, is also critical. Crafting a response to "Tell me about yourself," "Walk me through your resume," or "What brings you here today" that is concise, yet highlights achievements relevant to the opportunity at hand is essential. Thorough knowledge of your resume and being able to speak to each bullet point is imperative. Understanding and being able to articulate why you are targeting an industry, company, and particular role is also critical. This only comes with practice.

Casting a wide, but targeted net for job opportunities is important. Based on your self-assessment and knowledge of the current marketplace in your chosen field, create a target list of companies at which you would like to work. Job boards can be helpful to identifying opportunities, but should not be the only resources a job seeker uses. In fact, many jobs are never posted, so it is incumbent upon the job seeker to be speaking with people in the target industry to build relationships and remain top-of-mind when opportunities arise, either within their firm, or as they hear about roles available at others. Additionally, contacts within organizations can be helpful when openings are advertised. They can "recommend" you, or at least make sure your application moves to the top of the pile. Job seekers should be leveraging all connections, whether through a personal network or through alumni networks of your business school or undergraduate university."

Isser Gallogly, New York University Stern School of BusinessNew York University Stern School of Business

Isser Gallogly, Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions at New York University Stern School of Business

"NYU Stern graduates should feel confident that their education has prepared them not only for the next step in their career after the MBA, but also for a future of career opportunities. While at Stern, students learn from our world-renowned faculty while also gaining hands-on experience in management and leadership through a variety of programs such as the Leadership Development Initiative, Board Fellows Program and Stern Consulting Corps. This combination of theory and practice prepares students to transform challenges into opportunities and create value for business and society."