Musings on MBA Internship Recruiting

A major reason people come to business school is to find that dream job that pays pretty well, and makes them jump out of bed every morning. As an internship offer is the first major step in finding that dream job, internship recruiting is a pretty important part of the MBA experience. If I could go back in time and give myself some advice on internship recruiting, I would mention five things:

1. Recruiting is Hard: After successfully getting into an ultra-competitive business school, expecting recruiters to fall at your feet and beg you to bring your awesome talents to their company doesn’t seem to be a particularly crazy idea. Furthermore, recruiters actually validate this mindset for a brief period of time by constantly emailing you, and inviting you to all sorts of company presentations, fancy dinners and coffee chats. However, when actual recruiting starts, you quickly realize the truth: internship recruiting is one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done. If there is one challenge that illustrates the difficulty of MBA internship recruiting, it is the challenge of bringing your “A-game” into yet another interview after having being rejected multiple times.

2. It Goes By Pretty Quickly: Another part of internship recruiting that makes it challenging is the speed of the whole process. After my first week of internship recruiting, I’d been through 8 interviews, and I’d already been rejected by two of the firms that I interviewed with. To make things more vivid, I was actually standing in front of my Amazon interview room when I got the phone call from Bain that told me that I’d been rejected. Was my case unique? Not at all. In fact, I think I had a pretty good run. The truth of the matter is that the process is a really…. really fast roller coaster ride.

3. Guard Your Heart Throughout The Process: I really believe that the most difficult parts of recruiting are actually emotional. If you look at the stories I mentioned earlier (being rejected multiple times, being rejected just before another interview), the challenge isn’t really about physical preparation, but about maintaining perspective, refusing to entertain doubt about your abilities, and sustaining the momentum needed to succeed during the interview. One practice that helped me stay focused during recruiting was refusing to emotionally commit to any firm until I’d actually gotten a job offer. I told myself that I would not build castles in the sky by dreaming about what it would be like to work at any particular firm. I’d just go in, do the interview, and see what happens. It’s definitely easier said than done, but I think this approach actually saved me a lot of heartache throughout my internship recruiting process.

4. Focus Consistently Trumps Diversification: I don’t think a whole lot needs to be said here. My only addition would be that if you are focused on changing your industry, job function and location at the same time, realize that this is a very risky strategy. My advice would be to try to change at most two of these three criteria. If you really want to pursue all three, clearly articulate what steps you would take in the very likely event that you don’t achieve your goal.

5. Miracles Do Happen!: After all the doom and gloom of this post, I’m happy to end on a rather positive note. Despite the fact that recruiting is really difficult, miracles do happen! A small group of people get a job offer from their very first interview. Others end the rigorous recruiting process with really cool jobs in their target industry. The happy faces you see on the marketing materials are true stories. For all you know, that lucky person might as well be you!

Any additional thoughts on how best to manage internship recruiting?

Negotiating Job Offers

You’ve networked like crazy, gotten that coveted interview spot, and converted the interview into a full time job offer. You’re all set! Well.. almost. There’s a little wrinkle in the offer; you want more money, a different location, a different role, or something else which needs to change before the offer can become perfect for you. How do you go from where you are to where you need to be? You’ve got to negotiate!

I recently attended a panel on negotiating your job offer which was organized by the Kellogg Women’s Business Association (WBA), and I learned a few good ideas which I believe are worth sharing:

 1. Just Ask: A lot of times, women (and other minorities) are just plain scared to ask for what they want because they’re afraid of what people might think. Now I don’t have any data to support this, but I’m pretty sure that this is a key reason why we end up earning less than our peers on average. When you ask for what you want, you usually get one of three responses: yes, no or not yet. Since none of these responses make you worse than you were before asking, why not just go ahead and ask?!

2. Timing Matters: Sometimes the degree of flexibility that you can expect from a firm depends on when you try to negotiate. Just like business schools, companies usually extend more offers than the positions they have available, knowing that some candidates will decline their offer. The yield target for such firms is the number of candidates that accept their offer as a proportion of the total number of offers extended. How does this basic math affect your negotiation strategy? If the firm you are negotiating with is a hot employer (think McKinsey, Google, Goldman Sachs), then they’ll probably hit their yield targets quite early in the recruitment process, and become less flexible as you move towards your offer deadline. On the other hand, if the firm is not a hot choice among your peers – but is a great fit for you – you may want to negotiate a bit closer to your offer deadline. The HR folks will probably be more accommodating as they come under pressure to hit their yield targets.

3. Use Data that Supports Your Argument: There is a good 4-min video from the panel that addresses this topic.

4. Make it About Them and Not About You: Also clearly addressed in a 3-min panel video.

In the spirit of the holidays, I’ll share one more really good video about negotiating your job offer which I found online. This guy is a rock star at Harvard Business School and after viewing the video, it’s easy to understand why. Oh and by the way, he got his PhD at Kellogg… #justSaying 🙂

Image by Kellogg School of Management

My Days Off in Chicago

ferris_buellers_day_off

While most of my peers had 10-week internships, I had 12. This meant that I had just one week between the end of my internship and the beginning of the Fall quarter, and I had to return to Chicago two days after the end of my internship. Definitely not ideal but hey I got 2 week’s worth of additional pay so I can’t complain much.

So what did I do with my free week? See Chicago! It sounds crazy when I think about it, but I’d been in this iconic city for over 9 months and still hadn’t taken the time to explore it. I still haven’t visited the Bean, which is a popular spot for tourists, but I honestly didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything by not going. Like any history and science buff, I wanted to see museums, and I wanted to hear about Chicago’s history.

Museum of Science and Industry

A few years ago I read about a live U-boat (German submarine) that was captured by the United States during the second World War, and is currently housed in a museum in Chicago. I promised myself that I’d visit this submarine,but it’s crazy to think that I only got to do so after living in Chicago for a whole year!

The Museum of Science and Industry is probably the best museum I’ve been to in my life. There’s so much to do that I spent an entire day there and still couldn’t cover all of it. I saw a live Boeing 727 plane (which you can interact with), a live coal mine, space artifacts from Apollo missions, and – the best part for me at least – this awesome U-boat. The experience really brought my inner geek to life, and got me wondering about what would’ve happened if I’d visited this place as a kid. I’d probably be at MIT right now studying for my PhD in Astrophysics instead of getting an MBA at Kellogg. #LostOpportunities

Gangster Tour

 Something else I wanted to do with my free time was learn more about Chicago’s history. A typical tour could definitely help in this regard, but it felt too predictable so I decided to do a gangster tour instead. My tour guides (shown above) were named Shoulders and Slippery Sloop, and they were a great double act. They did drive us around Chicago, but rather than talk about the city in broad strokes, they focused on the prohibition laws and the rise and fall of gangsters like Al Capone. Great but blood curdling stories of fame, fortune and violence.

I’m not sure if hanging out with Shoulders and Slippery Sloop is your thing (they do have other guides called Johnny Rocco and Johnny Three Knives if that’s better) but I’d definitely recommend the Museum of Science and Industry to anyone visiting Chicago. It’s really awesome.

Are MBAs Under Employed?

Underemployed

The summer internship experiences of my classmates fall into two main buckets. The first bucket loved their internships, were given an offer to return and have already accepted the offer. Kinda boring so let’s move on. 🙂

For those that didn’t enjoy their internship experience, they usually had a bad boss, had too much work, or were bored. I found the ‘boredom’ reason to be quite interesting so I probed further, and it seems to me that MBA boredom roughly translates into:

  • Lacking adequate intellectual stimulation on the job.
  • Lacking the opportunity to drive high profile projects that ‘move the needle’ and bring significant change to an organization (all that good stuff we read in cases! 🙂 ).
  • Lacking an overcrowded schedule that needs ninja prioritization and time management skills to coordinate.

Which brings us to the question: are MBAs under employed over the summer? Yes! but with good reason:

1. It’s not Business School: After spending 9 months managing an insane schedule, working with incredibly smart people and tackling C-level problems (through cases), the crazy business school pace really becomes our pace! Apart from banking, consulting and maybe startups, most internships are unable to match the speed and variety of a top tier MBA experience. However, I do believe that individuals can upgrade their job pace by raising their hand and taking on more. It’s really a win-win situation as you get to work at your ‘normal’ pace, and you may even get recognized for stepping up!

2. It’s not your Old Job: Our bschool application essays are filled with stories of leadership; how we led cross-functional teams to deliver on high-profile initiatives for our employer. We’ve done this before, so why shouldn’t we get to do it again over the summer? One word: trust. Those high profile projects weren’t given to you on your first day on the job right? You were given something small at first, and when you did that well, you were given more. I think the same rules apply during the summer, even though it’s frustrating for MBAs with years of work experience under their belts, eager to apply the new stuff they’ve learnt on real world problems. Notwithstanding, I think it’s fair that most managers are unwilling to bet the company on a new hire, even if he/she has a fancy MBA.

3. It’s really an interview: At the end of the day, the summer internship is really be a drawn out interview. A potential employer is able to get a good feel for what it’ll be like to have you as an employee, and you are able to get a sense of what it’ll be like to work there full time. If things work out on both sides, you get the gig, and the opportunity to build the credibility and trust that’s needed to bag those fast-paced and high profile projects!

That’s what I think. What do you think?

Image by sophisticatedrelations.com

 

Winter Quarter Blues @ Kellogg

Kellogg Winter

While this is only my second quarter at Kellogg, I can confidently state that it’s going to be my worst. Why? The Chicago winter and internship recruiting.

Having lived in Nigeria and the Great State of Texas before Kellogg, cold geographies have never being my thing, but Kellogg was a big enough draw to get me to move to Chicago. Notwithstanding, my first winter in Chicago has been particularly brutal, and is considered by many to be one of the coldest in a really long time. I still remember the Polar Vortex in January,and how some students threw boiling water outside to see how fast it would freeze in temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m not sure if the water actually froze though; all I saw was a lot of steam… The really challenging part of the winter for me is that it really tanks my productivity by making a ‘sleepaholic’ like me to sleep even more. In addition, when I do become awake, I don’t feel motivated to go out or get a whole lot done.

The second and even more ‘sucky’ part of the winter quarter is internship recruiting. Now truth be told, this affects everyone differently. Some students, through pre-MBA recruiting, already had internship offers on the first day they walked into Kellogg. Also, offers from on-campus internship recruiting have started pouring in since early January. Nonetheless, not everyone gets an internship this quickly, and this can create stressful situations for ALL students. On one hand, students with offers are keeping their fingers crossed for those still recruiting, but sometimes feel like they’re walking on eggshells as they try to figure out the best way to support their peers. For those still recruiting, feelings of anxiety coupled with the ‘rough and tumble’ of recruiting may create distractions in class and reduce attendance at both academic and social meetups. These different dynamics come together to create what can be described as an undesirable experience during the winter quarter.

For most students, finding a job is really important and one of the main reasons why we came to business school. However, the process of doing so is really stressful and takes a lot of shine away from the vibrant Kellogg experience. I can’t wait to get to Spring quarter when, following historical data, more than 90% of us will have found cool summer gigs, it’ll be a little warmer, and school can become fun again!

Why All MBAs Should Recruit for Management Consulting

strategy consulting

These past weeks have been particularly challenging in terms of adhering to my personal commitment of having at least two posts a month. The reason is simple: internship recruiting.

One of the most stressful industries to recruit for at business school is strategy consulting, yet every year roughly about 50% of the MBA class at Kellogg (including yours truly 😉 ) interview for consulting internships, and about 23% actually get consulting internship offers. The reason? Salaries are quite decent, and there is the allure of “working with the world’s top companies and helping them to understand and solve their most challenging problems.”

Another reason for the strategy consulting internship rush in my opinion is that it tends to act as some sort of reputation currency on campus. So you got an offer from MBB (McKinsey, BCG and Bain)? You’re awesome! You didn’t? Maybe you’re okay… Of course this type of thinking is really nonsense. We all have different strengths that may or may not lend well to a strategy consulting career. As Victor Cheng, a former McKinsey consultant would say, “the most creative and successful CEOs would make really lousy consultants!”.

Despite its very demanding preparation process, relatively low success rate, and the fact that failure can be a very public and painful event, I still think everyone with the slightest interest in strategy consulting should participate in the recruiting process for three reasons:

1. You Learn

I found the process of preparing for consulting cases interviews to be a sort of mini capstone for my first quarter courses. By working through different cases, I was forced to think through business problems in a variety of functional areas like marketing, operations, and finance, in industries ranging from pharma to agribusiness. I think this was a really good way to consolidate the knowledge I had already gained and even learn some new things along the way.

2. You Reflect

The stress of recruiting for consulting starts quite early in the Fall – as you constantly run from company presentations to coffee chats – and continues through case prep all the way to when you actually walk into your interview. From my experience, the sheer pressure of the entire process really makes you to stop and reflect on what you really want from your life and career, and I think that this is a really valuable thought process to go through while at business school.

3. You Build Relationships

By doing case preps with some of my class mates, complaining about the entire process with them, and sharing some of the outcomes of the introspection process that I mentioned earlier, I was able to create some new relationships which I highly value.

It is important to note that all the benefits that I have highlighted above come during the PROCESS of recruiting for consulting, and not from actually getting a consulting job offer. It’s about who you become in the process people! 😀