Congratulations! You got into a top B-school! It’s time to kick back, relax, and enjoy the summer before school starts, right? Erm, well, yes. It is indeed very important to get some R&R before the craziness of your first term at your MBA befalls you. But here’s another idea that you might want to consider: Start thinking about what is next. You’re all grown up now (and even more so when you’re a fully minted MBA), so it’s time to start actively managing your career.
In other words — it’s time to take your destiny in your own hands by examining your values, learning how to talk about yourself, building your network, and assessing your performance on a regular basis. I recommend you stay at least one step ahead of your current status and focus on your next goal. If you’ve just been admitted to business school, your next goal is your summer internship.
It’s never too early to start thinking about that internship. Once you arrive on campus, you will have about two weeks before you have to start making some choices. You can hold recruiters at bay for a few more weeks, but many important milestones happen fast. These include the crucial tasks of choosing which professional clubs to join to get your name in front of the right firms (within your first two weeks) and tailoring your resume to your targeted internship and submitting it to the official campus resume book that your school’s career services department will make available to recruiters (within your first month).
Here are some things you can do now to get ahead of the game. Taking these small steps at your own pace before classes begin will help ensure your success in the critical and harrowing internship race, while also enabling you to enjoy the rest of your MBA experience a little more.
Set up some decision criteria.
Once classes and recruiting begin (shortly after your arrival on campus), FOMO is gonna get you — with classes, company information sessions, student club meetings, study groups, social activities, and networking, you will fear missing out on everything! With such a hectic schedule, you won’t have time to pursue multiple recruiting tracks. So take some time now to narrow your options by at least a few criteria: geography, industry, function, team structure, learning opportunities — whatever fits your objectives.
Do a little research.
Maybe you read the point above and thought to yourself, “Well, that is great, but how do I narrow my options? I kinda fudged my personal statement, and I don’t even really know what post-MBA jobs there are.” You might start by thoroughly reading your school’s career report and identifying career functions that correspond to your skills and industries that appeal to you. Then, you might take an important extra step and speak to people in these fields, aka the vastly underutilized and underrated informational interview. Click that link to be taken directly to my Awesome Informational Interview Guide. Then, if you can swing it, try job shadowing.
Prepare yourself for the challenge.
Let’s say that you want to transition from your current position into a consulting role. Did you know that consulting firms take a careful look at your GMAT score to see if you have the raw intellectual horsepower to succeed (especially at schools with grade nondisclosure)? If you didn’t know that, and your GMAT score is not that strong, you actually might want to—as awful as this sounds—take the GMAT again and get that score up! This is just one example, but you should be aware of industry-specific practices to avoid disappointment down the line. Talk to current students. Talk to those in the industry. Prepare yourself to succeed.
Build your network.
If you are trying to transition from your current firm to another or are trying to transition into a new industry entirely, you need friends on the inside at your target firms. Sure, you will meet recruiters on campus, but they represent only a small number of firms that hire MBAs. Your network can be particularly useful if you are seeking positions at firms that do not recruit heavily on your campus. But even for on-campus recruiting, firms hire the people they like. How they can know if they like you if they don’t even know you. So back to my informational interview advice. Take the time now to do some and build relationships with target firms in the process.
Consider a pre-MBA internship.
If you are changing careers, gaining some valuable experience before coming to campus can make that transition seem a lot more plausible to potential employers. For example, if you are an operations-focused individual who is trying to break into tech marketing, that might seem like a big leap—but not if you have a few months at a tech start-up under your belt. You might be surprised at the favorable responses you receive when you offer your highly skilled time to a firm that could use the low-cost help. And, of course, if you perform well, you just might make an impression that will help you land that coveted summer internship.
Get smart about your chosen field.
A nuanced understanding of an industry does not develop overnight. Start to follow your target field now. Read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal every day; look for relevant articles, understand trends in your field, and develop your vocabulary. Pick up some recent literature in your target field—you don’t need to dive into a textbook! Reading Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail or Michael Lewis’s The Big Short can give you important context for the current financial system, for example, from mortgage lending policies to legislation to compensation practices to… the list goes on! Upload this industry jargon and vocabulary to your brain matter now, not when you’re juggling five new classes, recruiting, and a social life!