Appleseed’s Advice for MBA candidates

F1GMAT: Is there any MBA myth that you want to break?

Zach: Alumni can help you get acquainted with a job landscape.  They can help you make connections and get your resume in for a position.  Alumni can do a lot, but they cannot guarantee you a job.  Any school that tells you their Alumni will just “magically” make a job appear, I encourage you to reconsider everything they have told you.  Getting a job is still very squarely on your shoulders as an MBA graduate.  Your experience, education and charisma are what will get you a job.  Alumni are merely a tool that can help.

F1GMAT: Last year was a challenging year for MBA graduates. How did you maintain your focus and motivation during this tough period?

Zach: Job-hunting is a challenging endeavour at the best of times, but to do so during an economic downturn is especially challenging.  I’m not going to lie, there were days when I was beyond despair when it came to my job hunt, but it is in those times you need to find a way to dig deeper and keep going.  The best way, as I see it, to rally maintain focus and motivation is through regular physical activity, setting up a routine for yourself, and networking with others.

To keep with my goals of regular physical activity, I would make a point of going to the gym or for a hike at least every second or third day.  It is surprising how a good workout can make you feel and help to turn your attitude around.  It helps you deal with the stress of job hunting and it is good for you all around.  In addition, there are a lot of studies that have been done that show good physical health helps people maintain good mental health and if there is ever a time when you need to be at your mental peak, it is during job hunting and interviewing.

I also set a routine for myself.  I turned job hunting into my job.  Every Monday I would go through all my jobs and save the opportunities I found to a file on my computer.  I would then break them up and complete a few applications every day.  This helped to keep me motivated and on the right track.  Even if I were having a “down” day, I would still get through that day’s allocation of covering letters and resumes.

Similarly, I would make an effort to meet with one person each week to discuss my job hunt.  This might be an alumnus, who would help me understand a different aspect of the industry that I was targeting.  It might be an old friend who I could share my recent struggles with and would offer me a word of encouragement.  Or it might be a classmate of mine from my MBA class over Skype or the phone.  Sometimes it was the career councillor at Queen’s I had scheduled a call with to discuss some additional strategies or changes to my covering letter.   At least once a week, maybe twice, I would try to meet with someone.  Not only was this good for moral and motivation, but it often helped me see other ways to continue my job hunt that I hadn’t previously thought of.  The added benefit was that these people would also often send me any opportunity they came across.   Just simply knowing that I had other people helping me and who wanted to see me succeed really helped to boost my moral as well as connecting with others going through the same struggle.  It is so easy to get down on yourself when you are isolated and start to think the world is out to get you.

F1GMAT: Any advice for MBA graduates and MBA aspirants?

Zach: There is plenty of advice I could provide to aspiring MBAs, but I think I will keep it to two points. If readers like what they read here, they can find more on my blog (http://queensu-mba.blogspot.com/).

First, if you do decide to return to school, do everything.  Join all the clubs, do all the extracurricular activities, all the career events...do everything.  It pays off in spades.  Upon looking back at the whole experience, I'm happy I did as much as I did; my only regrets stem from things I passed up on the opportunity to do.
Second, make sure you go in with a strong understanding of the career choices available to you (i.e. finance, consulting, general management, etc.) and which you would choose, why you would choose it and how you plan to leverage your way into that career from day one.  This will give you the best platforms from which to evaluate the countless other opportunities that will present themselves while you are in your program.

About Zach

Zach is the author of the popular Blog QUEEN'S MBA: GOING THE DISTANCE and is more popularly known by his pseudonym, Appleseed.   After acquiring his professional engineering status while working in the Canadian Oil and Gas Industry, Zach returned to school to earn an MBA in the full-time program at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.  His blog details his research into MBA programs, decision process to return to school, week-by-week experience in the program and subsequent job search.

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