Monthly Archives: August 2011

To Fair or Not to Fair

…that appears to be the question being asked by MBA and Masters business students.

I refer specifically to the annual national MBA/Masters business career fairs, one hosted by NBMBAA and the other by NSHMBA. This year the first of these career fairs is in Atlanta, October 6th and 7th and the other in Anaheim, October 14th and 15th.

Is it a good investment of your time and money to go?  Should you attend?

That’s your call and you should decide based on maximizing your potential networking opportunities with hiring managers, recruiters and corporate management; i.e. the people who actually make the hiring decisions.

There are some very convincing reasons for attending.

1- You have between 250 to 300 companies, their recruiters and hiring managers available to speak with you; all under one roof, in one place, for 2 entire days! How many recruiters and managers might be there? Let’s say there are 260 companies and they average just 4 managers per company, some can have more than 10; that is at least 1,040 company managers under one roof. Where else will you find such a concentration of corporate management in one place in the next few months?

2- Companies pay a lot to rent a table/booth at these career fairs, some up to 4 or more booth spaces. I should know, I used to attend and recruit from these events. Given what it costs each company to attend, you can bet they are not there just for show. In these tough economic times you have to justify spending the company’s money. Their attendance tells you they have a reason for being there; they are recruiting MBAs and Masters business students. That would be you!

3- Companies don’t hire resumes or online applications files; they hire people! You can apply online all you want but nothing takes the place of being face to face with hiring managers. If your only career management effort is to apply online or send out resumes by email or snail mail, then you are a piece of paper or an online file, probably one of many. If you are standing in front of me, you are a real person I can speak with.

4- I cannot count the number of times I hear MBA and Masters business students say “if I could only get a chance to speak with (insert name or title here), I could get them interested in me”. Here’s your chance.

5- Our business school, as do many, has a very large business career fair in mid-September. Some students have mentioned that they plan to attend that career fair so why should they attend one of the major national career fairs? Comparing the list of companies attending our career fair with the list of those that will be in Atlanta and/or Anaheim, there are only about 20 matches.

6- Major business career fairs on-campus are, to make it more advantageous for the recruiting companies, almost always focused on graduate and undergraduate business students. The major national career fairs we are discussing are focused only on MBA and Masters business students. Enough said.

7- Another important point to keep in mind is that often the major national or global firms recruiting at on-campus business career fairs are seeking candidates for regional or local operations. Major national and global firms attending the national MBA/Masters business career fairs are recruiting for their national and global operations. If you apply for positions you are interested in, online and ahead of time with companies that are attending the career fair, many of these companies will conduct interviews at the career fair with candidates they are interested in. many companies keep some interview slots open for student they meet at the career fair and are interested in.

8- One last, often overlooked advantage, to the major national MBA/ Masters business career fairs. Some companies host “invitation only” an after hour’s reception, often with senior company management in attendance. This is a chance for those invited career fair attendees to meet more company management and make an impression on the decision makers.

Let’s look at the numbers:

1- If you only focus on attending the career fair on your campus (I’m using our upcoming one for this example), you will have at least 155 companies and possibly 300 managers to potentially interact with.

2- If you only focus on attending one of the national MBA/Masters business career fairs, you will at least 250 companies and over 1,000 recruiters and hiring managers to potentially interact with.

3- If you decide to attend both the on-campus and one of the national MBA/Masters business career fairs, you will have at least 405 companies and at least 1,300 recruiters and hiring managers to potentially interact with.

Of the three possible options, you can see which one gives you the greatest potential exposure, the most possible networking and marketing opportunities and the best possible return on your investment of time and money.

Attending none of these events is not really an option for any MBA or masters business student serious about their career management effort, unless you already have a job locked up.

Then, congratulations!!!

If you are going to attend a national career fair, have a plan. Have your 30 second “elevator speech” ready, know which firms you want to visit first (the “A” list), which next (the “B” list), and how to make sure you also visit the others. No stone left unturned.

Your graduate business career center should be able to help your develop an effective plan to optimize your efforts. You do not want to walk into one of these events with no plan. You will be lost and miss a lot of opportunities.

You have or are putting a lot of time, effort and money into your graduate program. Your sleep and personal life are suffering. This was a life decision for you. It stands to reason that you will be as committed towards maximizing your potential career opportunities, more so in the present economy we all find ourselves in.

Maximizing your opportunities is an excellent start; minimizing them is like starting the game down two touchdowns and having to punt the ball to the other team.

There is no mystery to success, there is however hard work and commitment.


There is No “I” in Cover Letter

When writing a cover letter, remember the purpose is to focus on the audience or shall we say potential employer at all times. Employers are seeking a solution to a need through hiring, so by keeping the employer as your central focus, you will generate interest in your letter’s content.   A well written cover letter addresses an employer’s need and provides proven examples of your ability to meet that need.  Transform interest in what you have to say into a desire to contact you by highlight relevant experience and accomplishments.

Cover letters that are littered with the word “I” automatically draws the reader’s attention away from the intended audience and back to the writer.  As a job seeker, you are a marketing manager, and every successful marketing campaign targets a customer’s need.  As a job seeker, you want to sell and market the skills that matter most to a potential employer.  A better word or phrase with which to cover the page of a cover letter is the name of the employer and organization rather than “I”. 

As a job seeker, you want the employer to read your letter and resume and be inspired to call you for an interview.  Here are a few tips for writing a cover letter that turns attention to the reader as opposed to “I”:

  1. Begin with a word other than “I”.  Right off the bat you take the attention off of the employer and on to yourself.   
  2. After your first draft, circle the “I”s in red.  During the editing process, reword those phrases so that you decrease your number by at least half.
  3. Focus on what the employer needs rather than what you want.  “I want” or “I am seeking experience” will shift the focus of the message from marketing your ability to pleading for a job. 

 A targeted job search campaign consists of marketing yourself as a solution to business.  A cover letter connects an employer’s needs with your abilities with the emphasis on the employer, not “I”.

I’ve Got an Offer: Do I Have to Decide NOW?

For returning 2nd year MBA and Masters business students, you may have a decision to make fairly soon.

We all know that an internship is really a 10 to 12 week on-the-job interview; a chance or you to showcase your knowledge, skills and abilities in a “real” situation while allowing the company and your manager to assess your fit for their organization and specific needs. At the Masters level, that’s one of their primary purposes. If you do well and the company is interested and hiring, you may well receive a fulltime offer. In this economic environment, it’s very good to have an offer. That can also present a dilemma for some.

Almost all fulltime offers today have a short decision timeline. I realize some students may want to use the fall semester to test the waters and see what other options might be available but a short decision timeline will not afford you that option. If you have a decision date such as August 31st or September 9th, it is very unlikely you’ll be able to get a delay much beyond a week, maybe two.

That may cause you some angst so it’s important to keep in mind a few relevant and important facts.

  1. You have an offer because that organization is very interested in you joining them and they see you as a potential contributor with a future at their company. That cannot be overlooked. In this poor economy and very competitive hiring environment, where you have so many looking for opportunities, it means something when a company commits to you.
  2. While it would be nice to have a semester to make a decision on our fulltime offer, companies are under no obligation to put their plans and operational needs on hold and live with uncertainty while students look for what they may perceive as a “better deal”. A manager with a position to fill and you as their preferred candidate cannot afford to wait 3 or 4 months to see if you will be there in January only to find out in November that you’ve taken someone else’s offer and they’re left with an open position and few options. It’s not personal; it’s business.
  3. The average time line from when you apply for a position to receiving an offer, if you are successful, can easily run at least 3, 4 to 5 months. So even if a company says they’ll give you an extra 3 – 4 weeks to make a decision, say until the end of September, you are still likely to find yourself having to make a decision with no other job offers or options.
  4. If you accept an offer, you are ethically and professionally committed to the company whose offer you accept. Accepting and offer and continuing to apply, interview and possibly even accept another offer is not only unethical and unprofessional, it could lead to your having both offers withdrawn should your actions be discovered. That has happened. The damage to your professional reputation and employability cannot be understated and is never worth it.Let me put it this way; you would not be happy to find out a company offered you a fulltime job and, after you accepted, continued to pursue other candidates and, let’s say, in November called to tell you they are going with someone else. You would be very upset and rightly so. It’s the same exact thing.
  5. You can always turn down the offer you’ve received and spend the fall pursuing other options, looking for another opportunity. That is certainly one option. You may well be successful but keep in mind that the company whose offer you turned down will have moved on to find another candidate and fill the position. In this economy, that will not be difficult. It is a risk you should keep in mind.
  6. You have to make the best career decision for you, your family and your career. You have to weigh all the facts and all the options. I would strongly advise against taking the advice, often well meaning, of friends or others with no real stake in your professional life. Often that advice is based on nothing of substance or any real professional knowledge or experience.
  7. You first position out of your Masters program is not going to be your last. Never look at your first job offer as if it is for the “rest of your life”. It isn’t. Your job performance in your first few years will be very important to your career going forward. When the economy starts improving, and it eventually will, there will be additional opportunities for experienced managers. So, never look at your first offer as your last.
  8. Your offer may have a short timeline but never accept an offer when you get it. And remember that it isn’t an “offer” until it is in writing; never accept a verbal offer. Anything verbal is a conversation; real offers are in writing.

If you have an offer, take it to your Career Services Advisor or Coach. Weigh the pros and possible cons of your offer, what the timeline is and any other details that may be relevant and important. I am a strong believer in counter-offering your initial offer. It’s almost always worth the offer.

You’ve put a lot of time and effort into your degree so let’s make sure you put just as much effort into making the best possible decision for your first post-MBA/Masters opportunity.

Author:  Jim Dixey, Director, Graduate Business Career Services, Mays Business School, Texas A&M University

Your Internship Search Must Start Today not Tomorrow

When should MBA, masters, and undergraduate students start seeking internships for next summer?  TODAY!  Yes, today.   Our MBA students here at Texas A&M University have officially started classes as of yesterday, and they are already preparing for a busy year of academics and the internship search.  While you may not formally apply for or interview for internships until later this fall or spring semester, the search actually must begin immediately.  With every business professional you meet, business article you read, event you attend, job search document you begin writing, you are engaging in the job search. 

It is no secret that we are in an age where networking is the number one path to securing employment. Building professional relationships takes time, and our collegiate job seekers are finding themselves building these relationships through organizational involvement and online connections.  LinkedIn and Twitter have become key resources used for bridging the gap between key hiring managers and job seekers.  Let’s face it, the entire dynamic of the job search is changing from a push to a pull technique.  Job candidates are introducing their resumes as opposed to the resumes introducing the candidate.  This takes time.  As I always say, the job search is a process not a task.  And a professional job search in this economy is a longer process than usual. 

Begin preparing your job search documents today!  Begin researching job functions, career paths, companies and industries today!  Begin meeting business professionals and becoming engaged in organizations where these professionals get their professional development today!  The time to begin your job search and career management is TODAY! 




How to Market Yourself Without Experience

Whether you lack relevant work experience for a potential position or basically lack work experience at all, you can still create a successful job search marketing campaign.  The key is to focus on your transferable skills. 

Experience, obviously, is what immediately catches the attention of potential employers.  Without a doubt, you will not be hired unless you can do a give job, but the person hired must also possess other qualities such as leadership, problem solving and initiative to name a few.

The foundation for a great financial analyst is the ability to ANALYZE.  You may have not experience in finance, but if you are able to prove your ability to successfully analyze data then you are promoting the ultimate value an employer seeks if interviewing candidates for this type position.  This is called transferrable skills.  Your job as a candidate is to prove your ability to deliver quality results not just complete tasks. 

Undergraduate students typically spend a great deal of time with involvement in student organizations.  Whether they are leaders or active members, there are a myriad of opportunities to showcase skills that can be highly valuable to potential employers.  Team class projects are ideal for building skill sets such as leadership, verbal communications and problem solving.

When you are creating your job search campaign, focus on promoting everything you have in your past to prove your value.  Employers hire based on your knowledge, skills, and experience.  Even without relevant work experience, you can still promote your value and be competitive in the job market.