MBA Job Search: Unemployed But Unbowed

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on April 7, 2009

With the economy in turmoil, many MBA graduates are finding the job search tough going. To give readers some insight into the strategies they’re pursuing and the difficulties they face, BusinessWeek has recruited four out-of-work MBAs to write about their experiences for a new feature called “The Hunt” that will appear periodically on the Getting In blog. Comments, as always, are welcome.

Michael Janger.jpg

By Michael Janger

The unprecedented high number of unemployed workers in the recession of 2009 is more than enough to numb the mind. It is easy to fall into the trap of clumping all the unemployed into one group of thousands, even millions. In reality, each unemployed person has a different, personal, unique story to tell.

I am an MBA graduate from Wharton whose professional career spans 15 years in finance and strategy. I was considering changing careers when I got laid off. I am deaf. And I am getting married in less than three months. This set of challenges has forced me to approach this situation in a way that appeals to my career desires, in the context of my disability, with a life-changing event approaching.

Being laid off in the depths of a historic recession has been very humbling. Yet, as difficult as it sounds, I see it as an exciting opportunity to change my career aspirations. In this time and age, no one wants to lose his or her job, even those who view the pink slip as a ticket to do something different. When you try to change a career when you already have a job, it is actually harder to quit than to have someone lay you off. Still, this kind of opportunity does not come without its risks, especially for someone with my background.

Since I earned my MBA from the Wharton School, I have been primarily involved in finance, working for companies such as Thomson Reuters, BCD Travel, and American Express. I really enjoy the analytical rigor and number-crunching this profession requires, because of my natural mathematical skills and expertise in financial modeling.

For several years, however, as a result of several successful strategy consulting engagements, I have been considering changing careers and taking on a role where I am more directly involved with marketing and product strategy and where I interact more closely with clients and customers. The risk with this approach is that I have no formal experience in these functional areas. Unfortunately, in the current state of the economy, there are many unemployed, highly qualified marketers and product developers who potential employers will hire over me.

Being deaf – no matter how highly qualified I am – adds a wrinkle to the entire job search process. Because I was born profoundly deaf, I work harder than most others at communicating effectively, whether it is listening to colleagues or making compelling presentations on my own. And, because I do not use the telephone on my own, I rely on technological innovations to enable me to communicate with people outside the office. I have never let this disability get in the way of what I want to do in my career because I am willing to take risks to achieve my goals. It takes a degree of creativity for me to do well in business, and I am taking the same approach to the job search.

My job hunting strategy has been very networking-focused – it’s how 70% of all job offers are found. In addition to my colleagues, friends, business school classmates, and headhunters, I leverage the power of the Internet by using LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media. I do not ignore the significance of the many job postings I find through the “front door” – for example, the postings I find on company Web sites, CareerBuilder, and Monster – and apply for these jobs. But if only 30% of job offers are through the front door, then it would make sense that 30% of my job search time should be spent sending in applications directly through sites like Monster.com.

The best traction I have gotten out of this job search has been scoring potential consulting engagements. Now that it has been over two months since my layoff, I am gradually finding a direction in what I want to do if I ultimately ran my own business: providing finance and strategy consulting to businesses. It is giving me a good safety net and an excellent way to build experience, as I continue to search for full-time roles.

With my wedding less than three months away, I am not only busy with the job search, but also planning for a big event. With the distractions the job search brings, the wedding is giving me a very clear perspective. Whatever happens down the road, I am looking forward to sharing my life with a wonderful and adventurous woman, and I would not let anything get in the way of enjoying our big day together. That, more than anything, is giving me the focus I need on the job search.

With so many parts in play, the search has been quite stressful, but in these situations it is very important to stay focused. I am always an optimist – not necessarily a sunny optimist, but someone who believes that with a strong work ethic and “putting your mind to it,” then it will work out positively in the end.

Reader Comments

Bill

April 13, 2009 5:34 PM

First of all, congratulations!
Actually it's quite absurd and tough to link MBA from Wharton and unemployment. Even in difficult times, it is known that companies should be willing to hire or at least save professionals whose backgrounds are like yours and above. This is from employers prospective; but from job seekers vision, employees have to be cautious and smart enough to manage their carrers through predicting and evaluating their value within their firms. Professional within a high qualifications should always have something else in their hands (generally within their competitors).
Ather thing, it is important to be focus and avoid swiching carrers prespectives especially from Finance to Marketing (it's easy to be marketer but not alike to be a financial profesional). Good luck for your new path

sandeep

April 17, 2009 10:32 AM

wish you luck in your future endeavours

Alexsandra

April 17, 2009 12:47 PM

Michael,

Thank you for being so frank in you story - your perspective and emotional intelligence will get you through, and ultimately lead you down a new path that aligns with your new personal commitment.

An MBA 15+ year veteran of corporate America who also lost her job in December, I am now realizing the cost all those late hours had to my health and personal life and how now it is my responsibility to make choices that are life-giving. So I created a start up and finished a screenplay.

Everything truly does happen for a reason. Good luck with all of it.

Ajeet

April 18, 2009 4:52 AM

I salute your spirit. And good that you know what matters most. I wish you good luck for your job hunt and heart-full wishes for your married life.
A MBA from Wharton and 15 years of experience in finance... you are a dream employee for any perspective employer. Sooner or later, things will be fine.
Keep it up Michael.

Siow Siong

April 18, 2009 10:04 AM

Hello Mike,
Congratulations for your big day!
I'm a fresh MBA grad and I did it in a part-time basis.

I've been dealing with electrical engineering and worked in semiconductor industry in the past 20 years, with 6t years of education in electrical engineering. Yes, you are right. Since I started the part-time programme, I was thinking to quit my job as a Product engineer. My first choice was to find a profession in the finance industry. And it was not easy. As you mentioned, it's extremely difficult to quit the job. However, I was retrenched last Summer before I could make a decision. And the current global fiancial turmoil has casued thousands of people to lose their jobs in the finance industry. As you probably heard the news that UBS Swiss would cut about 8700 jobs.

I am currently working as a social worker with 50% of paycut as a product engineer. I landed the job through a friend's recommendation and it fell into the other 70%.

I'm thinking to study a MSc in Finance while holding the job. I don't know when the global economy would recover. But it is importanrt to stay focused.

It's really good to read your experience. And I read it a couple of times. Thank you so much.

May your joys be as bright as the morning, your years of happiness as numerous as the stars in the heavens, and your troubles but shadows that fade in the sunlight of love... :)

Vivek

May 9, 2009 11:22 AM

All the best for your job hunt. But its my personal belief that a talented guy like you should be running your own business.
Best wishes for successful marriage :)

Anand

August 11, 2009 8:41 PM

Hi,

I am a Computer Science engineer and MBA graduate with over 4 years experience looking for a full time job. You can contact me at mbajobseeker2009@gmail.com if you know of any openings/need my resume.

Thanks,
Anand

Megan Dew

September 10, 2009 2:36 AM

@ Anand: I lost my job last month and found work here on www.bigjobsboard.com

Michele Delawder

October 19, 2009 11:17 AM

Your article really touched me. My husband is Deaf and I'm an unemployed MBA. I was a Marketing Manager, but lost my job 1 wk before graduating. Had a 3.9 gpa in the masters program and was an honors student in undergrad, Cambridge Who's Who, etc., but still 2 months after losing my job, I can't find even entry level work (too educated or not enough experience). It is extremely humbling. I've fortunately been able to land a few freelance writing jobs, but it's not enough. My husband and I are now moving our family of 4 from a 1700 sqft home to a small 1 bdrm apartment.

Fortunately, my husband has a good job at a local factory. The place he works, Baldor Manufacturing, is even paying for his bosses to take sign language classes! You may consider a job with them (www.baldor.com). He has long dreamed of owning his own business and we know many successful Deaf business owners. My hope was to earn enough after getting my MBA to help open that door for him. I know he can do it!

Please let me know if there's anything at all I can do to help. I don't have the connections or experience you have, but I am an interpreter with an MBA and I can certainly pray for you. My husband and I would love to meet you sometime. Maybe you can come to Arkansas and speak to the Deaf community here. It's an honor to read your story!

mdelawder@gmail.com

Anurag Tandon

January 20, 2010 4:06 PM

Mike - Good luck to you, I hope you have found something by now. I'm in a similar situation. An MBA from Michigan (its not Wharton, but still pretty good), nearly 10 years of experience in Finance and Strategy and no luck. After receiving my MBA I worked in Wealth Management for 9 months before being laid off. Came as a completely shock since I was promoted and given a bonus (which many of my peers did not receive). What is making it especially difficult for me is that I am trying to support my twin baby girls and partially handicapped wife by borrowing money from my parents who don't have much themselves. I have tried everything, but either get passed over because I have too much experience, am not the right fit or people don't believe that I am committed to a Corporate Finance Career since i switched over to Wealth Management. For the WM positions I don't have enough experience. With over $400,000 of loans outstanding, life is becoming very hard and depressing. I know that you have a difficulty communicating, but just be glad you are not me..

Good luck to you, I'm sure you have already found what you are looking for.

Adrianne

February 16, 2010 10:47 AM

I graduated in May 2009, having earned my MBA from Villanova University. Unfortunately, my dreams of being financially secure were not met due to the economic recession. It took me over three months to find a temporary assignment as a receptionist making $11 an hour. Not quite what I was expecting, let me tell you. I am trying to stay positive and know how much I learned during the program. The impending $45,000 student loan payments that are coming due coupled with the fact that I make the same amount I did in HIGH SCHOOL, well, makes me cringe. I am having a hard time and do not want to become bitter....

gurjot

March 23, 2010 11:28 PM

hi

i am mba from icfai from india i am finding jobs but they are not according to my qualification

Diane

April 23, 2010 2:54 PM

While feeling depressed today, I stumbled upon your story. I have been an executive in the nonprofit sector for 25 years and, while working full-time, earned my MBA from the University of Iowa ten years ago.

Just as in the for-profit sector, there is alot happening in the nonprofit world in reaction to the poor economy - nonprofits going out of business, merging with other nonprofits, outsourcing non-mission functions such as HR, IT, Accounting, etc.

My organization merged with another one in February 2009. I received six months severence - yet 14 months later, I still do not have a full-time administrative position.

I have done contract labor work for other nonprofits - grant writing, strategic planning, etc. while seeking a full-time leadership role in the nonprofit sector.

I have interviewed for several positons - but am either overqualified (which translates to too expensive) or not socially known by the Board of Directors.

My husband is 62 and has a job (also in the nonprofit sector) so I feel I can't relocate until he is ready to retire in four more years.

I admire everybody that has posted their stories. We all have to remember that none of these experiences are personal - we are victims of the times.

I agree with Alexsandra that posted - most of us with MBAs have worked long hours, long weeks for our companies. Now it is our turn to stop and smell the roses. After six months of unemployment, I started writing songs. I didn't even know I had a creative bone in my body. It feels good to explore the other side of the brain.

Best of luck to all of us as we move forward and deal with these difficult times.

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