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.
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.