Hanging In There for the Long Haul

Posted by: Francesca Di Meglio on May 5, 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.

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By Grant Garcia
The job search is a roller coaster of emotions. From networking for opportunities, applications, and follow ups to the actual interview process, searching for the perfect job is a mix of excitement, anxiety, and fatigue. Searching takes persistence and determination; it’s practically a full-time job alone. What keeps me going is the reality that this down economy isn’t going to last forever. In fact, this week, we’ve seen signs that recovery is on the horizon – and that financial firms and investment banks will inevitably start hiring again.

For me, the cycle of job search emotion is typically consistent. Since I am constantly searching, I spend a few hours each day researching job listings from Web sites I follow, such as eFinancialCareers, my school career database, and job listings on Bloomberg. When I come across a position that fits my interest and experience criteria, that’s when the excitement begins. I have developed a system to organize these job descriptions, which makes it simple to correspond with contacts and send out resumes. The exciting part is the slim chance that a particular listing is going to be “the one” that actually turns into a full-time job.

That being said, there are times when I feel anxiety and fatigue from meticulously studying job descriptions, applying, and following up. The follow up is the most important part of my job search because I really believe that finance recruiters appreciate my persistence. However, the time commitment and organization this requires can be physically and mentally exhausting. On top of that, the current amount of rejection in the job market right now can be somewhat discouraging. For all the time and effort I put into applications, e-mails and follow ups, there is often little or no return.

When I feel worn down from this process, I always think of the scene from the movie Wall Street where Bud Fox calls Gordon Gekko's office 59 days in a row before finally meeting the finance icon. When he arrives in his office, Gekko says, "There ought to be a picture of you in the dictionary under persistence, kid." I am not suggesting that I, or any MBA in the job search should mimic this exact behavior, but I do believe it serves as a great metaphor for how persistence, when done with courtesy, can be very effective. With so many applicants at top firms, it's too easy to fall off the radar just by a lack of persistence.

I have found that participating in athletics is the best way for me to manage the stress, pressure, and disappointment of my job search. I find it’s easy to set up a quick, but intense racquetball or squash match with other MBAs or law students, which is a great way to alleviate stress. Additionally, I frequently go on long-distance runs, when I have time to clear my mind and organize my thoughts. The best part of participating in athletics is that not only do you forget about the stress of your search for a few hours, but you also feel great afterward. It’s positive motivation to keep you going during a tough week of job searching.

Lastly, I think it’s very important to remain focused on my dream job. Too often I get excited about a job description that isn’t exactly what I want to be doing after business school, but I meet the qualifications and have been offered an interview. As appealing as an interview may be during this recession, it wouldn’t be fair to me, or to the hiring firm for me to compromise by taking a position that isn’t really what I want to be doing. Although there is an emotional high that comes with a good opportunity, the long term reality is that I would not be happy. I have heard mixed reactions to my opinion, but I think Jack and Suzy Welch summed it up best with their "Long Shot Strategy," described in "Options for MBAs Without Jobs", a recent BusinessWeek post. They agree that once an MBA lands the job he or she really wants, the student will be starting in the right place and will have experienced the determination it takes to succeed in that role.

I am fortunate that I am graduating from business school with limited responsibilities, and that I do not have a family to support. I know many other MBAs who do not have the flexibility to take the “Long Shot Strategy” because they have a family and many associated financial obligations. I also need to earn an income, but I am willing to work a simple part-time job while continuing my search for the right position. I understand it may take a few more months of enduring the emotional job searching cycle, but I remain optimistic that my preparation will meet the right opportunity and success will follow.

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