Already a Bloomberg.com user?
Sign in with the same account.
Forget the two front teeth. Some MBA students are singing, “All I want for Christmas is a job.” Second-year students have already completed on-campus recruiting, and those without offers must set off on an independent search. First-year students are gearing up for the internship recruiting that usually takes place beginning in January.
Although MBA students might be tempted to kick back and relax over the holiday break, they cannot afford such a luxury in this competitive job market, say career placement advisers. “The job search can take months,” says Cynthia Billington, associate director for MBA Career Education and Advising at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School. “Any time you stop the job search, it’s like starting over.”
In addition to feeling as though they have halted their search, students will fall behind the competition if they neglect to do anything over the break. “The biggest mistake students make is to just take three and a half weeks off,” says Jim Kranzusch, executive director of MBA Career Services at Georgia Institute of Technology’s College of Management. “You have to be ready to go if you are a second-year without a job or a first-year anticipating on-campus recruiting for internships.”
Here are some tips on how MBA students who are asking Santa for work can maximize their efforts during the holidays:
While offices slow down during the holidays, they rarely shut down completely for more than a few days. Someone is always around. In fact, says business psychologist Stephen A. Laser, some people prefer to work when things are quieter. As a result, he adds, hiring managers are more likely to talk to you or take a look at your résumé if you ask. “Often you can get through to them in a way you could not before the holidays,” he says.
Those who hire aren’t the only ones working during the holidays—and working isn’t all they’re doing. Alumni groups, professional organizations, and members of one’s network are hosting holiday parties and events that are ripe for networking. Find out about them, get on the guest list, and start schmoozing, says Billington. These events are a great way to get to know people in the student’s profession of choice, and they can be fun, she says.
Another tradition that can come in handy for those seeking work is the practice of sending holiday cards. Students can send greetings to everyone in their network with a brief update on where they stand in the job search and their hopes for the new year, followed by best wishes, suggests Jennifer E. Thomas, associate director of the Career Management Center at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business.
Now that most students are on break from school, they can focus solely on the job hunt and prepare for the job application process. Second-year students who have not secured an offer should determine what went wrong in their interviews and practice for the next batch, says Kranzusch, who adds that first-years should prepare responses to the most commonly asked interview questions. All MBA students should take the time to update their résumés to reflect the projects, activities, and leadership experiences they picked up during the previous semester.
Résumés are not the only way to demonstrate accomplishments. Students should also work on better establishing their online presence in a professional manner, says Laser, the author of Out of Work and Over 40 (Xlibris, 2011), adding that virtual networking skills are more important than ever. Making sure LinkedIn (LNKD) profiles and online résumés are updated should also be a priority, Laser says. Résumés should be tailored to match the jobs they seek to fill, highlighting the skills mentioned in the job posts. Still, Laser warns that students should not handcuff themselves to their technology during the holiday break. “You can only do so much on the Internet,” says Laser. “The job hunt is still a face-to-face game.”
Students should spend at least part of the holiday season reflecting on the job search up to this point, focusing on ways they can improve. Career changers, for example, might reconsider their target companies, says Kranzusch, and come up with a Plan B that takes advantage of their previous experience instead of making a clean break. For instance, an engineer who wants to switch to finance might instead consider tech companies that are looking for managers. Determining strengths and weaknesses when it comes to everything from what students wear to the interview to how they respond to specific interview questions should be moved from the back burner to the front, Kranzusch says. Being honest about weaknesses will pay off in the long run, he adds.
Looking for a job, especially if one has been at it for a while, can be emotionally taxing; add a stressful holiday and it’s a recipe for depression. In addition to reaching out to friends and family for assistance in the job search, Laser says, students should lean on them for emotional support. Getting out of the house and doing things to distract themselves, such as volunteering, doesn’t hurt either, says Laser. It can put students in contact with people who may be useful later on, and it will help keep their spirits up.
While students must continue the job hunt, they also need to take care of themselves. Students work hard during the semester, and using the holidays to recharge is important, says Kranzusch. “Your tank may be empty,” he says. “You’re tired, and you may need to relax a little bit.”
Students who are continuing the job search during the holidays also need to manage their own expectations. Be ready to apply to jobs during the holiday season without getting any immediate responses, says Thomas, who adds that patience is both a necessity and a virtue. “Check in after the first of the year,” she says. “It’s a lot of hurry up, get ready, and then wait.”