Business Schools

A Marathon Day of Marketing Myself


"Interviewing with multiple companies in one day was a pretty grueling process. You become a robot spitting out stories on auto-pilot"

When you're stressed from internship interviewing, the Super Bowl is a great way to take the edge off. At least many of my classmates were hoping it would be that way. As the lone Colts fan in a sea of Bears' orange and blue, I watched my classmates wilt with each of Rex Grossman's mistakes. In between plays, conversation inevitably turned to internships.

"I can't wait until this is over." I can't count how many times someone said that to me on Super Bowl Sunday. Ironically, these Bears fans were talking about interviewing, not the game. Interviews started a week after we returned from winter break. There was no time to settle into a routine and deal with this semester's reading intensive courseload.

Instead, everyone was attending recruiting dinners, researching companies, and rehearsing "STAR" stories. (For those not in the loop: Situation, Task, Action, Result—stories that demonstrate how you led teams and became a superstar at former jobs.) Every day, someone was dressed up, leaving class early, or coming to class late for meetings with recruiters. I spoke with one classmate who had an interview on Wednesday, and her nerves had kept her from sleeping since the previous Sunday. Talk about stress.

New Language

One and a half months later, all 18 brand-management students have at least one internship offer. The list of companies includes S.C. Johnson, Nestlé (NSRGY), Procter & Gamble (PG), Kraft (KFT), Colgate (CL), Kimberly-Clark (KMB), General Mills (GIS), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), ConAgra (CAG), Johnsonville Sausage, and Intuit (INTU).

My situation was a bit unique. The other Consortium fellows and I interviewed with companies last June at the Consortium's Orientation Program, or OP. At first glance, interviewing during the summer may seem less stressful. It's good not to have to juggle interviewing and classes during the school year, but it also has its drawbacks.

Many of my classmates who interviewed on campus only had one round of interviews. Most Consortium fellows have to go through at least two rounds. Also, you have to remember that I'm a career switcher. I had to learn how to speak like a marketer and deal with case questions before the academic year started. Even though I had done a lot of research about marketing, there's no substitute for taking a marketing class, having marketing career experience, or going through a semester-long preparation.

Same Old Questions

Luckily, UW's Center for Brand & Product Management created an OP boot camp for the six Consortium fellows specializing in brand management. For an intense 48 hours, we were given a crash course in marketing and behavioral interviewing. Representatives from Kraft (KFT) conducted mock interviews. We left armed with a binder full of tips and sample questions.

Even though I felt the brand center did a good job of preparing us, I was still nervous about interviewing. Journalism interviews don't require as much forethought. There are no STAR stories, case studies or "if you were a spaceship, what color would you be" type questions.

Interviewing with multiple companies in one day was a pretty grueling process. You hear the same questions over and over again. "Walk me through your résumé." "Tell me about a time you lead a team." "Why the switch to brand management?" You become a robot spitting out stories on auto-pilot.

I ended up getting internship offers from S.C. Johnson, General Mills, and P&G. Each company followed a different process. S.C. Johnson made an offer on the spot, whereas, Mills flew me to Minneapolis for a second round in which I had to write a case analysis and interview with three people individually. I interviewed with P&G twice over the phone and was accepted to the company's summer marketing camp.

Proving Your Worth

That was the most intense week of my life. We learned about marketing during the day, had social events all evening, and participated in a 24-hour case competition. On the final day, we had a three-on-one internship interview. It was a great experience, but I was worn out when I got home. I literally slept for the entire day.

It was a tough decision, but I accepted with S.C. Johnson. The company has strong brands, a great culture, and it's only 100 miles from where my family lives outside of Chicago. Carlos, another Consortium fellow, is going there as well.

It feels great to have that process out of the way, but the pressure is far from over. After three months of having companies court you and making you feel special, you have to prove your worth all over again during your internship. Internship offers are great, but it's the full-time offers that make all of this hard work worthwhile.

Investigative Shopping

Meanwhile, there's still a semester's worth of work to complete. So far, things are less hectic than last semester. I'm taking the core classes—Operations Management, Ethics (one hour), Managing Behavior in Organizations, Economics for Managers—and two specialization courses: Marketing Channels and Marketing Communications.

Communications is the most fun and probably the most work. My team is creating a marketing-communications plan, including a commercial, for a local mall. In fact, my teammate Soly and I are on our way to visit two malls in order to do some research. If we happen to do some shopping along the way, well that's just part of the job.

Coffey is a member of Wisconsin - Madison's MBA class of 2008.

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