In about a month, I’ll graduate with my MBA—and no job. I’m at a respected school, my GPA (grade point average) is 3.5, I’ve got two years of retail consulting experience and great references, and I’ve spent months doing all the right things to get hired. Please help.
— Name withheld, Chicago
What a terrible bind you’re in—you and thousands upon thousands of others. Word is that at some business schools, even at top tier ones, upward of 30% of the graduates have yet to land positions. Recruiters just aren’t coming to campuses like they used to, and if they are, it’s for informational purposes only. Many companies, hit by worsening results and alarmed by dire forecasts, have delayed start dates for their MBA hires or rescinded their offers altogether. It’s not a jungle out there. It’s a wake.
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But you didn’t ask for sympathy. You asked for advice.
So let’s look at the three recommendations we offered to an MBA who came to see us this week. Our friend, like you, is still empty-handed and beginning to feel desperate.
1. You can settle and learn to love it.
2. You can go a little crazy.
3. You can do your own thing.
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Let’s tackle “settling” first—it’s the fastest and easiest option. Look, you already know that you’re probably not going to get the kind of job—in terms of industry, title and salary—that you dreamed of when you started your MBA a few years ago, back when it seemed like the sky was the limit. But there probably is a job out there, in this country or abroad, that’ll offer you a reasonable amount of relevant experience and a liveable salary.
You could accept that job. And more importantly, you could embrace it with gusto and work ardently to innovate processes, improve your team and make yourself indispensable by constantly over-delivering.
In your case, for instance, you might work at a retail store of some sort, with the goal of having your stellar performance eventually land you in management—and of attracting the notice of headquarters. Sure, the day-to-day work of ringing up sales might seem like a pitiable return on your MBA investment at first. But think career strategy. Being a star performer at virtually any solid organization is eventually a ticket up or over to a better opportunity elsewhere. In time, your humility—and results—will likely be rewarded.
Now for going a little crazy. This is the job-hunting approach we prefer for MBAs in the current circumstances but only recommend with trepidation. Because not everyone can pull off highly targeted begging and pleading while remaining highly likeable, and that’s what we’re suggesting.
The idea is to pick the one or two places you’ve always wanted to work, or the two executives you’d give a kidney to work for, and repeatedly make your case to them in the most creative, appealing and persuasive way you can. Send letters, emails, make phone calls, whatever it takes to get a five-minute interview. Which you then have to nail with your brilliant insights and positive energy. Yes, this is a long-shot strategy. But when it works—and here’s why we like it—you’ll be starting your career in the right place. And you’ll have experienced what it really takes to get ahead.
Finally, if settling and a little craziness don’t work for you, there’s starting your own business. Figure out what you know and what you’re good at, find a friend who brings something to the table—brains, contacts, seed capital or little need for sleep. Then, like every entrepreneur, you’ll have to get out there and hustle.
If consulting is your gig, for instance, take jobs for $5,000 (Rs2.48 lakh) or $10,000 or negotiate with clients for a percentage of the increased revenues you bring in or the savings you create. You know the drill, and you probably know the risks, too. The current economic environment makes choosing to become an entrepreneur an extraordinary act of courage, and only you know if you have that kind of mettle.
Not to sound harsh—we’re just trying to be realistic. These are unprecedented times for MBAs (and for all job seekers), requiring unusual levels of self-awareness. The global economic crisis will likely last another year or two, and there’s no point in waiting around, hoping for a miracle.
You really only have three options. Make a choice and press on.
©2009/by NYT Syndicate
Write to Jack & Suzy
Jack and Suzy are eager to hear about your career dilemmas and challenges at work, and look forward to answering some of your questions in future columns. Jack and Suzy Welch are the authors of the international best-seller,Winning. Their latest book is Winning: The Answers: Confronting 74 of the Toughest Questions in Business Today. Mint readers can email them questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, occupation and city. Only select questions will be answered.