Going through an MBA program can open dozens of paths you’d never considered before, which can make the job search more daunting than it should be. Our students have found it helpful to have a few guidelines to approach their search. 

I’ve compiled this list based on my work with students at the Career and Professional Development Office over the past thirteen years, as well as my own experience as an HBS student who found herself at more than one company presentation wondering why on earth I was there.  

In order to recruit well, you need to know what you want

In order to know what you want, it helps to spend some time coming up with your 7-12 career criteria.  That way you can evaluate a job against the things that matter most to you, and cross opportunities off your list if they are fundamentally at odds with your criteria.  How do you start to create your criteria?  

Think about what you’re good at, what you like, what environments you enjoy working in, including what kind of people you enjoy interacting with.

Consider the structure you’ve had in previous roles: did you have a formal mentor? Opportunities for professional development? Annual performance reviews with feedback on your strengths and opportunity areas? These are important questions to help you understand what structure you need in a given role, or if you are comfortable creating the elements you need to be successful on your own.

Where do you want to live? How much do you want to travel? How flexible is the organization about how the work gets done? Is it a “face time” environment or results driven environment? These are all play into work/life balance and how happy you are.

Learn a little bit about some industries you might be interested in 

Once you’re on campus you’ll have access to industry presentations, world-class databases, and the best business library in the world, but until you get here you can use LinkedIn, blogs and basic Vault guides to get the gist of roles in the sector for MBAs and how your skills might fit in. Don’t forget to check out what your local library has to offer, many times their online databases contain company and industry profiles and access to financial reports.

Consult your network

Look at your network and see if there are people from your undergrad institution, previous professional experience, and extracurricular activities who are doing what you might be interested in. Ask them about their day-to-day activities, what most surprised them about their role once they started working, what elements of their job they would change if they could. These conversations are how you continue to refine your career criteria and establish a strategy for when you get to campus.  

Take advantage of CPD resources at HBS

Once you get to campus, meet with a career coach and go over what you’ve learned about yourself. Sign up for Career Teams and spend time doing a deep dive into your career themes to be sure you have your career criteria right. Chat with classmates about their previous experience and expand your knowledge about the world of opportunities open to you. Attend industry programming and company presentations to get the low down of what work is like.

Know what not to do

What should you NOT do once you get here? Worry about what your classmates are doing. Following what others are doing because you hear lots of section-mates following the same path will make you tired and frustrated. Go back to your career criteria. Stay true to yourself. Remember who you are.   

- Kristen Fitzpatrick 
CPD Managing Director