When HBS students imagine their graduation, many picture themselves with a mortarboard on their heads, a gown on their shoulders, and a job offer in their hands.

Yet, as many as twenty percent of Harvard MBAs will graduate with their employment decisions still ahead of them.

For many of these students, their searches involved a greater level of complexity, perhaps because of specific location requirements or partner concerns. Some students want to focus on culture and work environment, and found waiting until they no longer had competing academic and job search priorities enabled them to meet with companies in person to find that right fit.

Most often, these students are looking for opportunities at organizations that simply hire as needed and real time; which often may be post-graduation. These students have the mindset that the right job is worth waiting – more importantly, worth working – for. As is the right candidate. Whether your organization is able to recruit students months in advance, or you are more focused on just-in-time hiring, there are HBS students who can meet you where you are in your process. Read how two of our recent graduates navigated their job search post-graduation. 

Michael Rodriguez: Extending the search past graduation

For Michael Rodriguez (MBA 2019), his post-graduation job offer came as an extension of the search he had begun before classes ended and continued through graduation.

Instead of building his search on the traditional foundations of function or company, Michael crafted his around problems and people.

“I started with the challenges I’m interested in, rather than ‘functions’,” he explains. With an eye toward a position in media, he was looking for an opportunity to develop a digital business, define direct-to-consumer relationships, capitalize on international growth, expend into new forms of content, and/or implement new forms of technology. “If I could get experience in just two or three of these,” Michael says, “I would be happy.”

Further, Michael prioritized the immediate environment in which he would be working: “From a personal happiness standpoint, I wanted to know the ten people I’d be interacting and spending the most time with, the person I worked for and the people I’d be working with.”

“I zeroed in on the culture of teams, looking for a collaborative environment where people rely on others to get together and get things done, nothing siloed or with an overemphasis on hyper-specialized teams,” he says.

Practically speaking, Michael’s search focused on people: “Who is interesting and would be willing to work with me?” To find them, he used LinkedIn, HBS databases, and contacts within the media industry.

Michael’s searches led him to an HBS alum, Albert Chang, COO and co-head of Amazon Studios. After many informal conversations, the connection proved fruitful. “It was a matter of timing,” Michael says. They had an opening for an international role based in Europe, and he proved to be the right fit. After a “super day” of interviews in Los Angeles, Michael got the offer. He’ll spend a few months learning the ropes in California, then take on international operations in London.

“I was pretty surprised and shocked to have a dream role come up,” says Michael, “and that I got the offer and opportunity.”

Matt Severson: Starting over for the right fit

In the spring, Matt Severson (MBA 2019) directed his search toward venture capital, exploring his options among friends and family in the Bay Area around San Francisco. The insights he gathered suggested that he would be a more attractive candidate for V.C. if he had more operations experience.

In May, Matt landed a few interviews with health technology companies, but the fit was not quite right. “They were looking for people with more product management experience,” he says.

With graduation behind him, Matt redirected his search once again, concentrating on roles that were related to his own background in supply chain management and business development. Confident that potential employers would appreciate his previous experience with Google and Google X, Matt felt at liberty to choose a sector that spoke to his values: clean energy.

“I was feeling fine, but on campus, I had felt more pressure – the progress of your job search is a common topic of campus conversation,” says Matt. “It was really comforting that I had a few close friends who were in a similar place. We would check in with each other every week.”

After a brief pause for travel, Matt resumed his search in earnest, reaching out to colleagues in clean tech; two of them happened to work for Tesla and Zoox (an autonomous electric vehicle startup). Both gave Matt referrals and helped him set up interviews.

The Tesla connection panned out, and Matt got an offer for a role at the heart of the electrical vehicle industry: the battery supply chain. “There’s a lot of new development occurring and the challenge attracts smart talent,” Matt says. “I’m super-excited about the role.”