How to Get Your Dream Job After an MBA or MSc

From day 1 at business school, you’re already thinking about the future.

You’ve not even settled down, and you’re already looking forward to getting a dream job in a kick-ass company.

Let’s see how you can get this done, the right way.

What the Hell Is Happening to the Job Market?

As a business school student, you’re ambitious and have high expectations for yourself. Right? So you want to prove that you can get the job you want.

Here’s the thing:

The job market is saturated and the process of finding a job has become chaotic.

And since you really want a job, you default to this plan: playing the numbers game by sending as many CVs as possible. Maybe one company will randomly pick your CV and invite you for an interview. And if you’re the lucky one, you’ll end up with an offer.

Lots of people do this. Unfortunately, this process is time-consuming, boring, and stressful…

Most applications get rejected. And you’re not even sure why. If not you, who could be a better fit for the job you just applied to?

Hint: People who’ve approached applying for jobs the right way.

A Better Approach to Landing A Great Job out of Business School

You don’t go to a top business school to fill application forms. You’re a smart person. You can do better.

The way you deal with the process of getting a job is a matter of attitude. Are you defaulting to being passive, a wait-and-see attitude? Or are you more like an overachiever that wants to make cool stuff happen?

How do others do it?

The people I know who got their dream jobs didn’t passively apply to jobs. They had lots of fun at business school instead… Not just attending “social events”, they were also active members of the business school community.

Making It in Investment Banking

A good friend of mine had no doubt about his dream job. He wanted to join the selective investment banking industry. One major challenge: he didn’t have exceptional grades. He could have merely filled application forms, hoping that, among numerous rejections, he would get an offer.

But he’s not the type of guy who just waits and sees. Instead, he focused on becoming an outstanding applicant.

He made stuff happen for others. He set up an informal club for students who wanted to make it in investment banking. He helped them (1) connect with one another, (2) learn about the industry, (3) connect with senior investment bankers, and (4) prepare for doing well in the interviews.

So when my friend went to interviews, he had a different story to share. He didn’t have the excellent academic background that was required. But he could show his potential. He could also prove that he is a doer and is always willing to help.

Guess what?

He got a job he really enjoys.

Helping Entrepreneurs Share Their Stories

At London Business School (LBS), we developed the London Entrepreneurship Review. As described here:

“It’s an online publication that captures the richness of entrepreneurial thinking at LBS. Like so many of the best initiatives, this is ‘bottom-up’, driven by the thirst of current students to draw on wonderful knowledge, experience and reflections of those who have gone before them.”

I was part of the team who led the LER from 0 to 1. Trust me, we got so much out of this journey: (1) learning by doing, (2) meeting up with accomplished entrepreneurs, (3) helping MBA students write interesting articles, (4) sharing surprising stories with an audience of thousands of readers, (5) and making great friends.

As a passionate writer, taking part of the LER was also a chance to connect with great people and coauthor articles with them. This is how I got to meet and work with two great Silicon Valley VCs, Terry Opdendyk and Sean Foote, and did some work on neuromarketing with a neuroscientist from University College London (UCL).

Everyone who joined the LER as a member of the team, a writer, or an interviewee got something out of it. It’s one of the many examples that shows how much value gets created when you connect people.

Want to Make It In Consulting?

Here’s What People Get Wrong about Consulting

Once you understand how recruiters select their employees, things get much easier.

Many applicants think that consulting firms want them to be incredible at doing case interviews. So they tire themselves with hundreds of case preps, trying to learn every possible framework.

But this is not enough…

Consulting firms hire for potential. They want promising recruits who can learn on the job and go beyond what they’re asked to do.

A friend, who works at a top management consulting firm and has volunteered to help the firm find the next batch of business analysts, told me:

“We’re looking for people with emotional intelligence.”

She never mentioned anything about hiring fanatics who did hundreds of case preps.

So How to Get a Job in Consulting?

As you’re smarter than most applicants, you see the opportunity to do something more interesting than just preparing for case interviews:

  • You could reach out to a non-profit organisation or an SME and offer them to build a team of business school students who would help them become more efficient;
  • You could organise an event about the future of energy and invite a panel of experts, including the partner of a consulting firm who specialises in this industry.

Opportunities are endless when you want to connect people and make things happen for others.

Another friend took the lead of one of the business school clubs. He could have merely used the existing network for his own sake and be an average president. But he had a better, bigger ambition…

He decided to do everything he could to develop the club. He organised the biggest flagship conference the club has ever seen and created an international group for the clubs that had a similar focus in other top business schools. He put a lot of effort into making the club become remarkable.

His reward?

He developed something bigger than himself. He learnt a lot by doing. He built relationships with many senior professionals and industry leaders. And… he got a job at a top consulting firm.

My friend didn’t spend his precious time filling application forms. He took everything he got to make things happen for others. He was what you can call a real leader.

Do Your Homework before Going to an Interview

Browsing the company’s website and stalking people on LinkedIn won’t get you a job. What you want is to be able to demonstrate your potential in a brief interview. Show up to the interview with with additional information.

Here are some examples of what you can do:

  • Have interesting data to talk about. I heard of someone who wanted to work in consulting. He computed the number of consultants/partner in each firm. This was something that may have gotten the interviewer think: “Wow. I didn’t know this number. I like the analytical mindset.”
  • Show what you would do if you were hired. Someone, who was applying as Social Media Manager to a reputable tech company, created a fake private Twitter handle. She tweeted for a week. As it was private, she didn’t have any follower. But she could walk the interviewer through what she would do if she were hired… She got the job.
  • Have an opinion on the industry. There’s a typical question asked in finance: “What company would you recommend that we invest in and why?” The interviewer wants to understand if you have an opinion and how you support it. This can be applied to any industry. The best way to form an opinion is to read the right books.

There’s just so much you can do to show how smart you are. If you’re lacking good ideas, organise a creative session with some of your classmates.

It’s Up to You Now

Some like to create things from scratch, others prefer to join and contribute to existing initiatives.

What ever you choose, find ways to do things with people.

Those who enjoyed their time at business school the most were the ones who were the most active. You would see them everywhere. They were the ones who connected people and built bridges between the business school bubble and the outside world.

There’s More Than Getting a Dream Job

Here are the things people who got their dream jobs had in common:

  1. They made things happen for others;
  2. They knew what they wanted (and when they didn’t, they asked for advice);
  3. They weren’t afraid to go the extra mile to learn everything they could about the industry they were interested in;
  4. They enjoyed their time at business school and knew when to have fun.

Going to a top business school is an amazing journey. But it’s up to you to adopt the right attitude and make the most out of it.

The classmates who have inspired me the most have spent their entire business school experience giving back to the community. They organised events, invited world-class guests, created initiatives from scratch, shared people’s stories, and helped their classmates get jobs.

The secret sauce of getting a dream job and enjoy your time at business school is not that secret:

Make stuff happen. The more active you are—making things happen for others and helping them—the more connections and opportunities you’ll create. This is how people create their own luck.

Thanks to Patricia de Lara for reading drafts of this.