It might seem as though the ideal business school applicant has already plotted his or her dream job, target companies and career trajectory. That type of applicant, however, is rare. Many students are wavering on a specific job, and perhaps don't realize that being malleable and good MBA material aren't mutually exclusive.
"Knowing exactly what you want to do is almost dangerous," says Steve Dalton, senior associate director of daytime MBA student services for Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. "I see the MBA as being the tofu of graduate degrees because it takes on the taste of whatever sauce you add to it."
If you've received an acceptance letter to an outstanding MBA program but haven't cemented a career, read on. Here are six jobs that could be a good fit.
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6. Marketing manager: You'll work with sales and art departments, plus PR teams to analyze product demand and determine selling and pricing strategies. It's a field closely related to advertising, and also includes elements of financial analysis. Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and Duke's Fuqua School are top programs for studying marketing.
Taking the first steps: Many programs introduce students to campus career services immediately, but if yours doesn't, make that a priority. Dalton says Fuqua students have their first interaction with career services within 48 hours of orientation.
"A lot of emphasis in the first few weeks is on getting ready to drink from the fire hose. Learning to keep a calendar. Time management skills. ... Getting assigned to a second-year mentor."
5. Management analyst: This is a consulting field where you'll provide feedback on how to improve an organization's structure, efficiency and profitability. Many employers prefer to hire analysts who have an MBA. Schools that offer a management-consulting track include Stanford University's Graduate School of Business and the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.
Starting the search: Dalton is the author of "The 2-Hour Job Search," which refers to the time spent per day on searching, not the total time it will take to receive the first offer.
"The main tip I give is to get organized," Dalton says. "This approach brings structure to the madness. The job-hunting process is only difficult when you look at it as a massive undertaking. This approach makes it far more straightforward."
Dalton says the Fuqua School teaches students to split job searching into three steps: prioritization, outreach and relationship building.
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4. HR specialist: A master's helps distinguish the best human resources professionals, particularly those interested in training. HR specialists directly affect employee productivity, and therefore, an organization's success. Some top schools for HR management are Stanford and the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business.
Getting internships: Securing one or more internships has substantial benefits. "Our MBA interns gain meaningful consulting experience by working on a client-facing project alongside Accenture leadership," says John Campagnino, managing director of global talent acquisition at Accenture. "The MBA intern program is typically for eight to 10 weeks and covers both developmental training and networking opportunities in addition to critical project experience."
According to Jeffrey Stoltzfus, an associate director of employer relations for the University of Maryland's Robert H. School of Business, elite companies look for the cream of the summer-intern crop starting each November.
3. Financial adviser: You don't need an MBA to enter this field, but having one could ease the transition to management, plus assist in securing more clients and building trust with your existing base. Booth has a good program, as does Columbia University.
Turning the internship into an offer: Treat an internship as a learning experience and an extended interview. "The employer knows by the end of the internship whether the student is a fit or not," Dalton says.
"Accenture's internship experience helps students identify skills they excel at, want to learn more of and that will make them successful in their careers," Campagnino says. "In addition, interns learn to communicate effectively with many groups of people, work effectively with teams and identify their leadership potential."
[Check out 10 b-schools that lead to jobs.]
2. Financial manager: Strong financial managers have fine-tuned communication skills, and a talent for making complex, sometimes unpopular choices about operations. New York University's Stern School of Business and the University of California--Berkeley's Haas School of Business are some of the best programs for this track.
Developing skills: School representatives say programs enhance technical skills while ripening interpersonal ones. "We spend a lot of time on soft skills," Stoltzfus says. "We have mock interviews to practice those skills; we have comedy improv training to help students improve their poise and think on their feet; we have story-telling workshops so students can find the ability to tell stories in a way that engages a listener."
1. IT manager: This occupation intersects leadership and analytical skills with technical experience. Top programs include Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management, Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business and Maryland's Smith School.
Standing out: Jackie Wilbur, executive director for undergraduate and master's programs at MIT's Sloan School, says grads "can distinguish themselves by gaining a deep understanding of the company and its products, and then demonstrating a passion for both." She also advises graduates to display a love for innovation, since technological advances happen so rapidly.
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