Career Tips from Top Business Schools

I spend much of my time talking to MBA students, administrators, and professors at the best business schools in the world. Discover their advice.

Businesspeople are the masters of job hunting and networking, which is why they have the best career tips. After all, business schools train students to build a long-term career that reaps professional and financial rewards. Much of this training happens in the career centers at top MBA programs, such as University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, London Business School, and more.

As a reporter for global business publications and websites, I have spent hours and days recording the advice of administrators and professors at these schools and countless MBAs who have been through these programs. In our conversations, I’ve learned a thing or two about the job hunt. Right about now, you could probably use the advice, too, so read on.

Consider Your Brand

This one burns a little. It’s crazy to think of an individual human being as a brand, but that is what the modern world has demanded. Business schools are well aware of the need to package yourself, and they teach students how to do it.

To start, you have to reflect internally to determine who you are, what you represent, and how you’re going to sell your talent to potential employers or venture capitalists or clients. Most programs have some sort of leadership workshop or orientation that requires students to take self-assessments to determine strengths and weaknesses. They sometimes have them ask former employers or supervisors to provide feedback, too. You also have to pick the right path meaning that you need to choose the right specialization or niche.

Curate Your Social Media

You must do a sweep of your social media to see if there are inappropriate comments or posts. Ideally, you are always careful about what you say or write on social media because it will haunt you if you are not. Many of the business schools check social media before admitting students, and recruiters do the same.

More than making sure your posts are appropriate, you should actually put thought into what you’re posting. On Linked In, for instance, the schools recommend publishing or sharing articles and videos relevant to the field you want to enter. This is important even for freelancers or the self-employed.

Of course, this means you should be following the companies and senior leadership of those companies that you hope to join or gain as a client or investor. Know what’s happening in the news and share it wisely and appropriately.

Have an Elevator Pitch at the Ready

People think of elevator pitches as something big-time entrepreneurs have. But business schools argue that elevator pitches are for anyone looking for work. An elevator pitch is a quick explanation of why someone should buy whatever it is you’re selling. You should be able to say it and persuade someone in the time it takes for the elevator to move up or down.

Your elevator pitch should describe your talent, the type of job you’re seeking, and how you can help whoever you’re pitching. Before you start spouting the pitch, you should test it out on others, get feedback, and edit or modify accordingly. Once it’s completely polished and you’re satisfied, memorize it. You need to be able to share it whenever necessary.

Show and Don’t Tell

On the internet and in old books, you can find templates for one-page resumes. Everyone knows to list previous positions. But business schools will help you polish your resume. But there is more to it than you might think.

One of their biggest tips is to show what you did for a previous employer or project. What they mean is that instead of simply sharing that you were in charge of budgets, report on how much money you saved as the budget manager. The idea is to demonstrate your successes and what you can bring to the table rather than just listing chores you completed.

Conduct Mock Interviews

Always practice your interviews. Even if you’re interviewing for a cashier post at the supermarket, you should think about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. If you can’t find anyone to help you, use a mirror and your phone to record yourself answering typical questions.

In other words, be sure you have a brief and concise answer to why you are a good fit for this role and company. Know what skills you bring to the table and how that can help this employer. Practice your responses and get feedback ideally from an objective person with some authority on hiring. Edit your responses accordingly. Don’t memorize the answers, but practice enough that what you need to say becomes second nature.

Take Advantage of Your Network

The best business schools teach their students how to network. Some of them even hold events and workshops to help students learn how to mingle and make contacts. You learn how to introduce yourself, what to wear, and how to ask for an informational meeting or mentorship.

However, the biggest takeaway is that meeting lots of people is not enough. You have to develop a real relationship with the person in your network. This requires interacting regularly, even when you don’t need anything from the person. It also means that you have to be available and open to helping the person on the other end of the phone or coffee meeting. It’s a two-way street.

Show Your Gratitude

Just as you have to be prepared for a two-way relationship with those in your network, you also have to thank them for whatever favors or advice they provide. After an informational meeting or recruiting encounter, you should send a hand-written thank you note. The same is true and even more important if you have just been interviewed for a job.

Thank your interviewer for taking the time to consider your application and speak with you. If you can, appropriately make note of something you discussed or is memorable (for the right reasons) from the interview. An email is fine if you don’t have a snail-mail address or you believe speed is of the utmost importance.

Getting an edge in the job search is tough as the competition increases across industries and roles. But these tips from business schools are easy to heed and can make a big difference. Even if you don’t get the job, you will make a good impression. That good impression could lead you to another job. Before you know it, you’ll have at least a modicum of job security and maybe even a career in the making.

Let us know what job hunting tips you’d like to share in the comments.

Francesca Di Meglio is a veteran reporter who has worked for Bloomberg Businessweek and Ladies’ Home Journal. Visit francescaandantonio.com for her blog.

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