Posts Tagged ‘Career / jobs / work’

How can I start a company that is going to be the next Google? Is it even possible for a normal person like me to do such a thing?

For me personally, no. Well now it might be, but if I asked myself these questions 3 months ago I would have said definitely not. I mean, I wouldn’t even know where to start, where to get the money from or who I should work with. In fact, I just had a bunch of good business ideas and thought “I’m going to start a business” without having a clue what my strategy was, who my customers were or even how I planned on making money.

So what has changed in these last 3 months? The answer is Business School. Three months ago I accepted my offer to start my Masters at London Business School and it really has changed the way I think. I mean, I didn’t even know what the Time Value of Money was. I literally thought if I sold my car and put the £5000 in a bank without touching it, that £5000 is still going to be £5000 in two years’ time when I buy new one. This isn’t actually true. In fact, when I got home after learning this I was like:

 

Surprised

 

For quite a while.

So I guess the question now is, should you go out and spend £28,000 per year (Masters) on business school fees to learn these important concepts? Well yes and no. If you can afford it, yes, I would highly recommend it – London Business School has been one of the best experiences of my life to date. If you can’t don’t worry. Over the next 6 months, I will be posting about every important concept I learn that I believe is essential in recognising how to become as successful as a Fortune 500 Business Leader. As long as you read all my blog posts, you will pretty much be learning everything I am, but saving yourself £28,000 per year . Stay tuned, follow me on social media and keep up to date with my blog.

Twitter: @umarahmed12

Instagram: @umarahmed122

Youtube: Coming Soon

Official Website: www.umarahmed.com

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Today I submitted my last take home exam and officially reached the end of my first term at LBS. Thought it might be a good time as any to look back on all that has happened since first I set foot on campus in August.

In the first month, there was a flurry of activities hosted by the school’s Career Services team, which very much took me by surprise, since according to my logic, the job is rather supposed to follow the education and not the other way round. Anyhow, it was a pleasant surprise, because the Career Services team are full of wonderful people and all of us MiFs love them very much. Thanks to their effort, by the 3rd week of September, I was the owner of:

  • A flawlessly written, challenge-action-result structured, beautiful, one-page CV
  • The ability to produce a perfect cover letter for any company, any job, within the hour
  • A range of impressive skills to deal with the most challenging of interviews
  • A new and much improved LinkedIn profile (yes friends, at LBS, you do get help with LinkedIn)
  • Solid networking techniques which transformed me from a socially awkward penguin into an acceptably effective networker (if this result seems somewhat lackluster compared to the rest, it was by no means Career Services’ fault, as I said, I was a penguin)
  • The beginning, and the knowledge to duly figure out the rest, of an answer to the question “is it for me?” with regards to a wide selection of industries
  • An ambitious yet plausible career plan, with a plan A and a plan B and room in the back for plan C

The 3rd week of September also marked the beginning of a series of on campus recruitment (OCR) events, where representatives from a long list of prestigious firms showed up to convince us students they would be the perfect employer, and in turns, we got the chance to exercise our newly developed networking techniques in an attempt to impress them as potential employees. It was an exciting period, and in case you are a sponsored student who does not need to look for a job after graduation (lucky you!), you can still enjoy yourself by sitting back and admiring the air of utmost professionalism and urgency as your classmates dashed from lecture theaters to company presentations to drink receptions, all in their best suits.

Around the time the OCRs were going on, the many student clubs at LBS also started kicking off their agenda for the new school year. The first order of business is usually a session to introduce the club to the new students, which doubles up as a call for applications to the executive committee. The Student Association Autumn Elections and the search for Student Ambassadors are both on the way during late September too, so if you are an aspiring student leader, this is your turn on stage. I myself managed to get away quite well with this period, securing a post in the executive committee of the LBS Industry Club. For your information, the Industry Club is one of the biggest clubs on campus. Our mission is to help people figure out whether a corporate career is ideal for them and if it is, how to land yourself the job. During Autumn term, our agenda centered on the highly popular “What is…?” series, weekly events where we brought in industry experts to satisfy any questions you might have about a plethora of industries and corporate functions. (Sorry for the PR, just thought I should do my duty as VP Marketing of the Club.)

Before you become overly concerned, allow me to confirm that yes, we did our fair share of study this first term too. The term began with 2 preparatory courses in accounting and data analytics (you can get exempted from any or both if you have a professional accounting certification or/and demonstrable knowledge of statistics). Then there were the 4 core courses: Personal Assessment and Development, Investments, Financial Accounting and Analysis, and Corporate Finance and Valuation. With the exception of Investments, which leaned a bit more to the technical side, all the courses were mostly case study-based, the result being that lectures more often than not resembled open floor discussions. The MiF’s diversity assured that no matter the case, there were always at least 3 experts on the subjects to keep the debate heated. Another exceptionally fine feature of the MiF that I have come to appreciate was the fact that whenever a professor asked “Is there anyone here from xxx country?”, almost 100% of the time the answer would be yes. Cheers for the amazing 42 countries represented in our class this year!

Group assignment was an important component in any courses, so we spent a lot of time with our study group (which we were randomly assigned to, and remained the same for all core courses). My study group is one Australian/New Zealander short of representing all the world’s populated continents (Antarctica does not count), and no one used to work in the same industry as any other, so you can imagine the “fun” we had trying to resolve all the (friendly) arguments. That said, we somehow grew so close as a group that when we submitted our last assignment, everyone got so emotional I swear I was able to detect some teary eyes here or there.

In the first weeks of December, up to our choice of electives, we can take 1 or 2 block-week courses to wrap up Autumn term. These block weeks were quite intensive since the format means that we complete an elective during a single week. I chose to take Strategy for MiFs during the first block week (and skipped the second week in favor of a trip to Edinburgh, but pray do not let my laziness get to you). Strategy turned out to be my favorite course of the whole term. My classmates were of the opinion that I liked Strategy so much simply because all the case studies happened to be about my favorite things: coffee, luxury watches, books and fashion, not to mention the simulation game at the end of the week, which involved us acting as managers for football teams. However, I would maintain that the numerous theories of strategy we were taught were equally enjoyable.

I think it would be apt to end this post by showing you the bottle of champagne our group won for arriving at first place in the mentioned strategy simulation game. Our lecturer professor Ioannou specially warned me not to show the world how at LBS we talked about sports and brought alcohol to lecture theaters, so naturally I feel obliged to do exactly that.

Champagne

Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday to everyone. Do feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions about life at LBS.

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Despite being miles away from campus, I can sense all the excitement as the new class began its first year. Ambitions, aspirations, interests, enthusiasm, excitement – the start of the MBA journey is accompanied by a crazy adrenaline rush!
Looking back, these were my key first year takeaways:
1. Plan – “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there”. Everyone has a reason for pursuing the MBA. Be sure to not just know but write down your purpose. Have a plan for what you want to achieve. With the ocean of choices and wide variety of leadership roles and other opportunities, it is easy to get lost without a concrete plan.

2. Focus – Once you have your plan and know what you are after, it’s easy to focus on what it is that you want. Sometimes, despite the focus and the hard work, things don’t go as planned. This is when planning becomes even more important. Because when you plan, you also plan for contingencies. If the MBA has ingrained something even more deeply in my thought process, it is decision trees. I always think of situations and know the possibilities and can be prepared.

3. Don’t overcommit – Don’t fall prey to the FOMO (fear of missing out) game. It is humanly impossible to be part of every single activity on campus. Prioritise what you want. In my case, travel and some fun club activities took the backseat for career related stuff in the first term.

4. Balance – Balance is better than just being academic/ career focused or just partying. The important thing is that this balance is different for different people depending on their plans and reasons for the MBA. A career changer may have a different sense of balance than what a sponsored candidate would have. Knowing the right sense of balance for oneself is important.

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After about 2 years attending an Executive MBA program at London, I felt like I needed to end it on a high note. Having completed almost all my electives, I wanted to achieve a threefold final purpose: 1. working again with a faculty I did enjoy learning from, 2. bringing something practical from LBS to my company and 3. deepening into a subject useful for my career path.

Finishing my Executive MBA, one of my concerns has been to look back on these two years and show my company that the time spent away from the office was worthwhile. Moreover, at this stage, enjoying a very interesting job, I wanted to be sure about what would be my next job and be able to provide HR department an accurate image of my expectations.

After some realignments done on my project’s outline with David MYATT, I worked closely with my colleagues at the office in order to use Strategy and Managerial Economics academic frameworks in our professional context. It lead to a double production: a) a thorough assessment report on Energy Efficiency markets my company is targetting, and b) a practical approach to figure out how profitable it is to break into some submarkets.

At some point, I smoothly met my three objectives. And it turned out to even go beyond my expectations. Indeed, this work not only offered me the opportunity to base discussion on tangible content about my next job, but people who read it also invited me to share my thoughts more regularly. That’s why I decided to launch a professional blog on Smart Energy Efficiency, in order to help SMEs sell Energy Efficiency solutions (http://smartenergyefficiency.eu/).

I haven’t chosen yet what will be my next job. All I know is that Independent Project elective has been for me the highpoint of this Executive program. It has simultaneously made my Executive MBA’s payback more tangible for my company, and shown what I want to do next very explicitly.

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As a MiF student, my elective horizon mostly includes materialistic side of things, so the closest I got to entrepreneurship was through Financing Entrepreneurial Business (FEB) and PE&VC. I will focus on the former.

If you need a sexy £1bn idea for a start up – FEB will not give it to you. The class will, however, nurture growth of the body parts* required to venture out independently. The remaining components of a successful businessman recipe (according to the CEO of Marks & Spencer’s) – brains and heart – you will have to provide yourself.

FEB is one of the hottest courses, offered to most programmes.  And yes it can be “soft” and “situational”, and there is no recipe for success. It’s based 100% on business cases – all of which written in LBS – and every discussion followed by a leading character from a case briefing on what happened next and answering questions, which adds enormous value #ibetHBSdoesnotdothat!

One of the cases covered erecting a gas pipeline in Baltic Sea to compete with the mighty incumbent “Gazprom”. On the way to class I formed my recommendation to the start-up company along the following lines: “you guys are nuts – forget this suicidal idea, flee to an uninhabited island and pray for the serious men in black to not pursue your case”. I have then seen that very guy who came up with, what appeared to be, a very profitable idea – and he looked very fit, more than just sane. 

These days B’ schools position themselves as essential for career growth acceleration (think consulting, investment banking and increasing number of industrial titans), with majority of graduates spending their lives looking after one side of business only. But essentially, borrowing some Shakespeare, “what’s in a name?” – a business school should teach how to manage company’s affairs throughout, from its dusk to dawn.

At the back of my mind I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, and knew that sooner or later (rather later than sooner), I will definitely establish something with my name on it – like a coffee shop which my grandchildren will run. Talking about coffee shops – if you work in the City you probably know the place that has THE best coffee (and tea – served with a timer to ensure the real experience) and THE best atmosphere - Association on the Creechurch Lane. And you know what – the founder is an LBS alum – MBA 2004 graduate, investment banker in his previous life, who also took the FEB class. He was kind enough to share his curious experience, while his team was brewing an excellent flat white for me:

- Were you planning on being an entrepreneur before joining LBS? - “Yes, I always wanted to build my own business and almost jumped into a venture prior to coming to LBS (but glad-fully didn’t because it was not a great idea). I have never been excited about a ‘career’ or been motivated to be an MD in a large organisation

- Did you see LBS as a “tool” to increase your chances to succeed? – “Not particularly. LBS for me was a time to take stock of where I was and think about where I wanted to go. It’s an expensive way to take time out, but I felt it would be a more fruitful time than another two years in consulting (which was my pre-MBA job)”

- Did LBS inspire you? – “LBS confirmed for me my interest in entrepreneurship and at the same time my lack of enthusiasm for a structured career. Having said that, I spent the 6 years after school in structured environments (investment banking and then PE) – these were places to ‘park’ myself waiting for inspiration to come!

- You mentioned that in reality it’s different from what you anticipated? How? - “I am not convinced plans and strategies often work out exactly as put down on paper, which is fine because I don’t think that is the purpose of building a strategy / plan – the purpose is to educate yourself and generate justification for moving in one direction and not in another. Hopefully you get the broad brush strokes right, if not the details. For me, the specifics have turned out different than I expected, such as where I spend my time and the way customers have responded to our offering has been somewhat different than expected (some things more popular than I thought, other things less popular)”  

- Any advice?

i) on starting up “Have enough funding to manage through your worst case scenario and strike a balance between listening to others and believing in your own convictions (that balance should be informed by your understanding of what you are good at and what you are not good at)”;

ii) on investing “Spend the most time getting to know the people leading the business you are investing in (in most cases it is the people you are backing) and make sure your expectations are aligned in all business outcomes”;

iii) on MBA’ing “Know why you are doing the MBA – tell the business school what you want, but be honest with yourself why you’re doing it – it’s too much time and too much money to be doing it for the wrong reasons”;

iv) Starting your life as an entrepreneur has a wonderful honeymoon period, which is very novel and exciting, but after a few weeks this is replaced by a sense of responsibility that absolutely nothing happens unless you drive it. That is exciting and daunting – it’s good to have a business partner through this period so you can motivate each other. If you are all alone (as I was) you need to hold firm to your convictions in your business ideas and why you left behind perfectly good employment to do something so uncertain

* guts / balls – pick your own

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Although I do try to stay fit I never thought I would describe myself as a triple jumper. It sounds like something a diver or figure skater would attempt in order to win Olympic gold. But in the world of post-MBA careers, a triple jumper is someone who successfully lands a job in a different industry, function, and geography to the one they had before the MBA. I’ve managed to pull it off and here is a bit about how it happened.

I pursued the MBA because I knew I wanted a change. I had spent six years working in politics in Canada, helping to organize election campaigns, use technology to reach voters, and promote a political leader and party that I believed in. I found the work extremely rewarding, primarily because it had a real impact on moving society forward and correcting the many injustices we see around us every day. Despite these rewards I wanted to try something else and learn new things. I didn’t know precisely what would come next, but I had an interest in understanding business and management and was excited about where the MBA could lead.

Throughout my first year I explored the full spectrum of career opportunities. I slowly but methodically built up a network in London by reaching out to LBS alumni, friends, former colleagues, and contacts I met at events. I asked lots of questions and did a lot of thinking about what I was good at, and ultimately what sort of work gave me fulfilment. I found the staff in Career Services to be a great resource, often challenging me to think about things differently. Second-year students were also a major source of advice and support.

My professional soul-searching consistently led me to roles related to marketing. I began to understand how much of my work in politics was similar to marketing and how my skills as a project manager and communications strategist could be leveraged in a commercial context. I was starting to have an idea, albeit vague, of what I might do after the MBA. But to be safe, and to continue learning what was out there, I cut a wide swath through the myriad internships on offer and applied to several consulting firms and almost all of the industry and technology roles.

But applying for summer internships proved to be a frustrating experience as no matter how I reworded my CV and cover letter, no matter how I tried to position myself, I just could not break through. I submitted more than 30 applications and was invited for just one interview. Towards the end of March of last year, I started getting very nervous about my summer internship prospects – and if I’m totally honest – my future career in general.

Just as things were looking dire, all of the networking I had done finally began to bear fruit. One person introduced me to another, and they introduced me to someone else, and before I knew it, I had been offered an internship that ultimately would come to define my MBA.

For my internship, I joined the global Dove team at Unilever to support a senior brand manager working on Dove’s corporate social responsibility program. It was an ideal role because it leveraged my experience in politics and social issues while also exposing me to the inner workings of a world-class marketing machine. I took advantage of being in the Unilever head office to learn as much as I could about the business and make new connections. I poured over the company intranet and read everything I could get my hands on. And I asked almost everyone I met if they would spend 30 minutes telling me about their job and their background – they all said yes.

At the end of my internship I was asked to stay on part-time and have remained on the Dove team since then, taking on progressively more important projects. It’s been an incredible opportunity to work with smart people on a great brand, and continue learning about marketing and fast-moving consumer goods.

My extended internship at Unilever positioned me well for full-time recruitment. Come next September, I’ll be joining the MBA Leadership Program at Marks & Spencer in London. But perhaps the biggest benefit of my time at Unilever is that it helped to clarify what I want to do in the next stage of my career.

If you had asked me two years ago if I wanted to work with consumer products such as soap or shampoo, or work in retail, I would have laughed out loud. But the more time I spent at Unilever, the more I understood the complex strategic questions that underpin a brand and the intense creative work that goes into a successful marketing campaign. Working with products and brands also satisfies my intense curiosity about people’s needs and wants and how they live their lives.

Moreover, consumer products are used by almost everyone, almost everywhere in the world, providing truly global reach and a tangible opportunity to make a difference when products are developed and sold in a sustainable manner. My commitment to progressive politics has not waned, but I have found a new avenue to pursue it, at least for a little while.

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Continuing on my older post, here is a quick (personal) view on the recent UK visa changes and impact on the international students at LBS.

Before getting into the specifics, it is important to understand the rationale behind these visa changes. Until recently, there were a number of low-grade universities in UK that admitted international students, who would ‘technically’ come for education but basically start working (in whatever work they find) soon after landing in UK. And then soon after their official graduation, would get a post-study visa and continue to stay in UK. The core purpose of these universities was to offer a platform for young international students to get into UK. Something similar was common among many small-medium enterprises, which helped international students show job offers and official employment, and therefore continue to stay in UK. The recent UK visa changes essentially aim to prevent such ‘spurious’ practices.

Now there are two broad visa changes that one would think could impact the international students at LBS:

1) No student visas being allowed for some universities – As explained above, the main objective here is to stop students from using the low-grade university channel to get into UK. As a result, visas are now not being offered for a number of such universities. Infact, the immigration maintains a list of universities that are allowed to admit international students, for whom the UK immigration would offer student visas. This change certainly does not impact LBS, given LBS is the top-tier institute within UK. Moreover, the team at LBS actively works with the UK immigration to resolve any visa-related issues for its international admits (even if the issues are due to admits’ personal reasons – such as financial proofs etc.). In my batch, I’ve seen cases where the LBS senior management team, even the Dean, would get involved to ensure that international admits do not face any visa-related challenges.

2) No post-study visa, but mandatory employer sponsorship to stay in UK - To be able to stay in UK, it is now critical to have a company sponsorship. This is to prevent any small-medium companies (as explained above) from offering spurious platforms for international community to stay in UK. Obviously, sponsoring visas requires admin efforts and has cost implications, so not everyone mom-n-pop shop would make an effort to sponsor visa. But this does not impact blue-chip organizations that hire students from the LBS campus. All the leading banks, consulting firms, PE funds, industry recruiters etc. — all of them globally run the visa sponsorship process across a variety of geographies, and therefore it is not something that they shy from in UK. They continue to recruit international students within UK and sponsor their visas, as appropriate. That said, there are some firms that have shown some resistance to sponsor, especially when they have large global presence and therefore can recruit students for their respective geographies and nationalities. But this is more theoretical than practical, because if such large-scale employers like certain candidates, they would do everything in their power to ensure that those candidates have the required admin tasks (including visa) sorted out. Now the above is true for those looking for jobs in UK. As I understand, there is some marginal impact on those international students who are keen to start-up businesses in UK, since there are visa rules that now require these students to show significant dedicated financial support (either through own savings or through VC funding). Read more about the Tier I entrepreneur visa here.

Once you understand the rationale behind these changes, and what these changes are, it’s much more comforting — as you realize that LBS has negligible impact due to any of such changes.

Disclaimer: In general, visa rules are extremely complex, and it is common for different people to face different challenges. So if any reader disagrees with the above, and has an alternate opinion, I’d love to hear.

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The long silence…

Posted by: AK

…comes to an end as I publish this post. Today, when the workload at my summer internship workplace wasn’t too intense, I decided to take a step back and think of things I’ve been losing out on during all these past weeks and months. And the school blog was one of those things!

The reality is that:

1) Among other things, blogging trickled down to a lower rank on the priority list. As much as I want to say that my involvement over the last term was fairly all-rounded — clubs’ programs and conferences, competitions, student ambassador programs, sports, course work, London partying and get-togethers etc., the truth is that I did very little of any of these activities. I was mostly busy with the part-time work in London, and the rest of the time was spent doing assignments and course activities. <More on the part time work below>

2) When you see others posting on the blog, you feel less guilty for not having contributed. Some also term this as the social loafing. I soon realized that the blog remains active – irrespective of me posting or not.

3) In the early terms, like any other overenthusiastic kid, I ended up taking loads of responsibilities: overloaded myself with electives (in the attempt to front-load course work), joined several (well, more than several) clubs, organized and attended speaker talks, attended and spoke in the MBA information sessions, participated in competitions and social events etc. And with all of this – obviously the blogging frequency suffered. Gradually, all of this not only affected the lifestyle but also caused distraction. And what I eventually realized is that while variety is good, some degree of focus is equally important.

Last 8 months or so, I decided to focus. I came to LBS to learn new things in life, and therefore, in the attempt to diversify the resume and learn new things (not as much to make the bucks), I started working part-time in January, and continued to do that for six months — i.e. before I started my summer internship. Since a number of people have asked me to share experiences on part-time work during the first year at LBS, I decided to summarize my take here:

a) In the last one year, the best thing I liked about LBS is the level of flexibility it offers. And how one can juggle the courses alongside the part-time work. It’s actually quite simple, especially if you attend all the classes and do the assignments sincerely.
b) Juggling part-time work alongside summer internship process can be hard. Summer internship process starts around Oct-Nov, and until you have the final offer, it can keep you busy — depending on how many internships you run after. I was quite selective in what I applied to — applied to a total of 7 roles, and interviewed with 4 of them. I therefore had all the time for the part-time work — when most others applied for a large number of summer roles.
c) Depending on the work load, part-time work does mean that you lose out on social events and activities. That’s a compromise you need to make early on
d) A ton of part-time opportunities open up on the LBS discussion forums and career portal. Typically, there are more opportunities to work with start-ups, but there also are opportunities to work on bigger assignments once in a while – so it’s important to closely follow the platforms. Ofcourse, if you can source something through personal connections – that always helps.
e) Finally, how you source an opportunity, what you do and how much you make, significantly depends on your reason to work part-time – an attempt to diversify profile and learn vs. need for funds

Well – that’s it for today. I do hope that the next silence won’t be for long, and you’ll hear from me soon!

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I am staying focused. Like a monk trained in on his breathe exhaling, or perhaps, more apt, the athlete envisioning his actions before the big game. I iron my shirt; cotton press, a squirt of water to rid that stubborn crease. I select my tie; yellow with a confident red stripe, tied in a half Windsor. I place my cufflinks through their holes, the right first, then the left; a pair of silver foxes. I slip my arms through the jacket sleeves. Check. Looking good. It’s winter; I choose a grey striped scarf and wrap it around my neck. Good. I grab my coat and throw my satchel over my shoulder. I hear the door shut as I leave the house. I briefly look down at my shoes; freshly polished. I then turn my head up and walk towards my interview… and my destiny.

I can almost see this playing out as a video montage set to Eye of the Tiger. That, or a stand in for the American Psycho intro. But the former sounds much better.

The preparation is now complete. Many hours were toiled away in the first term refining the CV to stand out and succinctly convey our best qualities. We were assisted with the experience of the second year students both formally through the Peer Leadership Programme and informally over cup of coffees. Career Services reviewed them too and then followed up with drop in sessions to complete the tailoring to near perfection.

The cover letters came next. Picking our skills and attributes that would define us as being unique. Carefully tailoring each to specify why we so desired to work for that particular company. The irony was lost somewhere around Christmas that every company we applied to was the company we most wished to work for. Again, the second years and Career Services assisted. This time too, we had the company presentations to rely on. Each telling us why they were different from all their competitors – each stating the same or similar reasons to their competitors.

With these company presentations came the opportunity to network. To meet real flesh and blood employees. Perhaps with the hope of making that impression that could land you an interview job, or at the very least, some additional information to further make that cover letter stand out.

And finally, the interview preparation. Many hours hidden away in the recesses of the library or study rooms, making sure we knew our finest achievements, the best examples of leadership and teamwork, and crushing cases that may be thrown at us. Second years grilled us with difficult questions, career services advised us and ran various workshops, our classmates rallied questions back and forth as practice.

But now, all that preparation is over. I walk into the office. I greet the receptionist. I wait, and then greet the HR representative. I enter the den. There is nothing left separating me from the battle with the beast. The interviewer enters. The door closes. It all begins here.

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I’m now four from eight.

That first email that comes through offering you an interview is an incredible confidence boost. You finally realize that firms don’t all start their emails with “Thank you for your application. However…” Your foot is in the door, quite literally in some cases when firms host interviews at their offices. But again, a reality check quickly follows. Afterall, this is only a foot in the door; we’ve been reminded numerous times that this is only the first step along a tough and merciless road (nevertheless, a significant step, that could, I feel, be measured in comparable size to those taken by Neil Armstrong). We’ve been culled down to a select few for the first interview. Following that an even more ruthless cut will ensue, succeeded by a minority who are left standing at the end. It sounds like something even Gordon Gekko would be challenged at.

A series of interviews now face me. But what does a consulting interview comprise of? The core is the case problem. These usually start with the premise that the CEO has asked for your advice to solve their problem, whether that be falling profits, market entry, a potential merger, or some other scenario. Your role, no, your duty, is to identify the crux of the issue and resolve it in the short space of 30 minutes or so.

So how does an MBA student prepare when one has succeeded at making it to this first round? Thankfully, it is not too hard, it just requires persistence. You must first turn your head and open your eyes to see all the hopeful study partners all around. I am immensely appreciative for the collaborative and constructive help of my fellow classmates. They, like you, are wanting to succeed. And perhaps in the most illustrative example of a ‘win-win’ scenario, you buddy up and test each other on sample cases. And you do this until you are verging on being repulsed by their company and constructive feedback. You wonder if you even want to be a consultant after you have long forgotten and given up counting the number of cases you have burned through. In these weeks of recruitment you will see the best and worst of your classmates – the built up pressure and stress in their frayed nerves and short tempers, the highs from crushing a case, the lows from screwing up the maths worse than their thirteen year-old cousin. Don’t forget, they see the same in you.

And through all this, you strengthen those connections with your classmates; an incredibly perverse bonding experience.

Now bring it on.

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