Posts Tagged ‘career services’

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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Times are still tough for Financial Services. People on my course nervously check their blackberries, wondering if their roles are at risk. My own employer slashed 950 jobs in a country with population of 4mln last week, with my own role relocating back to London (FYI I moved out of London due to visa problems in January this year). I am happy of course – it will be the grand finale of my commuting, but for some this can be nerve-crashing and depressing. Many however admit, that being at the LBS and having access to its career services helps the medicine go down.

LBS career services transform even a small fish into an interview shark every big name recruiter would kill for, no matter if you are interested or not. The team has done it so many times that it’s obvious that they got their recipe right. So what’s on offer for the MiFs?

- Peer Leadership Programme aka PLP, runs all year round. Here second year MBAs from our dream jobs (which can be nothing else but PE/IB/AM or for the outside of the box dudes – consulting), informally look at your CV (“did your granny write this?”), CL (“do you really think being interested in soap operas gives you an edge?”) and advise on your seduction approach (“fuchsia is indeed a nice colour, but not for your three piece suit”). What I found most useful was the insight on the corporate culture of your dream employer, knowledge of which makes your application shine.

- Networking workshop – 3.5 hours of intensive training focused on increasing the likelihood of you being remembered and liked (added on LinkedIn), arousing genuine interest of people around you and key (LBS exclusive and very secret) skills on how to stand out or the crowd, including exercising with weights to make your smile last longer, practicing handshake specific for your career choice, effective elevator speech in parallel with 3 other people and, of cause, memory training oriented on memorizing 50+ phone numbers from the first attempt. (just joking, haven’t been to the session yet – its on Nov 5th)

- Guidance on how to write a CV, a CL, define your unique selling proposition and survive assessment centers. These are so thorough, that you will have to dedicate a full working week (think IB working hours) to ensure all the little (but very important) component are included. This is quite a dangerous exercise as it makes you fall in love with your CV so much, that you start quoting it to your friends and end up sending a copy to the Man Booker Prize competition.

- Finance one-to-one with Roger H. 30 minutes of coaching from a crème de la crème of the industry. Could be done over the phone. Having mine on the 10th, aaaaah…

- And finally there is Career Portal, where you can see job adds from all over the world (!!!). Tastes do differ but the portal caters for all shapes and sizes, with many positions looking specifically for LBS folk, without postings outside of the Portal. It also stores all the previous presentations made in the school, provides advice on visas (who needs those?) and supports you in negotiating your offer.

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