Posts Tagged ‘retail’

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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