The internet is so vast, where do you start researching these things? One of the best tools out there is right at your fingertips – LinkedIn.
You might be kicking around ideas like investment banking or management consulting. These are pretty different goals that are suited to different programs – but both seem like equally good ideas. Here is where LinkedIn becomes an invaluable resource.
I really recommend going straight to the end user to get information and advice. You do not want to spend $200K playing a guessing game, and other applicants in the same boat are likely just as in the dark and ultimately not helpful. Think about who exactly are you trying to sell this education to. Who is going to help you pay off loans and help you establish a positive net worth?
The best place to start is the MBA recruiter (yes, this is a real person) at the MBB office where you want to work post MBA. Ask about where they recruit, since each office recruits locally to a degree. Also, find headhunters and independent recruiters who tend to place applicants for top consulting firms. And lastly, of course, network with people who are doing what you are thinking about doing. People who have been in your would-be shoes.
To do this, I am a big fan of LinkedIn’s advanced search feature. You can identify the parties mentioned above by school, employer, etc. In this situation, you will probably want to send some InMail. I’m really not trying to sell LinkedIn here, but get premium. It’s free for 30 days, and this is your life, after all – working to identify and land your dream job isn’t the time to be pinching pennies. You want a job that works, that you’ll feel good about on a Monday morning.
Because that’s the real goal, not attending business school. Business school is a means to an end, and that end is to get you into a job that makes you happy (however you define that). Some might say it is a better paying one – however, I have seen way too many people get that better paying job and then use money to try to make themselves happy, when they could have just achieved happiness directly.
After you’ve identified contacts, you have to actually reach out to them. Write a letter that is easy to answer. Please do not say something like, “Tell me what management consulting is all about.” That is abstract, unfocused, and you would not want to be on the receiving end of that email. The person would be thinking, ‘This joker doesn’t get that I work 80 hours per week and have no time for games.’ State the specific information you are seeking (how to select schools, in this case) and then come up with a list of 10 questions where the answers will be more than yes/no, but won’t require the recipient to delve into the depths of their psyche.
Not everyone will respond, but if you put together an effective email you WILL get responses. This always seems to elicit surprise (quote, “just to be clear…you’re telling me to email the former Prime Minister of Australia?!”) but many people out there DO care and would like to help others sidestep mistakes (and loans) that could have been avoided. In rare circumstances, I’ve even seen people decide NOT to attend b-school and instead go to a school of public policy. Or just focus on how to achieve their goal in a different way, from their current position.
So, after getting the qualitative input on the job itself, you think – would I be okay with being away from home Monday through Thursday? How would my wife and dog feel about that? Do I enjoy having to interview employees about what they do? Do I like Excel well enough to build models? Is this my thing?
If it isn’t, you might take, say, Kellogg or Tuck off your list of schools. But if it is, review their employment stats reports. You might discover such and such school is a big feeder for Deloitte but less so for MBB – would that be okay? If so, move on to subscribing to their YouTube channel to find out more about the culture there.
Whatever school or schools you land on, take note of the values stated, explicitly or implicitly, and in your essays, write about how those values resonate with you. Give examples of how you’ve modeled them in your life. Reaching adcom on the level of common values is a much deeper connection than most make – and it is effective. It makes you memorable.
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