Why it took me so long to find a job post-MBA
By Ewelina Krzyzanowska
348. That’s how many days it took me to find a job after my MBA. Which also happens to be the number of times I was asked “How come you don’t have a job yet? What’s taking so long?” (cue eye roll)
I embarked on my MBA journey almost two years ago (more if you count the countless hours spent studying for the dreaded GMAT) and if I am being completely honest, I went in to the MBA not really knowing what I wanted out of it. I was a “soul-searcher” – a term coined by our then Dean of the MBA Program at IE Business School. Surprisingly, I wasn’t the only one. As expected there were many students who had very clear visions of where they wanted to go – whether it was a promotion at an existing company, taking over a family business or networking into a specific job in a specific company – these students were razor-focused on their goals. However, A good number of students came into the MBA with no clear end-game and when you don’t have a clear end-game, your job search tends to take much longer. Unfortunately, the success stories we often hear are not about these students.
I quickly realized that the MBA is about more than just gaining a basic knowledge of the business world and, the biggest lessons I learned had little to do with what my professors were lecturing about. But I digress – let me get back to the question at hand – why did it take me so long to find a job?
I’ve thought about this long and hard over the last few months and I’ll start by saying – there is no ideal timing for finding a job post-MBA. We’re made to believe (and sometimes even promised) that we will have jobs right after graduation, or even before, but that’s not always the case, or the best option. Some of my fellow MBA’s started working during the MBA, some shortly after; some really hate what they’re doing, some love it and some have even switched jobs already. Others have gone on to start their own businesses, or have gone back to previous companies and yes, some are still looking, but none of them are unsuccessful, they’re just all on different paths of success.
Like I said before, my biggest lessons during the MBA weren’t realized in the classroom. It was the perfect year to take a step back from my life, my routine, my career and to think critically about what I wanted; and I don’t just mean what job I wanted, but more importantly, what kind of a life I wanted. I honestly took the time to do a lot of self-reflection and to understand what really matters to me, so I asked myself time and time again – what makes me happy? Over the course of the year I was able to build a much clearer picture of what I wanted, and this picture wasn’t driven by a company name, title or a salary – it went beyond and it painted the type of life I want to have and the type of person I want to be.
I realized that who I work with is more important than the role that I have. Now, that doesn’t mean I want to be stuck in a job I hate but surrounded by great people, of course not. What it meant was that I actively searched for companies and people that I felt shared my values and supported my life plans, then later looked for positions that would be a fit for my skills and interests. I researched like never before, cold-messaging and calling contacts to find out about their experiences and trying to build an understanding of what kind of working environment I would be dealing with before applying or going for interviews. This allowed me to focus my search, while also building a network of like-minded people.
Whether baking a cake or looking for a job, timing is everything. Even after figuring out my priorities and finding great companies, timing is what dictated a lot of my search. Whether it was fiscal year-end, waiting on a new project or budget approvals, these were all elements that influenced the hiring process but which I could not control and found the most frustrating. So I patiently waited and as promised, good things did eventually come.
Many will be surprised to know that the job I currently have is not the first that I was offered…nor the second. The first, although an amazing opportunity to work in a noble field, didn’t fit my life priorities; it would have taken me even further away from my family, which was not something I was wiling to sacrifice. The second, a consulting position many MBA’s would do anything for, was just not a good fit and although the work may have been interesting and the future prospects bright, I just couldn’t see myself working productively with the team.
The third (and final!) offer came after several months of phone calls and interviews. I knew it was a good fit right away; the company aligned with my personal and professional values and the role would provide me with enough challenge to keep me on my toes. It was also in a location that would bring me closer to home and family. It was what I had been searching for, and the timing eventually worked itself out. But most importantly, although I really like the job I have, what I love is the life it allow me to have.
Every MBA graduate has a different path to success post-MBA, and what you get out of it can be completely different than what your classmate does. But, that doesn’t mean one is more or less successful, or happy for that matter. So, if you’re still searching, know that it will one day come, and if you know someone who is searching, resist the urge to ask them “Why don’t you have a job yet?” Don’t worry, they’ll tell you when they do.