This post was written by Brodie O’Brien, SEMBA ’15, and Assistant Marketing Manager – US for Ben & Jerry’s
The University of Vermont’s SEMBA was a twelve month sprint from the nonprofit world to my dream job with a mission-driven company. No matter where you pursue your MBA you’ll be juggling coursework, internships, a social life (if you’re lucky), and maybe a family. It’s an incredibly busy time, so approaching the job search with a clear strategy is key to landing that perfect position.
The following five pointers helped me to transition from a career in the nonprofit world working with organizations like 1% for the Planet and the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance to my current role at Ben & Jerry’s. SEMBA was a springboard to my position leading integrated marketing campaigns that bring our company’s values to life, like our work protecting voting rights and combating systemic racism.
Here are five tips for using grad schools as a bridge to your ideal job:
One. Know what you’re trying to achieve. Have a clear idea of what success looks like after school. Inventory your values and the kinds of work that make you happiest, and then match that to organizations, functional areas, locations, and lifestyle. Next, condense all this into an elevator pitch so you’re ready to deliver in 15 seconds. Not easy, but something I found essential to successful networking.
Two. Build relationships as early as possible. Start before school by talking to graduates of the programs you’re considering. Look for connections at the places you’d like to work and reach out to them to get an understanding of what makes for an ideal candidate. Always follow up with a handwritten thank you note – it’s old fashioned, but makes a lasting impression. One of my past bosses had my thank you note taped to her wall on my first day of work.
Three. Use your student status to open doors. You’ll be amazed at the level of access you can get as a student. People genuinely want to help, and most will be happy to talk with you if you use this magic key. I found this to be particularly true in Vermont, where the business community is remarkably engaged in helping SEMBA students develop their careers and find opportunity in the state.
Four. Align your coursework and internships with post-grad goals. Remember those connections you started building before school? Keep in touch. Let them know you want to use your coursework and practicum to develop the skills that will make you an invaluable hire. It shows you’re serious and gives them the chance to get to know you.
Five. Be persistent and look for side doors! My permanent role at Ben & Jerry’s came after I accepted a six-month contract working with their Global Digital team. It wasn’t precisely the role I wanted, but it gave us the chance to get to know each other. Be careful not to overlook positions that have the potential to build relationships and lead to growth.
If you’re curious about the job search or the SEMBA program, drop me a line. You can also reach out to Susan Denton, SEMBA’s Program Coordinator at UVM. She’s a great resource, and can connect you with graduates in roles like the one you’re hoping to land after your MBA. Best of luck with the hunt!