The most important and difficult thing for me while searching for that “ideal first job” was staying focused on my path and not comparing myself to others. In the M.S. in Commerce Program, we are all somewhat competitive and definitely all want to secure a job. As fellow classmates start to land positions, staying focused on your aspirations is the only way not to fall into the trap of comparisons. Instead of focusing on others, I recommend using the answers to the questions below as guidelines to help you find the company that is the best fit for you.
- What industry interests me?
- What kind of culture do I want my company to have?
- Where in the country (or world) do I see myself working?
- Do I want to work at a large or small company?
- What do I value most about a job (compensation, impact, experiences, etc.)?
Obviously, this list isn’t comprehensive, but it definitely helped me differentiate the job I wanted from the jobs my peers were getting.
The next most important thing, and something you will hear constantly while at McIntire, is to network. We’re lucky at McIntire to have an amazing career support and employer relations team that brings a huge range of companies on campus throughout the year. Every interview I secured was with a company I had networked with prior to applying to the position. In addition, if I was ever unsure whether a company met my criteria for the five questions above, these networking sessions were crucial to helping me find clarity. When networking, keep in mind that at some point, the person you are talking to was once in your shoes and that they do want to help! At the same time, if someone isn’t able to network with you, remember that they are likely very busy and not to take it personally.
The last thing I want to highlight is that the recruiting season can be a lot of fun! Sure, the idea of preparing for case interviews and trying to juggle school with the job search can be daunting and at times stressful, but the chance to connect with people who share a lot of the same interests as you is an amazing opportunity. For me, it finally came down to two firms: one large and one small. While the large firm had a more appealing location in New York City, the smaller firm had a great company culture, and that was significantly more important to me. The people I was able to connect with both before and during the interview process seemed truly happy in their jobs. I knew almost instantly that was the atmosphere I was looking for. I’m proud to say that I landed the job as an incoming Consultant at CapTech.
In summary, the career search is a time to ask yourself what you want to do with your life at this given moment. Remember, your first job is a launching point and in no way defines how your career will pan out. Take advantage of the many networking events, mixers, and flights to jobsite interviews, even when it can be stressful balancing recruiting with your course load. It’s all worth it in the end. Also, make sure to utilize the Commerce Career Services team for anything related to the job search, from interviewing to negotiating salary. They are truly amazing!