February 22, 2013

Why grad students should build their personal brand

Upon graduating from Weatherhead in 2010, I found myself working in Sydney, Australia, with one of the world’s premier design and strategy consulting firms. The experience was tremendous in that it challenged me cognitively, culturally and professionally. It also afforded me with the opportunity to fast track my business acumen and develop my own consulting ethos in a way that I feel was unique to working internationally. But, I eventually came to the point where I wished to bring that skill set closer to home. 

Weatherhead Alumnus, Brooks Modie
After moving back to the U.S., I quickly realized that my network of colleagues, associates and partners were all happily plodding along 9,500 miles away. For all intents and purposes, I had no real professional network to begin the next step of the journey. It was apparent that I needed to build upon the basic set of personal information on LinkedIn that I had hastily constructed while still a first-year MBA student. 

The first step was to complete my profile with the additional relevant skills and experience accrued over the past few years. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I needed to develop my new network, first virtually and then more concretely via coffee, networking events or when mutual circumstances brought us together. Using my ever-­‐growing network for practical purposes was key in becoming informed about potential opportunities, but it also served a greater purpose. Using LinkedIn for social and professional networking opportunities was important in helping to develop and promote my personal brand. 

Yes, Cleveland Does Rock ...

Travel guides are insufferable readings, at least for me. Every single country is listed as a “land of contrasts”, as “alluring”, or, if the place in question enjoys a not-so-good reputation, as a “hidden gem”. Well, Cleveland is both a land of contrasts and a hidden gem and, alas, I can assure you Lonely Planet isn't giving me a dime to say that.

I came to Cleveland to pursue a graduate degree at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management. CWRU is famous for its prestigious engineering department. This is incredibly appropriate, for Cleveland rose as a city where people built things. Cleveland prospered when the United States was a manufacturing giant, when the vast majority of workers spent their days making things they could actually bring home: cars, tractors, furniture, etc.

Those days are over but a certain blue-collar affability remains. People here are approachable. They smile. They ask you how you've been doing. I’m continuously surprised by how much people care. People at Weatherhead’s Career Management Office keep asking me how my job search is coming. The director of the Cleveland Cinematheque takes the time to let me know that the film I asked to be screened will be shown later that week.

Cleveland might lack the sound and the fury of larger metropolises, but it has a heart, and a pumping one at that. Within walking distance of each other, one can find a world-class museum, a world-class orchestra and a world-class university. And after watching a film, or going to a concert, one can walk another five minutes and enjoy a full plate of pasta in one of Little Italy’s many trattorias. What’s more to be said?

By Antonio (Tom) Bueno, MBA '14

February 15, 2013

Managing Relationships During Grad School

There’s no doubt about it: succeeding in graduate school is time-consuming. Whether you’re in a committed relationship, single or newly married, managing your relationship commitments in the right proportions while earning your Master’s is challenging. Here’s how some of Weatherhead’s current MBA students are earning an ‘A’ in Managing Relationships 400.

Spousal and Community Support Irreplaceable

What do you do when you have one month between when the summer classes’ end and the fall classes’ start? You get married, go off on your honeymoon and get back in time for class of course! Josh and Samantha are no strangers to making things work- an approach they have continued as they balance their academic pursuits and personal relationships. Although Josh is in the part-time program and Samantha is in the full-time program, they still study together and prepare for exams together. They have found another couple who share their part-time/full-time balance. For them, there is no barrier between their relationship at school and away from school. They serve as sounding boards for each other and help to keep each other balanced so school does not become all-consuming. Their recent Super Bowl party was a blend of old friends, new friends and school friends (part-time and full-time). Although they do not have children yet, they view their position as one that allows them to have a blended family and they love how open the Case Western Reserve University community is.

Josh Marx, MBA '15
Samantha Marx, MBA '14

Sharing the Work and the Rewards

When John attended an MBA information session hosted by Weatherhead, his wife Risa attended with him as a way to support him. During that session, one of the panelists shared that she’d had her first child during her second year as a student. In that moment, Risa realized that she didn't have to put everything on hold.  She could do this also. Two applications and not too many months later, they were both enrolled as students in the part-time MBA program at Weatherhead. They had both the opportunity to branch out and connect with others (they were not in the same study groups) and the shared experience of pursuing their goals together. John’s group mates were almost all single and Risa's group mates were all married with children. They were able to have a double vantage point of the members of their cohort. While they did not face the normal challenges of having to explain to a spouse or significant other what they were doing and how much time it would take to accomplish it, they did face other interesting challenges being a couple enrolled in the same program. Risa recalls a classmate’s surprise when she and John received different grades on a homework assignment. Contrary to what others may have assumed, they were individual students, who did their homework on their own. Yes, they helped each other out when one faced a challenge on an assignment, and they provided different perspectives on each other’s work, but it was more like having a group mate at home, versus a clone. 

February 8, 2013

Networking tips for business school students

When we ask prospective students why they want to pursue a graduate degree, one of the most often cited reasons is to network; network with other students with similar interests, network with faculty who are experts in their field, or network with alumni in positions where they aspire to be one day. So what do you get out of networking at Weatherhead? Here are some examples and tips from two of our Student Ambassadors:

Michelle Karp, Class of 2013
Networks are incredibly important when you're trying to build a career. That's why I've made it a priority during my MBA program. There are always events going on—the Career Management Office brings in speakers, student clubs have networking events or panel discussions, and professors bring local (and even national!) executives in to talk to their classes. I always make a point of attending as many of these events as I can, even during a busy academic schedule, and use that time to practice my networking skills while building my own network. Sometimes this means attending an event with a speaker whose work is outside my field—there’s a lot more pressure when you're talking to someone from your favorite company, so it's best to practice as much as you can in low-pressure areas. This also means getting out of your comfort zone. I make sure to find opportunities to introduce myself and thank speakers for coming, and even though it may feel awkward when you first try it, people are almost always receptive and appreciative! It takes time and dedication, though—it’s easy to skip these events, but you never know what type of opportunity you might be missing!

Tom Bueno, Class of 2014
Living as we are in an information society, pretty much all of our activities, from work to leisure, require some certain degree of knowledge. We all either are or were, at one point in time, students. As a graduate business student, it never ceases to amaze me how many doors my “student” status opens for me. People are willing to talk to students, sit down for a coffee and a chat, exchange experiences, or offer advice. Just by approaching people and telling them I’m a student, I've been given hours and hours of precious advice and many, many tips. Especially in Cleveland, where Midwestern conviviality is the norm, people are more than willing to spare minutes and even hours to help you on your way. And that, in my opinion, more than any class you’ll take, is what makes a business education so valuable.

Summary of networking tips:

  1. Seek out and attend career center/office speaker events
  2. Attend as many events on- and off-campus as you can
  3. Attend events with speakers outside your field because it provides a low-pressure environment for you to practice
  4. Introduce yourself to speakers and thank them for coming after their presentations
  5. Leverage your "student status" and simply ask to meet someone over coffee for advice

February 4, 2013

Veni, Vidi, Vici - How to strategically conquer your post-MBA career goals

So you’ve decided to pursue an MBA degree – maybe you’ve selected your school, maybe you’re still on the fence. However, you’ve already thought about how your life and career might be transformed once you’ve imbibed yourself into the holistic experience that is business school. In two short and extremely busy years, you expect to fill up the educational quiver, weave a professional network and build the foundations for your career goals – all of which will last a lifetime. It will require strategic thinking, proactive execution and a dash of champion’s luck to succeed in a highly competitive global market of type-A personalities.
Meenakshi Sharma, Director of Career Management Office
As the director of Weatherhead’s Career Management Office (CMO), I am often asked to speculate on ways to help meet career goals following graduation. I would like to share with you a few pointers to consider as you move through your MBA program.

The Target – What might a post-MBA career be like?
The answer really lies in what you “want” to do with an MBA. We understand that in spite of having spent countless hours debating the merits and timing of a graduate business degree, many students struggle to define a particular career goal. Hence, it might be difficult to identify and start working toward a post MBA career path that would best serve to reach their goals. At CMO, we’re here to help you help yourself. You’ll meet a knowledgeable and friendly team of professionals who strive to help you objectively evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and identify career options that you would feel passionate about. We utilize a variety of resources and developmental methods, including self-assessment tests like “CareerLeader” (designed by Harvard Business School), resume critiquing, cultural and professional awareness, mock interviews, networking assistance, etc. to help you in strategically identifying a focal area. Once you know what you want to do, you will be able to leverage informational interviews, external projects, and/or a summer internship into that dream job and long-term career.