May 10, 2013

Everyone is in sales. Even graduate students

Everyone is in sales. Whether we are selling a product, leading a business team, or conducting a job search, we are all in the business of selling something everyday. I learned this lesson early on in my career in arts management, carried it into my career in financial services, and still live by it now in health care consulting. It is a tough skill to craft, and I continually tried to perfect it during my recent job search at Weatherhead. With that said, I believe there were six actions that made my job search successful. 

6 steps to my job search
  1. I created a thoughtful scope and scale to my job search before interview season started in early September.
  2. I exhaustively rehearsed my pitch and interview answers.
  3. I leveraged my network and personal resources.
  4. I took advantage of every interview and information session possible on-campus and off-campus.
  5. I remained flexible and adjusted when necessary.
  6. With each job offer, I outlined how it could potentially lead to the next step of my career.
Creating a thoughtful scope to my job search was my biggest challenge, as my summer internship completely took me by surprise. I accepted a position with a once-boutique consulting firm that specialized in consulting engagements with hospitals and health systems. Shortly before I joined, the firm merged with a national practice that offered additional services in the areas of audit and tax. I accepted this position to enhance my skill set in strategy without really understanding its full value.

It was during my internship that I began to realize the benefits of my MBA and my past professional experiences. Walking in with five years of experience in financial services, I was fairly convinced that the only real value I could provide would be in finance. During my first couple of weeks with the company, I began to learn about the great opportunities to improve the economics, operations and management of the caregiver delivery model. I was immediately assigned to teams and was leading projects by the end of the summer. General management best practices were extremely valuable in sorting through some of health care’s most complex challenges. My theory was disproved, as I found a multitude of ways to contribute to the team and provide value to the client.

I came back to Weatherhead for my final academic year with a clear focus for my job search. I began to filter through positions that tackled systemic challenges that were critical to an organization’s health and future value. Positions of this nature included management consulting programs, global leadership rotational programs, and internal enterprise strategy programs. With the help of Weatherhead’s Career Management Office, Weatherhead faculty and my personal network, I began to connect with several employers at national conferences, career fairs and networking events.

My job search was my primary concern during the fall semester. I rearranged my schedule, missed classes and worked double-time to ensure the best possible results. I had a group of trusted advisors - Meenakshi Sharma, Simon Peck and Scott Fine – who were always available to provide honest advice, rehearse case studies and help me prepare for negotiations throughout my decision making process. In February of this year, I accepted a senior associate position with Dixon Hughes Goodman.

Everyone’s career search will be different, as we all have different responsibilities, personal resources, and professional skill sets. My single piece of advice is to plan early, connect with as many people as you can, and be thoughtful and diligent in your approach. 

Laurajeanne Cerniglia, MBA '13

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