If your reason for earning your MBA is to land a better job, make sure you cover these bases while working toward that degree.
Going back to school to earn your MBA is often a means to achieving something greater: a job you’ll enjoy, and hopefully one that will reap a decent salary, too.
That’s why MBA hopefuls will be glad to hear that more than 75 percent of the 211 employers who responded to a Graduate Management Admission Council survey intend to hire at least as many MBA graduates this year as they did last year.
But a promising crystal ball reading — particularly one from an interested, albeit respected, party that administers the GMAT test — doesn’t mean that MBA students will face any less of a crowded field of competitors when they search for post-graduation jobs.
To put yourself in the best possible position for beating out those competitors, here are seven things you can do while earning your MBA that will improve your chances of landing a job afterward:
1. Take an ax to your resume
MBA students and graduates often make the mistake of listing every achievement imaginable on their resume, thinking that will help them avoid being overlooked, warns Roy Cohen, a career coach in New York City and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. But the truth is, including so many achievements can actually make it more difficult for employers to understand why they should hire you — not easier.
“Companies and hiring managers do not want to work to figure out how you will add value and over what time frame,” Cohen says. “Make sure that your [resume] is precise in showing that you have both the experience and skills to outperform in the job and career that you are pursuing. Equally important, edit the resume to focus on removing the nonessential and distracting items.”
2. Vary the style of your resume
Each MBA student should have multiple versions of the same resume, with different styles and formats that go beyond the traditional one-pager, advises Aaron Simkovich, controller at Maranon Capital in Chicago and a Boston University School of Management MBA.
Simkovich recommends giving all of those different resume versions to a recruiting firm (if you work with one). “They should know what type of resumes worked with these companies in the past,” he says.
3. Consider a makeover (and no, we’re not talking about a resume makeover)
“If the last suit you bought has shoulder pads, then it is time to take a trip to the mall to buy a replacement,” says Roberta Chinsky Matuson of Matuson Consulting, who helps Fortune 500 companies recruit talent. “While you are there, be sure to stop by the hairdresser for a fresh new look,” she added in an interview with About.com’s Karen Schweitzer, which is chock-full of other tips for MBA job applicants.
4. Find ways to gain relevant work experience
If you know what career field you want to work in, choose internships that relate to that professional path. “The more pertinent the better, and the more recognizable a company [such as General Electric, Microsoft] the better,” says Mike Kahn, an executive senior partner at the Lucas Group focused on human resources.
“Just having any job over the summer won’t help much, though it is certainly better than no work experience at all,” he says. “When I see a resume of a recent college grad and they have no employment at all, that is a big red flag.”
5. Dive into LinkedIn
MBA job applicants should get involved in networking groups of all sorts, as well as social media sites, Kahn advises. “Be sure your LinkedIn page is robust and includes a high-quality, professional photo,” he says. “While LinkedIn is the gold standard for online networking today, keep all of your online presences a potential employer may come across professional.”
6. Learn to right write correctly
Students often take for communications skills for granted, but they do so at their own peril, because recruiters pay close attention to the written and spoken word, says Lee Igel, an associate professor at New York University’s Tisch Center and a regular Forbes contributor, who has advised senior executives at large companies.
“It seems obvious to students, because we’ve all been composing and talking for years; writing and speaking are, however, specific skills,” Igel says. “Recruiters and other executives who make hiring decisions have been telling me for years that they’re happy to discover candidates who can do one or the other. A candidate with both is like manna from heaven.”
7. Try to have fun
That’s the final piece of advice for MBA students who are job hunting from Roxanne Hori, who wrote a Businessweek article on the topic. Enjoying a job search might sound utopian, but Hori reminds students, “Business school is a unique opportunity to build an amazing network of friends and colleagues you may have for the rest of your life… Take advantage of all these things. They will enrich your business school experience many times over.”
Menachem Wecker is a former education reporter at U.S. News & World Report.