How to Get an Edge on the Job Hunt Over the MBA Holiday Break

How to Get an Edge on the Job Hunt Over the MBA Holiday Break main image

Get advice from experts at top business schools about how you can maximize your time over the MBA holiday break.

The MBA holiday break is one of the highlights of the year for many graduate students. After a grueling semester, you finally have some time for rest and relaxation. 

While taking a breather every now and then is of vital importance, you can also boost your odds of getting hired at your preferred job. Find out what experts at top schools suggest and see the day-by-day tasks for making the most of your holiday break:

Day one: Just breathe 

Everyone needs to hit pause once in a while. There’s no shame in it, and recharging your batteries can be useful and productive in the long run. 

Heather Byrne, managing director of the Career Development Office at the Michigan Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor, Michigan, said: “The fall semester is a whirlwind, so we encourage students to spend time with family and friends, travel, and relax.”

But you don’t have to go into full hibernation mode. You can still improve your chances of getting hired after a little R and R. 

Day two: Conduct self-assessment

What many don’t realize is that the MBA program requires a certain level of navel-gazing. In other words, you need to think about how you would like the future to look and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Once school is out, you can clear your head and get acquainted with yourself.

Jamie Schein, assistant dean and director of the Career Management Center at Stanford Graduate School of Business in Stanford, California, said: “My top suggestion would be to take the time to reflect and understand what you want – your career goals, your skills, your interests – so that you can be focused on what is important when the January crush begins.”

Day three: Prepare for the interview

Take the time to understand the on-campus recruiting process and prepare for the interview. To start, contact your school’s career development office, says Byrne. Many don’t realize the offices are open much of the time during the break, and there are staff members there to help them get ready, Byrne added. Pretty much all the experts agree on this point about interview prep. 

Beth Briggs, assistant dean of Career Services at NYU Stern School of Business in New York, said: “Practice matters, and it will give you the confidence you need to succeed at your interviews.”

Day four: Network

The holidays are the perfect time to network, which is particularly useful for those MBA students who are conducting off-campus searches, added Byrne. She said: “Most students return home where they are likely connecting with former colleagues, classmates from undergrad, and family and friends, all of whom may be a great resource for the students’ next job."

You should approach those around you and be open about your plans. Abby Scott, assistant dean of MBA Career Management at UC Berkeley Haas School of Business said: “Share what you are hoping to pursue in your next job during holiday parties and events, and be specific.

“These casual chats can quickly lead to new resources or people to talk to, as long as you make it easy for them to help you by mentioning target companies, roles and goals.”

In addition, you can use the down time to call alumni in the fields you’re interested in to set up informational meetings. Schein suggests making a list of people you want to reach out, and the companies you want to target.

You can try to meet for coffee and ask about the path taken to establish a rapport and discover what it takes to succeed in a particular function, industry, and company.

Day five: Take on a project

Freelance assignments are a great way to gain exposure and experience – and without your schoolwork, you’ll be able to focus. Ask your contacts if they need anything with which you can help. This is particularly useful for career switchers, who may lack experience in their chosen field.

Briggs said: “You also can consider taking on a short-term project to gain experience for a role you are targeting.

“Even short-term engagements can give you insight into the skills needed for a future role. Plus, you can add it to your resume and LinkedIn profile to show that you have experience in an area you are targeting.”

Francesca Di Meglio

Francesca Di Meglio has written about higher education for two decades. She covered business schools and all aspects of management education for what became Bloomberg Businessweek from May 2004 to December 2013. Di Meglio was the consultant editor for the book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program (85 Broads Publishing, 2011), which was written by admissions consultant Betsy Massar. In addition, she is a family travel and parenting blogger at the Italian Mamma website

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