Monday, May 23, 2011

CFN's MBA Guide: Surviving First Year

Everybody needs a plan, so they say. Getting into a top business school (and earning membership into the Consortium) is an achievement. But it's a starting point for what's to come. Many Consortium students and other MBAs will acknowledge the starting point leads to an opening of flood gates. 

Business school starts in early September, in most cases. Students are bombarded with tasks, responsibilities, cases, assignments and meetings by the second day.  Many alumni admit later they knew b-school would be a challenge; they just never knew that the workload would be so overwhelming so soon. And there is the worrisome, looming task to get a summer job, even if the summer is nine months away.  Recruiting season, year after year, starts right before school and requires significant amounts of time and attention.

That's where the Consortium Finance Network's annual first-year guide can help.  For the third year in a row, CFN will distribute its guide for first-year MBAs in finance. It offers advice, guidance, and wisdom based on those who've been there before (students) or those who've been on the other side of the hiring process (alumni, recruiters, business leaders). The guide helps first-year students develop a game plan to manage the delicate, careful process of being an outstanding, diligent student, while looking for that meaningful summer internship.

The guide is based on input from alumni and recent students and is culled from commentary from the CFN Linkedin and blog sites. 

Summer is seldom a time to ease up for prospective business students. Many go away for a celebratory vacation or a respite between job and school. But a summer before b-school can also be filled with (Take your pick) pre-matriculation programs, boot camps sponsored by some institutions, orientation programs (including that of the Consortium), and other activities.  Many take advantage of these programs to ensure they get off to a blazing start once school starts and to absorb tidbits and tools that could make a difference later.

The guide offers advice on the summer before school:  How to develop a game plan to make the most of the first year and how to plan to get the internship.

The guide summarizes opportunities in finance, the short- and long-term outlook in primary segments. It tries to assist first-years who wrestle with gnawing career decisions. Should they pursue investment-, corporate- or private-banking? Are there opportunities beyond the popular b-school pursuits (community banking, non-profit activities, operations and technology)? Should they explore their passions, or should they purse opportunities based on their technical strengths or where openings will be when they graduate?

Mentors are crucial in helping students attain desirable positions in finance.  The guide discusses how to make the most of mentor relationships, how to develop long-lasting, rich relationships, or how to approach mentors who have little time or attention span.

CFN's guide addresses student concerns as they proceed during the school year. What should students worry about during the first weeks of school? How can they manage the time between adjusting to the pressing demands of school and planning for internships?  How can they arrange information interviews with alumni and mentors from out of town? Or how can they polish the resume', the elevator pitch, and the first-round interview? How can they prepare now for haunting technical interviews that come in January?

Handling dozens of b-school responsibilities with no spare time is already a chore, but students are also expected to keep up with topics in finance beyond the text and classroom:  the latest deal, the latest finance or economic trend, the latest regulatory proposal, the latest series of finance books that chonicled or analyzed the financial crisis, the latest movement in silver, gold, or oil prices, or the latest expectations about inflation.  The guide provides advice on how to keep up when there are midterms and class presentations to worry about.

Once students have learned how to manage time, take advantage of the wealth of offerings in seminars, activities, and speakers on campus, develop relationships with alumni and mentors, and perform well in coursework, the guide helps students get ready for summer internships.  Successful internships, as MBAs know, lead to full-time job offers in August before the second year.

Diversity, leadership and networking are important topics in schools and in financial institutions.  The guide reviews some of the latest discussion, including sharing lists of the best financial insitutions in diversity and the best in grooming leaders for the future and trends in diversity among senior ranks since the financial crisis.

The CFN guide will be distributed electronically to Consortium students who have indicated an interest in finance. It can be sent to others upon request.

Tracy Williams

No comments:

Post a Comment