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Job Interviews – Tell Them What You Want to Tell Them

by Kat Cinkova
Forté Fellow & MBA Candidate 2015
UCLA Anderson School of Management

Interviews are a tricky thing – students spend months preparing, studying, networking, and in the end it comes down to a couple hours of Q&A that are totally unpredictable. Companies ask questions ranging from “What are your 5 weaknesses?” to “If you had to make a speech at your retirement party, what would you say?” and candidates must be ready to tackle it all. However, there are a few strategies I learned through interviewing, most importantly how to “tell them what you want to tell them.”

A few things that helped me prepare for interviews:

Company Research

Prior to walking into an interview, it is imperative to research not only the basic facts about the company and its products, but to learn what kinds of people / characteristics the company looks for in its employees. Knowing the specific qualities that are important, whether it’s leadership, mental math or digital design, will help you tailor your story to match the company’s ideal candidate, and increase the chances that you will get the offer.

Tell Them What You Want to Tell Them

Based on research from point #1 above, match your capabilities and skills to what the company is looking for. Think about how you will present your story and experiences in a way that ties in to the job requirements. This way, when an interviewer asks a questions that seems completely random (it never is – they are always digging towards something deeper, and trying to throw you off) you will have an answer ready that not only describes you well, but highlights how you would fit in with their firm.

Tell Them Again

Any time the interviewer gives you an opportunity to speak freely, either by asking a very open-ended question such as “Tell me about yourself” or when you are given the chance to ask questions at the end, use the time as an opportunity to reiterate the themes you have already covered in the interview – namely how your skills relate to this specific job. By keying in on a few specific things about yourself, you will be very memorable and be prepared for anything the interviewer decides to throw your way!

Hope you find some of these helpful, and good luck with the interview process!

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It’s Never Too Soon to Prepare for Your MBA

by Cacilda Teixeira
Forté Fellow and MBA Candidate 2015
University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler Business School)

You’ve decided to take a big leap and apply to business school, and you’re wondering what you could be doing right now to prepare.

Here are three things you can start doing now to get a head start:

Take the GMAT.

The GMAT is an arduous process and the sooner you get started the better.

You may not do as well as you would like on the first try and want to take it again; the sooner you take it the more time you have to re-take if needed.

Start researching schools.

There are so many schools out there and now is a good time to start researching schools to whittle down your choices. You can also start visiting schools to get a feel about where you want to be.

Revise your resume.

You’ve accomplished a lot thus far and have been successful in your career. Now is the time to make certain your resume reflects your accomplishments and start looking at what you could be doing to boost your qualifications.

Set professional goals to fill in any gaps you see, so you can put your best foot forward when you submit your application.

Come fall you will have much more on your plate with essays, recommendations, interviews and the more you can do now to prepare, the better.

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International Trips and Study Abroad

by Christine Bassitt
Forté Fellow and MBA Candidate 2014
University of Southern California (Marshall School of Business)

One of the biggest benefits to getting an MBA is the global exposure most programs offer.  My school takes pride in being one of the first programs to require all full-time students to take a trip in either Asia or Latin America.  While the travel in itself is amazing, the primary purpose of the trip is to visit companies and present a consulting-style project relevant to the firm’s current business environment.  The ability to speak with managers about the issues they are facing and work with them to come up with tangible solutions is priceless.

While the university trip abroad was incredible it only increased my desire to learn more about the global business environment.  I wanted to take advantage of being back in school and make up for something I missed out on in undergrad – studying abroad. 

There are different options for studying abroad – programs taking place over the summer or over breaks, full-semesters, quarter-semesters, etc.  Different schools offer different credit levels but most schools have partnerships with other MBA programs.  Language is not always a requirement, as a number of programs are offered in English. 

Additionally, many of the international schools have set programs with 30 or so MBAs from around the world studying together.

The university I decided to study abroad at was one that had a set program.  It has provided an incredible networking opportunity to future business leaders across the world as well as valuable insights to how business operates in the host country as well as in the countries of my classmates.  The program length was condensed enough for students on quarter systems but included enough long weekends to take advantage of all the incredible nearby sights. 

I traveled to 10 countries around Europe and went to dinners with students from 15 other nations around the world.  I also was able to finish my class work for my MBA sooner than my peers enabling me to start my new job earlier.

Some things to consider with study abroad are the credit hours received at your home university, the costs associated with both school and living expenses and how this fits into your overall career plan.  For students looking at a global role it can provide valuable opportunities to connect. 

Additionally, one should consider the events missed at home including valuable recruiting ones.

Study abroad is not for everyone, but for those looking to increase their network and knowledge of cultures and business environments it can be a fun way to take advantage of being a student again!

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Great Options Before You Start Your MBA

by Georgiana Paula Avram
Forté Fellow & MBA Candidate
Class of 2015 – The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University

Applying to business school is a complex and time consuming process. Nobody wants to take the process too lightly. All applicants want to invest the necessary time into the application process in order to portray themselves well.

It is no surprise that few of us take the time to consider pre-MBA opportunities. However, these opportunities are well worth the time and pre-MBA opportunities come in different shapes and forms! Some pre-MBA events are held before you even decide which program to attend or even before receiving an admission decision.

Pre-MBA conferences represent a great way to meet business school representatives from MBA programs you are considering. You will gain new perspectives into the application process, learn more about your top choice MBA programs and have the opportunity to get more of your questions answered.

Pre-MBA conferences are also unique opportunities to meet more MBA-bound fellow applicants – what better opportunity to form new friendships and network while discussing common interests and goals for the MBA experience!

In addition to pre-MBA conferences, you can also explore different career tracks by applying to various pre-MBA programs. Consulting firms and investment banks are just a couple of types of employers that organize pre-MBA events in order to provide more information to MBA candidates about their respective industries and to attract talented young professionals. Moreover, some pre-MBA programs offer unique scholarship and internship opportunities which are extremely valuable!

While some pre-MBA opportunities target specific industries and career interests, or aim to attract diversity or minority candidates, there is something for everyone so check your MBA programs websites often to learn more about specific opportunities available at your schools of interest! A great way to prepare for your MBA experience is to be a part of a pre-MBA program!

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My Last Semester as an MBA Student

by Khue Hoang, Class of 2014
Forté Fellow & MBA Candidate
USC Marshall School of Business

I can’t believe that it’s already my last semester here at USC Marshall. The last 1.5 years have gone by so fast, and going to business school has been one of the best decisions I’ve made so far. I loved my study group and Core C, going to USC football games and tailgates, flying on a trapeze for the Creativity in Business class, leading the Business of Entertainment Association (BEA), travelling with friends and family, being an MBA Ambassador, and working at Paramount Pictures and now NBCUniversal.

I loved presenting our PRIME (Pacific Rim International Management Education) capstone presentation to clients in Tokyo, visiting inspirational companies on school treks, and going to the Sundance Film Festival with classmates.

Finally, I’ve loved every single person I’ve met through my time here at Marshall, and have made lifelong friendships with amazing people.

My last semester is bittersweet because we’ll soon be scattering throughout the world for our jobs, but I know that all of my classmates will move on to amazing things and achieve so much. Our “100 Days” dinner is later this month, where we celebrate our journey all together.

A countdown sign is then placed in front of the program office, changing everyday with the number of days left to graduation. I still have our E2: Evolution of Entertainment conference, Challenge for Charity weekend up at Stanford, the annual Mammoth skiing trip, Marshall’s Got Talent/Battle of the Bands, and Disorientation to look forward to before then.

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Choosing Between Part-Time, Executive or Full-Time MBA Programs

by Christine Bassitt
Forté Fellow and MBA Candidate 2014
University of Southern California (Marshall School of Business)

When looking into all the different MBA programs out there it’s important to consider several items. 

First, you need to assess what you really want to get out of the program.  Often the greatest networking opportunities come from a full-time program.  On a similar note, assess what type of skills you are looking to achieve from the program.  If you’re a career switcher like myself, you may need a more intensive program.  However, if you already have the functional proficiencies of the job down, an executive program may be a better choice.

I’ve noticed that many of my classmates and I share a similar trend.  We all worked incredibly hard during our jobs coming out of undergrad.  While an MBA program is no vacation, it is a break in some ways, and an opportunity to take a step back and analyze your big strategic plan in life. 

Having to complete school while still working does not often provide this chance to get a high-level view and creates a great deal of stress.  I know a few people who have ended up leaving their jobs to try internships or finish their degrees sooner.

Finally, when thinking about the financing aspect it’s important to realize that you’re not only paying for the MBA itself, but also losing out on two years of pay in the process.  Many schools and companies offer scholarships and loans are definitely available but it is definitely a huge financial undertaking. 

The career trajectory that an MBA provides should of course outweigh the costs, but it is something that only you can decide.

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Should I Re-Take the GMAT?

by Cacilda Teixeira
Forté Fellow and MBA Candidate 2015
University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler Business School)

The MBA application process is a holistic one: the committee considers all parts of the application in consideration. That being said, the GMAT is still a very important part of the application.

You have prepared for the GMAT, taken the courses and still are not happy with your GMAT score, so you ask yourself “should I take it again?” If you feel like you can improve with some studying, it’s definitely worth another try.

Business schools consider the highest GMAT score, so you’re not hurting yourself by taking it again.

However, if your score is decreasing, maybe you should reconsider re-taking.

A higher GMAT score can mean more financial aid.

Business school is expensive and the more money you can receive towards defraying those costs is a huge help.

For some programs, you can submit GMAT scores even after you’ve submitted your application.

If you’re applying for a round and you’ll be taking the GMAT after the application deadline, talk to the admissions office at the school and they’ll most likely accept those scores after you’ve submitted the application

Employ a new strategy to GMAT preparation to get your score higher.

Maybe the preparation materials and the company you’ve been using has you at a plateau, so trying a new approach may help you score higher.

If your score is stuck at a certain number and need a fresh perspective, try Knewton GMAT. The preparation program is convenient, relatively inexpensive and it was very helpful for me after I had tried various other services. This is also a good strategy if you’re short on time because you can set the pace.

Upcoming Events This Week: Europe Business Leadership Summit for Women, London: Jan. 30, Paris: Jan. 31

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Cementing Your Career Goals

by Bailey Butzberger
Forté Fellow and MBA Candidate 2015
Southern Methodist University (Cox School of Business)

If you are having trouble selecting the programs to apply to or what to write your essays about, then you need to take a step back.  This is a red flag that you don’t have your career goals solidified enough yet.

If this is the case for you, the best thing you can do for yourself is to talk to people.  Talking to current students, professors and especially alumni at various institutions will help you to gain some insight into what a program has to offer and where your education can lead you.  While I was applying last year, I had a general idea of the career path I wanted to pursue before entering school, but now a world of career possibilities has opened up, many of which weren’t part of my original plan.

You will eventually research this range of possibilities, so the sooner the better.  You may be surprised at the areas that you are interested in that you hadn’t considered before.  Contact the admissions office from the schools you are considering applying to and ask to be put in touch with alumni from different job functions, like:

  • Management Consulting
  • Marketing and Sales
  • Investment Banking
  • Analytics
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Strategy
  • Corporate Finance

Most alumni are very open to speaking to prospective students.  You can learn a lot and begin to expand your network, which is a crucial part of being successful in business school.  Ask them questions like:

  • What was your career path both prior to and after business school?
  • What do you like best about your position?
  • What are the challenges?
  • What do you wish you had known before?
  • What advice would you give to someone exploring this career path?

You WILL begin having these conversations when you enter business school, and you will be ahead of the game if you start now.  These conversations will help you to cement your career goals, get a feel for whether a particular institution will help you to meet your these goals, and maybe even create some personal advocates at your institution of choice.

Cementing your career goals will make the rest of this process much easier, from selecting the right schools to being able to communicate your thoughts clearly and confidently in the interview.  In the end, you can always change your mind, but the more you know, the less you’ll have to.

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