It began innocently enough two weeks into classes in September: a “Big 3” consulting firm set up a table in E51 and encouraged students to “enjoy a doughnut on [them].” They weren’t allowed to talk about their summer opportunities—after all it was still over a week before September 29, the first day companies were officially permitted to begin presentations at Sloan. But they were allowed to have this doughnut table, and so people ate the doughnuts.
Bearing banners, booze, and their best and brightest to show on campus, these companies know their market well: MBAs love free food (especially doughnuts before 8:30AM classes—and who am I kidding? They might have sold me, too, if the treats were gluten-free). MBAs love challenges, opportunities for career development, and a healthy dose of travel. MBAs want a salary that will let them pay off their gigantic loans. So it’s no surprise that what recruiting began with innocent tabling in September snowballed (literally, in Boston’s case) into a campus-wide frenzy by January. And it’s far from unique to Sloan: aside from some variations on the timeline, the phenomenon exists across MBA programs. The only difference is which companies send their troops to the "MBAttlegrounds."
To explain this process in a bit more detail: companies have certain reasons for choosing to recruit at the schools they do. Sometimes it’s a matter of a school’s career offices having a well-established connection with a recruiter. Sometimes it’s a matter of alumni presence. Often it's a matter of geography and budget—for example, a Midwestern company won't fly a team out to the Northeast for a recruiting presentation just to land one or two interns when they can find comparable talent more locally—and whom they don’t have to sell on the Midwest. It's also a matter of school reputation: different business schools attract different companies on account of their different niches. Sloan is known for tech, consulting, finance, and healthcare, and so our on campus recruiting channels are glutted with opportunities in these types of companies for internships and full-time roles.
That doesn’t mean someone like me can’t get an internship in my desired field, which lies outside these areas, but it takes a whole lot more work. My past three months have been spent writing cover letters, pinning down recruiters, prepping for interviews, and, in choice strokes of luck, having interviews. Writing this post in Colorado, 2,000 miles away from Cambridge, it doesn’t stop. Surrounded by peers on a school trip, where the talk of recruiting is thick in the air, I’m trying not to judge my process or my progress against anyone else’s, but it’s extremely hard.
Recruiting brings out my worst habits and tendencies: Comparing myself to others. Being excessively hard on myself. Feeling perpetually “never enough.” Anxiety about interviews I have. Anxiety about interviews I don’t have. Fear of rejection. Fear of acceptance. Overanalyzing things I can’t change in the past and overthinking the things I can in the future. Losing perspective and being everywhere but here and now.
Partly because interview preparation has rotted my brain, and partly because it’s true, I’m trying to see this whole process as a growth opportunity. It’s yet another one of the ways in which my MBA is giving me an unexpected education in life and being human.
For one, I’m getting humbled by imperfection like I’ve never been before: I’m rarely late on finishing anything important, but I’ve missed a dozen deadlines and opportunities to connect with companies I care about. I’ve been fairly sheltered from failure in my life, but I’m getting some serious rejection. The last time I went through the internship and job hunt, I wasn’t willing to learn from my mistakes, but this time I am, and while I wouldn’t say I’m coping well, I am coping better that I used to.
I’m also learning what my dear friend at Sloan calls “the locus of control,” which translates to learning to divorce myself from outcomes. I’m an overachiever. I’m a Type A type. I’m such a flagrant Type A that I try to pretend I’m Type B when I first meet people (it doesn’t last long). So if I could control this situation of my employment for the summer, I would, but I don’t get to control the outcome here: not the what or the when of it, and certainly not the why. All I can do is prepare to be my best self in the company of the person evaluating me, write a ‘thank you’ note, and that’s where my power ends.
The most important thing I’m learning is not to compromise. The last time I went through recruiting, I took the first thing that was offered to me because I was afraid I’d never see another offer—that I wasn’t good enough to get another offer. The job happened to work out, but the motivation for taking it was less love than fear. I have a pretty clear sense of what how I want to spend my summer. I’m grateful for having a sense of purpose and knowing the types of companies and roles where that sense of purpose is going to be met. To take an offer somewhere that I know isn’t right for me is as dishonest to myself as to my employer.
This summer, I intend to work at a place that accepts all of me, where I have the freedom to bring my whole eccentric, passionate, ambitious self to work—unapologetically. I have to believe there is a company that I adore that will love me for me and can’t imagine their business without me.
Until that offer comes in, I’m open to opportunities, but unwilling to settle.