For second-year MBAs like me, our time in the MBA program at Illinois is quickly drawing to a close. For many of us, this is our last semester at the university (not true for some joint degree students) and we are all trying to make the most of it by taking classes that interest us and will benefit us in the future, making lasting connections, and finding the perfect career. I decided to sit down with Emilia Poppe, second-year MBA, Forte Fellow and an active member of the MBA community to check in with her about her classes and her job search.
How has the second year of the MBA program differed from the first year?
The first two quarters of MBA1 were pretty stressful and jam-packed with classwork and other activities. Despite that, it was great to be with all of the first-year MBAs every day and to work in my awesome study groups. The first semester of MBA2 has been very different. It’s still a lot of work and I was still really busy, but I primarily focused on the job search and interviewing process this year. Also, I missed seeing a lot of my classmates. There are some classmates that I hardly ever see anymore because we have different concentrations. The other difference for me between last year and this year is that I joined Illinois Business Consulting (IBC) this year; it has been a tremendous opportunity and I got a lot out of the time I spent with IBC.
What do you like about the Illinois MBA program? Has this changed this year?
The first year of the MBA program, my favorite part was meeting all my wonderful classmates. This year, I really enjoy taking classes in my specific areas of interest from great professors.
What opportunities do you think are available to you because of the school you chose?
Because our class size is so much smaller relative to some other programs in the Midwest, I feel that I’ve gotten the opportunity to get to know my professors on a personal level. This has been very helpful since I can now leverage their networks. I do not feel that this would have been possible had I enrolled in a different program.
Tell me about your job search this year and any successes or failures.
My job search has been a tiring but rewarding experience. Going through the recruiting process has really helped me refine my goals and priorities, both professionally and personally. I was lucky enough to get several offers. However, I did have to make some trade-offs between working location, salary, and industry/function. In the end, I decided to go with my goal location/salary and I’m hoping to make the transition into my preferred industry after attaining transferable skills in my first placement.
How has the job search differed this year from last year for you and your classmates?
Last year when I was looking for an internship, I secured one through a personal contact very early in the Fall semester. Because of that, I did not attend any career fairs or very many networking functions. I wish I had! This year I attended career fairs and spent a lot more time with the whole process, including speaking with Business Career Services, tailoring resumes / cover letters, and interviewing, interviewing, interviewing! Another difference this year is how many interview final round trips I had to take and how much class I missed as a result. That can be very taxing.
What advice do you have for others looking for full-time opportunities?
I really wish that I would have started preparing earlier. For instance, when I enrolled in the MBA program, I was not thinking of going into consulting. However, because of my summer internship experience I realized that consulting might be a good fit for my interests and aspirations. But since I had not started practicing case-based interviews, I was at a disadvantage. I wish I had started preparing for the full-time job hunt my first year by practicing case-based (and other) interviews and by attending more career fairs. Also, I vastly underestimated the amount of time the job search would take. Keep your professors informed well in advance of your final round interviews that you’ll be out of town for. Many professors are accommodating, but I’ve heard of some professors being very inflexible on missing class/assignments due to interviews or career fairs. Keeping them informed early can help.
What Emilia says is very true. It’s best to start early and prioritize your life so that you are able to conduct a job search, finish schoolwork and still have time for social endeavors. Time management is an important skill to have and will be valuable to you throughout your life. Time is precious; use it wisely and you will find that you can do all that you need and more during your short time in the MBA program.