At the risk of stating the obvious, every journey to business school is unique in some sense, but I think mine was particularly atypical. With multiple advanced degrees in core science disciplines, and a career almost entirely in academic research, I had a lot of explaining to do when convincing business schools of my motivations. My background also posed similar challenges when searching for a summer internship, which begins at the end of the first year in the MBA program. However, after a few missteps, I was able to turn what I thought were setbacks into opportunities. In fact, I actually looked forward to the puzzled look I got from potential employers after a quick perusal of my resume. It was my opportunity for pitching a compelling, and with practice, more succinct narrative of why I was a great fit for the position.
“It seems what you want is just to add another set of credentials to the ones you already have.” Those were the first words to me from an interviewer. I was more than a little rattled throughout the rest of my interviews; however, I concluded that I had some challenges before me, and I needed to find a plan of attack. The biggest challenge I had was convincing an employer to interview me, simply after reading my resume. Overcoming this obstacle was possible through the many opportunities facilitated by various organs of the Wisconsin School of Business. I took full advantage of the alumni contacts and corporate relationships available, and I also attended multiple career conferences. These avenues allowed me to speak directly with recruiters, and my goal was to convince them that I was a perfect fit for the positions they were offering. What may have helped me the most was reaching out to one of my Center’s board members. The one-on-one discussions and feedback she provided me resulted in a marked improvement in my interview skills and performance.
I was now getting favorable feedback from interviews, but many employers still wanted me to delve into my previous experience, while skimming over my reasons for a career transition. My background lends itself to data analytics, which is now a really big consideration for many businesses. I love the data analytics nature of my previous career, but my main reason for returning to business school was to move into a role with more of a holistic business emphasis.
After a lot of hard work, commitment, and self-realization, I walked away with a few offers to choose from. The position that I accepted is in the business intelligence unit of a healthcare management firm. Although the decision-making process was difficult, I chose this position because I know that it will provide me with the best opportunity to be part of a larger business-decision process—a key criteria in my internship search. Another helpful deciding factor was that the organization offers a leadership development program that spans various functional units and ultimately leads to managing a business unit with multiple departments.
I couldn’t be happier about my position for the summer! I truly feel that the key takeaway from my experience is that no matter what your background, you have a story that is unique to you. Once you learn how to leverage that story, the possibilities are endless.