The [Recruiting] Road Less Taken

From the moment I began my MBA, I was told that as a student who was recruiting for the Luxury Retail industry, I would face a slightly different recruiting cycle and process than many of my peers. The schedule is a bit less structured and most companies in the industry typically recruit on an as-needed basis. That said, the exciting opportunities generally present themselves a bit later in the school year. While this can understandably be a cause of stress for some, I appreciated having the facts upfront. It helped me to determine early on that this was a career path I was committed to pursuing, even though it would certainly require me to be patient and a little more creative with my job-hunting strategy.

Since then, there has never been a time when I’ve doubted the decision to continue on the path I’ve chosen. While this is definitely due in part to countless late night personal pep talks, it can also be largely attributed to the support I’ve felt here at Stern. Though fewer companies in my industry of choice come to campus for the traditional corporate presentations and other such events, Stern’s Office of Career Development taps into its Luxury Retail alumni network throughout the year in an effort to continuously provide students with a gateway into their target companies. I’ve attended breakfast events, during which I’ve had the chance to connect with some of our alumni in more intimate settings and I’ve been to career panels with Luxury Retail professionals who have been happy to share their experiences and are more than willing to answer all our questions.

Another valuable resource I’ve personally leaned on is the Luxury & Retail Club. Club members tirelessly reach out to companies to organize various types of events through which students can gain exposure to companies of interest. Past events have included corporate headquarter visits and tours, lunch & learns, and cocktail hours. Many of these events have led to continued conversations with company employees that ultimately resulted in internships and job offers. The club ensures it is exposing students to a wide array of retailers of varying sizes, growth stages, business models, specializing in different products.

Aside from all these formal internal resources though, what has perhaps been most helpful has been my own peer network at Stern. Simply having conversations with friends about my interests has helped lead me to interesting opportunities I would otherwise not have been aware of. Friends have connected me with other friends or simply passed along job descriptions they come across that they think may be in my wheelhouse. While we are all of course told that our networks will probably be one of the most valuable things we take away from the MBA experience, I think I underestimated just how much I would come to rely on mine. My peers here have proven to be my great asset; they provide encouragement, advice, introductions, and go above and beyond to do so. It is because of all the people and resources that make up my tremendous Stern support system that I feel confident I will be successful in pursuing my career path, as “unstructured” as it may be.

Benefits of Applying to NYU Through the Consortium

Consortium

Around this time last year, I was preparing essays for business school applications. I applied to three schools through the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management and ranked NYU Stern as my top choice. There are clear benefits to applying through the Consortium such as the possibility of a full tuition scholarship and lower applications fees, but there are also less obvious benefits. Applying through the Consortium allowed me to earn an internship early and build strong relationships with some of my classmates prior to arriving on campus and also allowed me to extend my network to business schools beyond Stern.                               

The Obvious Benefits

Applying through the Consortium was the perfect opportunity for me. As a black woman, I have always served as an advocate for increasing diversity. The Consortium has a mission to increase the number of Black, Hispanic, and Native Americans in business schools and subsequently corporate management. Anyone who supports this mission can apply to NYU Stern through the Consortium. As mentioned earlier, benefits include a lower application fee and a chance to earn a full tuition fellowship. Additionally, the essays are typically shorter for the application (which admittedly could be an advantage or disadvantage).

Early Access to Recruiters and Job Opportunities

It is a requirement for everyone who applies through the Consortium to attend the Orientation Program. This 6-day event features students from all of the Consortium schools and recruiters from the companies who partner with the Consortium. The agenda is jammed pack with speaker events, panel discussions, interviews and happy hours.

During the Orientation Program, I interviewed with 7 companies (I don’t recommend this. Focus on 3 or 4 companies) and eventually accepted an Offer with Amazon in Seattle, WA. Accepting an offer before seeing all of the available opportunities may seem daunting to some people but for me it was a huge relief. Juggling recruiting, classes, and clubs is not an easy task. Accepting an offer allowed me to allocate more time towards clubs and classwork.

On Campus Family

During the required Orientation Program, I was able to meet a few of my future classmates. We helped each other prepare for interviews by conducting mock interviews and doing company research together. Attending the Orientation Program together allowed us to build a close relationship with each other before arriving on campus.

Now that we are on campus, we still spend a lot of time together. For example, this year, one of the Consortium fellows held a barbecue at her home in Harlem and another fellow hosted a game night in Brooklyn. The week before Thanksgiving, we met up for a mini Thanksgiving dinner.

The best example of our comradery occurred after the killing of Terence Crutcher. We all came together to figure out what we could do in response to the death of another unarmed black man. A simple text message turned into a schoolwide event after we invited the entire Stern community to come together to show solidarity for black lives. It was amazing to see our classmates come out and support an issue that is so important to so many of us.

Extended Network

The Consortium allowed me to connect with students from other business schools who I otherwise may have never met. Attending the Orientation Program allowed me to not only build relationships with other Sternies, but also fellows from other schools. It’s good to know students from other schools when you go to recruiting or networking events. These events can be awkward if you don’t know anyone so seeing a familiar face is always nice. I also already know two other consortium fellows who will be interning with me this summer in Seattle, WA.

The Stern Community

When I first made the decision to apply to business school, I considered several factors—reputation, location, faculty, and level of focus on my profession of choice. The quality of the student body was certainly a consideration, but a slightly lesser one, as I generally felt that no matter where I ended up going, I would meet like-minded driven individuals, form relationships, and grow to call them my good friends. Now just over a year into the NYU Stern MBA program, I realize this last factor has the greatest impact on one’s experience in business school, and feel I personally could not have made a better choice.

Beginning with the first day of the LAUNCH orientation program, I have continually been blown away by my peers. Each of them comes from such a fascinating and diverse background, both professionally and personally, and challenges me in a way I never thought possible. I find myself working to be more knowledgeable and educated on an array of topics, so as to contribute to our discussions and their experience in a valuable way.

Aside from their intellect though, my peers here are truly warm and generous individuals. Throughout the business school research process, I often heard at each program I visited, that its students regularly put others before themselves, and that they go to great lengths to help one another to be successful. Though at the time I assumed this was something quite generic all schools simply say, I have now had the opportunity to see this actually manifest itself here at Stern.

About a week into the start of my first semester, I was casually chatting with a new friend about plans for recruiting. Immediately upon expressing my interest, he stopped me to tell me he knew someone at a company I might want to learn more about and asked if I wanted him to make a connection. I was floored in that moment that someone I had met so recently was already so eager to help me.

More recently, I was working on a job application for my top choice company. I must have drafted my cover letter five separate times, but my nerves continued to get the best of me. I frantically texted another friend, who promptly calmed me down and instructed me to send my completed cover letter her way for a final once-over. This is something we all frequently do for one another of course, but to have a friend say she could drop everything she was doing on a couple hours notice meant so much in that moment of stress and panic.

These are just a few of the countless instances when I have felt supported by my friends in the Stern community. Being within the walls that make up NYU Stern has frequently pushed me outside of my comfort zone. However, I am finding that this is a place I now quite enjoy being, as I know I can count on the inspiring individuals I have met here to be right there with me.

Why I Chose Stern

The timing of this post is not a coincidence.  There is plenty of discussion happening in school regarding the U.S. News & World Report rankings—what happened; why it happened; what the administration, faculty, and students can all do to address the situation.  I did not intend at all to write a post about it, but the other day I was inspired by some of my professors, who have privately voiced to us the efforts they pledge to make to ensure that we the students do not suffer as the result of one slight but unfortunate oversight.

Honestly I did not expect my professors to get involved, and when I was applying to Stern I definitely did not even think about how important it might be to have professors that do care about a situation that might adversely affect their students.  So I feel very fortunate.

I can tell you what I did think about though when pulling the trigger on which school to attend, why I had (and have) no regrets about leaving behind my past life and why I turned down a considerable scholarship at another top MBA program to go to the school that I saw as the best fit for me and the best fit for my future:

I chose Stern because I saw unparalleled opportunities.

THE OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN WHAT I WANT:

One of my professors today pointed out that Stern weirdly doesn’t advertise the number and diversity of the courses you have access to as a Stern student—so here I am to fix that.  Stern has over 200 electives and over 20 specializations.  This semester alone, about 140 electives are being offered, among which are nine “Doing Business in…” (DBi) courses (one- or two-week experiential study abroad courses that you can read more about in my classmates’ blog posts).  Check out more details in the graphic below:

2016-03-25
As of March 2016

You first need to get through your Core Classes (two “required core” classes plus five out of an available seven “menu core” classes) within your first year.  As someone who had no business background but who wanted flexibility and choice when it came to what I was learning, I appreciated the concept of the menu core.  Meanwhile, if you do have some experience and want to jump ahead, I can say that many of my friends were able to test out of their remaining requirements and take all electives by their second semester.

Straight out of my own admissions essay, what I loved about Stern is that when I visited the school I got “the sense that Sternies coexist happily with one another because each has been given the capacity to pursue his/her own personalized goals.”

THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK WHERE I WANT:

We all know that networking is key, and so I knew I had to pick a school that would allow me the most touchpoints with the companies I’m interested in, whether through official events and/or alumni.  Geographical area was also a factor, but it was a preference for me rather than a necessity (though you seriously can’t beat the location, as my classmate Alex will tell you in his blog post, “Downtown New York – Why It Matters”).  Upon arriving at Stern, as I did with my classes I decided to take advantage of the slew of possibilities before me and expand upon my initial target interests.  I participated in investment banking recruiting with over 100 of my classmates, and I must admit that the access I had to people at these firms is not for the faint-hearted (I also need to mention that IB recruiting is as extreme as it gets, and that it was my choice to take on as much as I did):

03-02 - Schedule
Investment Banking Recruiting: a very extreme example.

Including the case competition (at the very top), that’s 16 touchpoints with 11 different firms in one week (admittedly my busiest of the semester).  If this is what you want, regardless of industry, I really don’t know many other schools where you could do this.  And I can’t even tell you how many different people I met at these events, although many were alumni eager to recruit their own.

Indeed, lest the outdated belief that we’re “just a finance school” still persists, Stern alumni are active across all industries.  As an admitted student at Preview Weekend (which I highly recommend you attend if you can), I was impressed by the accomplishments of our alums and the sheer number of them who came back to campus to share their positive Stern experiences with us.  Personally, I felt that the best indicator of the quality of a school is how willing students and alumni are to give back and help each other succeed—and I haven’t been proven wrong yet.

THE OPPORTUNITY TO CONNECT WITH GREAT PEOPLE:

On that thought, while meeting those alums at Preview Weekend reaffirmed for me that I had chosen the right school, the Sternies I’ve met since then have only continued to surprise me with their magnanimity.  After Preview, but before I moved back to New York from Los Angeles, a friend introduced me to an “MBA3” who had just graduated and was moving out to L.A.  Unsure of what awaited me in the Fall, I requested a coffee chat, and he was more than happy to meet with me.  He also introduced me to two MBA2s, who were out in L.A. to intern for the summer.  Seven months later, when I lost out on a summer internship opportunity I really wanted, I contacted him again for general advice, and he responded immediately.  His busy schedule required him to reschedule our phone call about seven times, but each time he apologized profusely to me, telling me that he didn’t want me to get the impression that helping out a fellow Sternie wasn’t important to him.  When we finally did have the phone call, he gave me the most helpful, relevant advice I had received in my job-search process, something I had hoped for but couldn’t have possibly expected to receive when I was making my decision to attend Stern.

That may be an above-and-beyond example, but it isn’t too far off from the kind of support I’ve received since being at Stern.  As I mentioned in my first blog post, “Block 2, I Love You,” my classmates have only helped me be better than I would have been without them.  They’ve encouraged me and helped me prepare for interviews, they’ve kept me posted about events and opportunities, they’ve stayed up studying with me the night before an exam in the Starbucks Lounge, pushing me to get through a practice exam even as I was so physically exhausted from recruiting that I was nodding off at the table as they spoke to me.

So there you have it.  Opportunities I knew I wanted but didn’t know how or when I would take advantage of them.  To that point, as much as you think you know what you want when you’re applying and choosing to go to business school, it’s impossible to know exactly what you’re going to get.  Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less, but when you’re taking into account the slew of decision factors, know that making the “wrong” choice isn’t the end of the world, but making the right one, the best one, can introduce you to a world you never knew before.  When making your decision, ask yourself what really matters to you and your future, where you foresee yourself having the fewest or no regrets, and if possible, choose your best fit based on that.

03-03 - Cape Town
Camps Bay, Cape Town. A moment unimaginable—South Africa Spring Break Trek 2016. (Photo credit: Ria Tobaccowala)

Internship Status Report

When it rains it pours. This week I have made some major strides toward figuring out where I will intern this summer. I have been fortunate enough to receive some offers this week from some of the firms that I am most interested in. However, deciding between the different opportunities will undoubtedly be challenging. Luckily, the Office of Career Development has already been instrumental in helping me manage various relationships. My main dilemma, aside from my innate indecision, is how to proceed with ongoing conversations with companies who are still in the midst of their hiring process. Obviously it is essential to maintain these relationships not only for the purpose of the summer, but also as a representative of Stern and for my long term career. I would like to say that I have an entirely clear vision of what my career will look like, but with so many options at the moment, it is difficult to know.

One aspect of my future that I am confident in is that the Stern name will take me far. Several companies I have spoken to have already mentioned the quality of my education as a distinguishing factor. Moreover, many recruiters have sited Stern’s strong sense of community and how the school fosters a team-building environment. In terms of networking and exploring some less traditional career options, I feel that the Stern brand name has truly helped. But it extends beyond just the school’s image. The further I delve into my course work this semester, the more I see its potential real world application. As an undergraduate literature major, this is a complete 180. Now, as I consider my internship options, I must decide which of my new skills I’d like most to practice. Again, I hope that my decision making skills are not a hindrance, but that’s what OCD (Office of Career Development) is for!

I will be sure to keep you posted on my internship status in the upcoming weeks.