Kellogg serial, day one: Daianna

Over the course of the week, Which MBA? will be following the fortunes of five MBA students from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, as they graduate into one of the toughest jobs markets in memory.

Day one: Daianna
Last summer, The Economist called business schools “ports in a storm,” (see article) such was the surge in applications from prospective students seeking to ride out the recession. Almost a year on, students have seen an economy that looked bad when they first applied grow much, much worse. As the spring term comes to an end, rumour has it that nearly half of my fellow MBAs are still without summer internships or full-time offers. Fierce headwinds face us as we sail back out into the world.

Whatever the initial motives for enrolling, few go to business school without the belief that an MBA will put them on a fast-track to bigger and better things upon graduation. That’s certainly what I had in mind when I left my job, salary and friends to move to Chicago to pursue a two-year, full-time MBA at Kellogg. I wanted to expand my business skills at a top-ranked school in order to change from a career primarily at non-profit organisations to a more traditional role at a prominent company in the private sector.

I began classes in autumn with an open mind about potential career paths. Within a couple of weeks, the recruiters descended in droves. Regardless of what they might say, no company presentation, coffee chat or reception is truly “non-evaluative”, so in order to impress, students must quickly become passionate about a particular industry or function. Like many of my classmates, and business school students the world over, I developed an affinity for consulting.

The bright, friendly associates and partners spoke of intense personal development, exposure to senior executives and generous compensation. And because they fancied themselves recession-proof, many firms projected hiring plans equal to those from the previous year.

But it was not to be. Despite hours and hours of networking—I used Excel more often for tracking contacts than I did for finance class—and intense preparation for the elaborate, multi-stage interview process, firms were ultimately extremely conservative in their hiring and it was difficult to get them to see past my “non-traditional” background. I quickly overcame the disappointment, though—I knew I was far from alone.

Then, a marketing class made all the difference. It made me think about my personal brand—the unique attributes that set me apart from the pack. Before business school, I spent years advising companies on environmental sustainability, a task that gave me enormous personal and professional satisfaction. I stepped back to reflect on what truly motivates me, as many other students are doing as the well-worn finance and consulting paths lose their lustre. I now see an opportunity to combine my existing skills with what I am learning at the world’s top marketing school to carve out a position in the emerging field of sustainable brand strategy. In many cases, I’m trying to sell companies on something they don’t yet know they need, and relying heavily on my professional network to unearth positions that will never appear on any business school’s job board.

It is exciting, exhilarating and exhausting. Agility, resilience and seeking opportunities in adversity are often themes that feature in the cases we study in class; they are also proving important to the job hunt. This voyage won’t be easy, but nothing worth doing usually is.

Kellogg serial:
Day two: Reeves

Day three: Eddie
Day four: Jorge
Day five: Sultan

Back to:
Which MBA online
The Economist’s Business Education page

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3 Responses to “Kellogg serial, day one: Daianna”

  1. Emnew Dresser Says:

    It was encouraging to read about the path you have chosen. It is the young who must take up the challenge and change this world.

  2. Port in a Storm, or Lighting Flash of Opportunity? « Box Breaking Says:

    […] in a Storm, or Lighting Flash of Opportunity? I read an interesting blog this morning from an MBA student at a prominent university. The tough economic environment that he […]

  3. Maria Jota Says:

    Tha’ts the spirit! If we don’t, how can things change?
    The past brought us here, to get out we need to build a new future with people like you.
    Congrats!

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