May 26, 2009

The Internship Search: A Three Part Saga: Part Three: Bending the Bat

[Post by Tyler Alrup, MBA Class of 2010]

Part Three: Bending the Bat

"Good Intentions" and "Tunnel Vision", compared to the title of part three, might seem like very straightforward headings. Forgive the analogy but my first love in sports was St. Louis Cardinals baseball and as I wrote the first entry in this saga I had this image on my mind:

The picture is of prospect Brett Wallace taking batting practice--one I originally found on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website (here for the full article). As the photographer and columnist explained, bending a bat requires extraordinary strength and hand speed, so much in fact that the lifelong photojournalist has only caught two other players capable of the feat: Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen.

And what, exactly, does this have to do with the MBA internship search?


The sprint to the finish in the search process requires every ounce of energy and demands perseverance and creativity. As a result, my classmates and I used every available career resource and even created a few of our own.

Create Your Own Solutions

It is my personal opinion that you cannot create your own opportunities--but I do believe that you can create your own solutions. These solutions are extremely important in taking advantage of opportunities and closing the search successfully.

Business Schooled

The first example of a student-created solution was the result of a conversation between candidates during a sports marketing conference in Washington D.C. Jason Serino and I headed to D.C. to learn more about the industry and left with a greater understanding, renewed energy and a new solution. At this conference and many events before it, every professional discussed the importance of passion for and knowledge of a specific industry. Jason, an ESPN alum, loves the sports industry and I love the video game what?


The one major problem with industry passion is authenticity. Every employer must question how passionate you really are about marketing ultrasound machines or creating new financial tools for insurance. Realizing we needed a new vehicle to demonstrate our sincere interest, we created it. Business Schooled was created as a blog forum and platform for students to demonstrate their industry passion and knowledge in any industry. The site relies on each student to post strong content (in their career self-interest) in order to build a site that improves with every post. In three short months, Business Schooled has expanded to host over twenty contributors from five different graduate business schools (with more soon to come). For more information on our sister blog, or to learn more about Playstation 3 pricing, the expansion of the MLS, or advances in personalized medicine, check out Business Schooled here.

The Changebase

Ashley Parsons Jablow, another MBA candidate at Boston University, also created a site to facilitate her career exploration. The Changebase is focused on all aspects of social entrepreneurship with the goal to "engage young leaders in a discussion of what change looks like in communities around the world." This site is another example of MBA candidates creating their own solutions and preparing for new career opportunities. For more information on The Changebase, follow this link.

At Long Last

At this point in my search, the semester began to wind down and I had done everything I could think of to bend the bat--I had more informational interviews than I could count, I had submitted innumerable applications, and I created Business Schooled. On April 24, the opportunity email arrived:

"Thank you for submitting your resume to apply for the brand summer internship here at Ubisoft. We think you could be great fit for this program. I'd like to schedule a time for you to do a brief phone interview next week. Please let me know your availability next week and I will coordinate a time for the call."

That email changed my whole perspective--I was instantly excited and failed in every attempt not to tell friends. I jumped into researching the company, its list of published titles, financial health, and future projects. I keyword searched "Ubisoft" on every industry site and read every article I could find.

The Interviews

The interview process took about two weeks and involved phone sessions with a brand manager, senior brand manager and their supervisor. The first began with the very traditional "walk me through your resume" and quickly became comfortable and conversational. My research and passion for the industry came through and even diverged into a debate on the merits of NHL '94 (introduction of one-timers) versus NHL '95 (faster gameplay). The second interview followed a similar pattern and also allowed me to discuss Business Schooled, a few of the articles I had written, and the purpose of its creation. The final interview skipped the resume walkthrough and jumped immediately into industry discussion and career questions. One important question asked, in so many words: do you see this as a summer experience or as a possible career opportunity?

The question is simple enough but also serves as a reminder to be prepared for the short-term/long-term question. Luckily, this internship is in the exact function and exact industry I targeted. It also helps that Ubisoft is a 5,000+ employee firm with strong financials and multinational operations. My answer, in short, was that I hope to secure this position, prove myself, and transition into a career opportunity.

The Search Concludes

On Friday May 8 I enjoyed a wrap-up party for the Graduate Admissions Office staff and headed to a Cohort C party to meet up with friends and watch the Celtics game. Sometime during the first half I received a call from an unfamiliar area code, and answered with my generic "this is Tyler." The call was from my interviewer and he was offering me the job! I laughed, apologized for the bar noise, and stepped outside to accept and take the rest of the call. As many of my peers experienced before and after me, I felt relief, excitement, and the weight of many months falling off my shoulders.

Advice to Incoming Candidates: Don't Start from Scratch!

In all three parts of this search saga I have mentioned the classmates, advisers, and friends that helped along the way. My advice to incoming candidates: don't start from scratch. The second years have all gone through this process in their own unique way and most would be happy to help as you follow behind them. Pick our brains, send us an email, invite us for coffee--find someone that interned in your area of interest and learn everything you can from them.

I would choose to pass along a simple message--every candidate will enter the program with good intentions, will focus and achieve tunnel vision, and will bend the bat to create their own solutions--how you go through this process is entirely up to you. For those preparing for next year's search, good luck, best wishes, and please grab me anytime in case this three part epic hasn't given a complete rundown of my personal experience.

I will now get back to my "research"--also known as playing No More Heroes and Super Smash Brothers Brawl--life is tough.

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May 21, 2009

The Internship Search: A Three Part Saga: Part Two: Tunnel Vision

[Post by Tyler Alrup, MBA Class of 2010]

Part Two: Tunnel Vision

The first semester of any intense business school program flies by--leaving students to wonder how Thanksgiving has suddenly arrived. Blink once more and it's New Years Day. The holiday break was very well timed--heading home to St. Louis provided an overdue opportunity to spend time with friends and family and catch up on local sports. Returning to a snowy Boston, however, was a reminder that the internship search was about to intensify.

No More Darts

I returned to Boston about one week before class restarted (I highly recommend the downtime) and kicked off the semester by making an appointment with my career advisor Diane Riemer. After briefly catching up, Diane began to quiz me on my networking efforts (or lack thereof) and outstanding applications (or abundance thereof). We talked through the lists and I quickly began to realize that as much as I wanted a strong internship, I didn't really want any of the jobs for which I had applied. As I discussed in "Good Intentions" (is there such a things as aft-shadowing??), my only first semester search activities were a few networking fairs and online internship postings through our career center. The online postings are valuable but the functional areas and industries cover too broad a spectrum for any candidate to use them as the sole resource.

Diane then asked a very simple question--one to which I did not have an answer--what industry do you want to work in? I pride myself on thinking on my feet quickly but in this instance I really didn't have an answer. I knew from day one I was interested in marketing and specifically brand/product management but I had never given the specific industry a great deal of thought. I then remembered one of the online internship posts: Electronic Arts.

Tunnel Vision

When Diane and I began to talk about the gaming industry, I knew that something had clicked. Here I am, sitting with my MBA career advisor, talking about the game companies I grew up with, and I'm loving every minute of it. Games had always been a hobby and a passion but I had not ever seen the industry as a possible career path. The EA internship and my advisor had altered my perspective entirely. Leaving this meeting, I was determined to focus on the industry, learn as much as possible, and employ new-found tunnel vision.

I could wax nostalgic about my favorite EA Games for hours but instead I'll grab something from my Facebook page: "NHL '95 is a metaphor for my life." I grew up watching my older brothers Adam and Nick playing Mario 3 and Final Fantasy when I was still too young to understand exactly what was happening. NHL '95 was one of the first games I could challenge them in and also one of the first I would play regularly against friends. As soon as I wrapped my head around the idea of working in the gaming industry, I knew that I needed to search for every available opportunity. As February began I applied to online posts at EA, Activision and dozens of others. I also began to aggressively lobby contacts for informational interviews--which offered another turning point in the search.

Informational Interviews

First semester candidates at BU are required to complete at least two informational interviews--a requirement I met by interviewing my girlfriend's career advisor and a first-year classmate. Both were interesting and successful individuals but neither was involved in an industry that intrigued me. With my newly-found focus on gaming, I lobbied our career center for as many contacts as they could provide. This "get what you ask for" scenario led to an Excel spreadsheet with about 400 contacts.

I began emailing them immediately and learned an important lesson: if you are a student and you do not ask for an internship in the email, almost anyone will talk to you. The strength of our Corporate Relations team's contacts and the openness of these individuals allowed me to talk to the following individuals and more:

VP of Licensing at Atari

CEO of Skill Technologies

Senior Brand Manager at Capcom

VP of Marketing at TransGaming

Marketing Manager at FEARnet

These conversations and other were absolutely essential in helping me to understand the gaming industry and the skills/traits most valued in applicants. None of these phone conversations led directly to an interview but each helped me to refine my story as an MBA interested in marketing roles in the gaming industry. I prepared for each call extensively which allowed them to be less formal and much more conversational. For example, anyone calling a marketing manager at Capcom needs to know about recent events with Resident Evil, Mega Man, and Street Fighter. Making sure this marketing manager knows you've played through Resident Evil 4 three times also doesn't hurt.

Learn to Love the Search

The old adage "do something you love and you'll never work a day in your life" is, in my opinion, overused, but it was incredibly true for my internship search. As soon as I focused on something I truly enjoyed, the informational interviews, applications and cover letters became less of a burden and more of an opportunity. My original good intentions and new-found tunnel vision were each crucial for the sprint to the finish line, also known as Part Three: Bending the Bat.

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May 19, 2009

The Internship Search: A Three Part Saga: Part One: Good Intentions

[Post by Tyler Alrup, MBA Class of 2010]

A Saga in Three Parts

As many of you have no doubt heard, the internship and job search has been extremely challenging this year for MBA candidates and graduates. Consequently, the process of finding an internship has been extremely difficult and, at times, nerve-wracking. To give a full picture of this process, I have decided to break it apart into three pieces titled, Part One: Good Intentions, Part Two: Tunnel Vision, and Part Three: Bending the Bat.

Part One: Good Intentions

Every job/internship search starts with an understanding of your own background and strengths. Before arriving at BU, the career center sent their first email asking for an updated resume in their format. This task was the first of many that would force me to sell my experiences in the most effective way. As one of the youngest candidates in my incoming class, this process would be absolutely critical.

Looking back, the process went something like this:

Entrepreneurial experience? Check.

Solid internships? Check.

Good GPA? Check.

Above-average work experience? Not so much.

Self-awareness is crucial in MBA candidates--we must identify our weaknesses early and compensate for them in every possible way. Incoming candidates, especially those young enough to appreciate the recent DVD release of X-Men: The Animated Series, must also have some idea of their future career options.

Early in orientation, I remember our Dean of Admissions, Hayden Estrada, asking a series of questions to the gathered incoming class:

How many of you wrote in your essays that you knew what you wanted to do after graduation? (Everyone raises their hand).

And how many of you, in reality, know exactly what you want to do? (Half of the hands fall--followed by a few embarrassed laughs).

At that exact moment I felt both relieved and apprehensive.

Good Intentions

Those essays, and those hands that remained raised, were all indicators of our good intentions. After all, I didn't lie in my entrance essays--I simply did not have a full picture of the options available to me--or those that were not. I wrote extensively on my ambitions to do international marketing consulting and to start my career abroad with an American-based firm. I knew I was interested in this function but I did not have a specific industry selected. As I came to learn during the search, a candidate must isolate functions and industries in order to truly focus and achieve the desired "Tunnel Vision" (everyone loves foreshadowing).

The fall semester had plenty of distractions from the search--everything from cohort events to Cheers with Professors to another Big XII North title for the University of Missouri (my alma mater, GO TIGERS!). The first semester is intentionally challenging and the BU Integrated Project looms over unsuspecting newbie MBAs until its conclusion in early December. Academic and non-academic responsibilities consumed my attention and led to my first major search mistake: procrastination. Every MBA program begins with an intense semester and project--and BU is no different--but students must persevere and not lose sight of the internship search.

Relax...then Focus

My first piece of advice for new students beginning the search: relax. Relax in any way you enjoy--grab a drink with a classmate, head to our amazing FitRec, sit on a couch, see a movie, play a game (I suggest Resident Evil 4 on Wii)--do whatever you need to in order to escape and take a deep breath. Stepping away from academic and professional work for a moment allows you to remember why you came back to school, to realize how many new friends you've made, and to take a mental break.

Relaxed? Alright, time to focus. Pick a function, pick an industry, find a job. Part One has come to a close.

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May 1, 2009

The end of another chapter ...

[Post by Julien Lee, MBA Class of 2009]

As of 3:30 pm yesterday, I finished classes for my MBA. From the looks of it, this may be the last time I ever take classes towards a degree. Getting a doctorate just isn't in the cards for me, but that's what I said about getting a masters degree, so I'm not going to say it won't ever happen ...

The end was very bittersweet. There was a feeling of jubilation among my classmates that classes were finally over, but to be honest, I don't think it will really hit us all until finals are done and we are crossing that stage at commencement getting our diploma. The last two years have been a whirlwind. Everything people say about the MBA experience is true: you learn more than you could imagined about yourself, others and the business world, time flies by in a blink of an eye, and you create relationships and networks that you will carry with you for a lifetime. I'm going to miss seeing the same people day in and day out that have shared so many memories with me over the last two years. Many are staying in the Boston area post-graduation, but many are dispersing to the various corners of the U.S. and the world. I hope that the popularity of social networking will keep us connected via facebook, linked in and twitter! :)

I am excited for school to be over and for me to start another chapter in my life. I'm thrilled to start working again, especially getting a paycheck! With that said, it's a very scary world out there right now. Chrysler filing chapter 11, swine flu outbreak, unemployment at an all time high and home values at an all time low ... yet, the general sentiment in my class is one of hope and resiliency. We have been well-prepared to enter the real world again through our MBA education at BU and know that the school and its staff and faculty will be there for us should we need to reach out again for further support.

So let the festivities begin! MBA Talent Show tonight with points going towards our Cohort Cup Competition among the full-time cohorts ... Fenway Park tour with the MBA Ambassadors (current students who work with the Graduate Admissions Office ... 2nd year party ... lunch at Dean Lataif's home ... and the list goes on!

Until next time,

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