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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