March 21, 2011


Post By Juan Estrada, International MBA candidate.

I continue to write about job search related subject as this is my top priority this semester. Last semester I focused on raising my GPA and didn’t do much more related to looking for a job than attending the NSHMBA conference in Chicago and interviewing with a couple of companies.

This final semester I am spending just enough energy on keeping up with my courses. They are a little less demanding and more qualitative oriented than the courses in previous semesters, which helps. Plus, I feel I’m forward in the learning curve, I spend half the time I used to at the beginning of the MBA reading and analyzing a case and I am able contribute just as much during class. Most of my energy I am spending building up a network. Following the advice of a speaker that was brought to school by the Feld Career Center, Dan Beaudry, author of “Power Ties” (a guidebook on job search strategies for international students in the US), I am looking for a job through this method instead of the traditional, direct approach of filling out internet applications and the upfront “I’m interested in applying to position X at your company” at career fairs.

As explained by Mr. Beaudry, the traditional approach always goes through the Human Resources department, which he explains (and I have experienced it) is not anywhere close to being an international student’s best friend. They are not to blame; their job is to deal with company policies and human capital. Policies and standards require criteria to filter candidates and very common criterion is to avoid the hassle and the cost of sponsoring an international student for a work visa. Perfectly understandable, but it doesn’t help me. Plus, he estimates (don’t ask me how), that only 20% of jobs and open positions get posted through the traditional channels. The remaining 80% are filled through word of mouth and personal acquaintances. It’s cheaper for a company to rely on one of its manager’s recommendation or instruction to fill out a position with someone he knows than the costly and lengthy process of screening and interviewing candidates. He recommends international students to pursue the constructions of relationships and networks of people that will keep you in mind when they come to need to fill out a position, and most importantly, of people who have the power to do so (regardless of the HR policy- so managers and high level executives).

I decided then to attend conferences and career fairs from a different angle. I don’t ask for open positions or jobs but instead I look up the companies beforehand, find a concise reason to justify my interest for them and ask the recruiter for 10 minutes of their time for a meeting in person some other day. This got me five contacts at companies I have an interest for at the last Harvard Healthcare conference. Three of them actually got back to me and two have kept in touch. One I already met in person (for almost an hour), and he provided me with a list of companies similar in size and industry, a referral to the recruiting manager and personalized tips for future interviews. It’s not a job, but it is certainly much more useful than the “Thanks for applying” the computer displays when you submit an application online.

Additionally, I have let a lot of the people I work with and go or went to class with in the past that I am looking for a job in the life sciences industry. At least five good contacts and a couple more informational interviews (also over half an hour) have emerged from people who know people and who have been willing to help.

The process doesn’t necessarily go fast but it is certainly much more dynamic, didactic and in parallel than the traditional approach. When a lead or an application doesn’t turn out to become a job it doesn’t get to you because you have a bunch of remaining leads on the works. Slowly but surely, and hopefully, one of these leads will land me the job I am looking for.

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