Insights from My MBA Career Kickoff Meeting at Darden

by   |  July 14, 2014

I just got home from my first on-grounds event at Darden as an admitted student: my Career Kickoff Meeting!   I had a delightful conversation with Margaret Weeks about my career goals and Darden-related questions.   She gave me lots of helpful advice to keep me busy this summer before school starts.

As a non-traditional MBA student, I have more work to do than most incoming MBA’s, perhaps.   At the same time, Margaret helped me realize that my unique background has two major benefits: 1) providing great fodder for networking conversation, and 2) helping me stand out amongst a sea of qualified applicants.

While Margaret gave me oodles of excellent career tips, the three main points she advised me to focus on this summer are:

1) Creating a Networking Spreadsheet

2) Refining My Database of Target Hiring Companies

3) Thinking about / Starting to Crafting “My Pitch”

Networking Spreadsheet

Networking Spreadsheet

It sounds more complicated than it is.   By Googling a number of networking spreadsheet templates, I realized they are nothing more than organized lists in Excel.

Create a spreadsheet as simple or as complex as you want to in Excel.   Make sure to include a column for each person’s name, contact info (email & phone are most commonly used these days), their company and a note on how you met each person.   Professionals recommend including a column called “Follow Up?” to help remind you if and when you need to get back in touch with certain people.

I find it helpful to have different tabs for relevant categories.   In my case, I am classifying contacts by industry.   Since I’m interested in brand management and / or tech marketing, I have one tab for CPG company contacts and another for tech marketing contacts.   Another tab is for educational contacts, such as career advisors and professors.

Target Hiring Companies

I have started but still need to refine my list of target Hiring Companies.   I have another spreadsheet for categorizing these companies according to industry, much like what I am doing for my networking spreadsheet.   I have spaces in my chart to keep track of people in each company with whom I have spoken.

My Pitch

Much can be said about the “pitch”, also known as the elevator pitch or the “Me in 30 Seconds” speech.   This is one piece of the recruiting puzzle that makes many MBA students squirm with discomfort.

How can I possibly describe my amazing, interesting, complicated self in 30 seconds and make sure to tailor it to whomever I’m talking to?

One new insight Margaret gave me is that my LinkedIn profile summary and my pitch could essentially be identical.   That helped me put the dreaded pitch in a fresh new light.

Other Notes on the Career Kickoff Meeting

Margaret not only gave me useful tips but was also a good example of how to make human connections with people in interview-type settings.   She made deliberate attempts to help me feel at ease as well as valued and appreciated.   Margaret made me feel special each time she discovered something we had in common because she made really a big deal out of each discovery.

As it turned out, we did have some pretty fun, random things in common.   We both have two kids.   (Working moms quickly form bonds with each other as they commiserate over the challenges of balancing the demands of work and family.)   She also has a special affinity for twins, and appreciated the fact that I have twin boys.   We both have worked as personal assistants to quadriplegics and care about things like accessibility and sustainable careers.

More on: Insights, Marketing, MBA
About the Author:

Mimi West is a consummate entrepreneur, brand and marketing expert. This retired opera singer and Founder of My Dream Teacher is now pursuing her MBA at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business Administration. You can follower her on Twitter: @MimiGuynnWest.
Publshed: July 14, 2014  | 
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