I came to Owen as a career-switcher, hoping to somehow transition my experience at a consulting startup in the insurance industry to a brand management position in the CPG industry. I assure you it didn’t seem as unnatural of a transition then as it does writing it now. My internship search, I was told, would have to begin as soon as I stepped on campus.
The initial attention I got from CPG recruiters was encouraging, but I found myself repeatedly losing out in the end to better prepared and more qualified candidates. After landing three successive interviews during one week in January, and even flying out to San Francisco on my own dime for one, and not getting invited for any 2nd rounds, I reluctantly broadened my search. I had started an excel sheet back in August, tracking the date and position associated with each application I submitted, which had gradually grown to over 45 companies, and I soon had memberships to almost as many companies’ career websites. What began as a focused search at just the top 5 CPG companies that only recruit at HBS, had become an exercise in market sizing with the added benefit of receiving daily email updates for all the positions I didn’t qualify for.
My luck changed in March, as I received a call from a recruiter at a Fortune 100 insurance company. While I didn’t want to pigeon-hole myself in that industry, a position with a large company would certainly add value to my resume, so I decided to pursue it. I had applied for their corporate development position and was shocked to hear outright from the recruiter that she didn’t think the position was a good fit for me. What was perhaps more shocking was that she felt I would be a good fit for a position that I didn’t apply for that was being formed in a different side of their business. Somehow with 5 years of marketing experience in the life insurance industry, and a concentration in marketing, I was being recruited for an operations position.
I came to the conclusion that I hadn’t been selling my experience in the right way. I wasn’t signaling to recruiters that I was interested in a challenge or in learning any new skills. I was instead positioning my experience in a way that mimicked the responsibilities of the positions to which I was applying.
Armed with this information, and with just 4 days of class left, I received offers from two companies. I had watched as many of my peers got theirs as early as November. However, I was glad that while I had to stress several months longer than most, I didn’t have to “settle” for a position I didn’t want… although I did end up taking the insurance position that had me starting work in Dallas just a week later. Oh, and while I was one of the ones whose eyes glazed over when we were told repeatedly to “use our personal network”, I ended up finding out after I took the position that the wife of my boss for the past 5 years had an internship with the same company last year. And I didn’t even know she was in b-school. I’ll definitely be keeping in touch with her as I consider full-time opportunities this year.