There and Ba[n]k Again: An Accountant’s Tale by Paul Whitmire

[my apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien for the punny title]

It had to be a Chick-Fil-A sandwich… it only seemed fitting that the call about my first “big boy” MBA job would come while I was eating the same sandwich that I was making during my first real job as a “chicken maker” at Chick-Fil-A ten years ago while in high school.

Okay… that’s a lie… I was eating the new spicy chicken sandwich which wasn’t around when I worked at Chick-Fil-A in high school, but it was still delicious nonetheless. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend the new spicy chic… wait, we’re getting off topic. Back to the story!

Coming to business school, I had set my career goal to work for an investment bank. Before Owen, I worked for a public accounting firm in their audit practice focusing on Energy companies in Houston, TX. Given my experience working with financial statements, especially companies that had to consistently raise money to build new rigs, buy new barges, or acquire new pipelines, I felt like I had a good background for joining an investment bank. My job as an auditor involved reviewing supporting documents to ensure that balances in a company’s financial statements were properly stated in all materi…

Hey! Wake back up! I know I just threw out a lot of accounting words, but I promise the story will get better from here on out.

While the career has gotten a lot of bad publicity in recent years, what an investment banker actually does (in a nutshell: helps advise companies on strategic acquisitions, mergers, and raising money through debt or equity issuances) was very interesting to me given my background. The familiarity with how financial statements operate from my previous work, and the knowledge of how companies go about raising money or pursuing acquisitions from an MBA education are a big advantage to becoming an investment banker.

Now to the rub of the story: how to actually get a job, not just as an investment banker, but WHATEVER job you want after your MBA. And the rub is this: there’s no one trick, other than HARD work and endless practice interviews, along with learning the standard interview processes for your chosen field.

The first step in the job hunt process is practice and preparation. Working with the Career Management Center (CMC) here at Owen, the Finance club has numerous training sessions to help prepare students on how to “share your story” with an interviewer, practice technical questions, and network with potential employers; all training that comes in handy no matter what field you ultimately end up entering. Other functional clubs, including the Consulting Club, Marketing Association, Real Estate Club, Healthcare Club, Operations Club, and the HOP Association, work with the CMC to help prepare you for your chosen field.

Early in Mod I, there are group training sessions as well as one-on-one practice with 2nd years who interned in your chosen field. This training was a great help, as it helps you become “polished” and ready to meet potential employers. It’s important to be able to tell them about yourself, your background, your interest in [insert career field], and your desire to work for [insert company name] in under 2 minutes without it sounding boring, boastful, or just plain bad!

The next step in the job hunt process is travel! You always wanted to get out and travel glamorously to big metropolitan cities while wearing a suit, right?!? Well… maybe you can do that later in life; for now, you can travel coach at odd hours of the day to save money!

One of the great things about Owen is the assistance you get for travel to hunt down your dream job. The CMC helped by providing a small stipend to get you out on the road, which students at some other schools don’t have access to.

The first trip Finance students make is to Owen’s “Wall Street Week,” which happens over fall break. It’s a great opportunity for students interested in any branch of finance (investment banking, corporate finance, hedge funds, sales & trading, private equity, etc.) to go to New York and meet with companies and Owen alums to begin networking. After “Wall Street Week,” your own trips begin very quickly, and VERY often. For finance, I traveled almost every weekend in Mod II. Don’t be discouraged when your friends tell you at some point in the year “You know [insert your name here], I didn’t realize you STILL went to school here… I never see you around anymore;” your payoff will be relaxation while others are hunting jobs in other fields with later recruiting cycles!

Other fields do similar events during Mod I or over Fall break: HOPA has the HOP symposium in early August, and during fall break Marketing has “Brand Week” while Healthcare has “Healthcare Immersion Week.”

The last and most important step in any job hunt is networking! It can’t be said enough times to future MBA students that “you need to network! network! network!” After practicing your “story” and industry-specific interview questions on campus, the trips you take to network with employers should feel like you’ve done this a thousand times! In every meeting, put your best foot forward, show enthusiasm for the job you want, and show that you’re a likable person that they want to have as a part of their office. This will feel different for each person (my go-to conversation starters were sports, families, and good food!), and you’ll get the hang of how to converse with potential employers to get on interview lists.

After all the practice interviews you’ve done on campus, and the networking you’ve done out on the road, you’ll start getting invited to formally interview. This is your chance to really shine and land your internship. Each functional club will help you prepare differently, but all offer the same support: to help you land your dream job!

Perhaps the best part of the job hunt process is after it’s over! You can come back home to Nashville and celebrate with your friends as you all start to get offers. For me, that meant on Thursday January 17th I got to come back to Thursday Kegs, enjoy time with good friends, and hear the inevitable “Paul… where have you been?” questions while enjoying a frosty beverage and sharing the great news about my offer with Credit Suisse’s Energy Investment banking group in Houston, TX.

There is no better feeling in business school than attending a Thursday Kegs with your friends knowing you and your friends are all settled for your summer (or post-MBA job!), and enjoying good times back in Nashville with your MBA friends.

Well, all that and a spicy chicken sandwich from Chick-Fil-A…

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