What does the career search process really look like when you’re an MBA student? Vanessa Dumonet, a second-year MBA student at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, generously took time out of her Thanksgiving break to share just how things unfolded for her.
Dumonet entered Georgetown having worked for five years in marketing and business development for a large international law firm. Drawing on a range of resources at McDonough – including career coaches, career-focused student groups, peer advising and the alumni network – Dumonet has already received multiple full-time offers for next fall and is looking forward to beginning her post-MBA career at luxury beauty company Estée Lauder.
In the interview that follows, you’ll hear from Dumonet herself about which resources proved most valuable in landing her dream job. She’s also got some great advice for prospective applicants on how to jump-start a career search even before arriving on campus, so take note!
Clear Admit: What was your career prior to McDonough?
Vanessa Dumonet: Prior to coming to Georgetown I worked for Ropes & Gray LLP, an international law firm, in practice development, with responsibility for business development, marketing, PR and strategic initiatives for the firm’s private equity and securities and public companies practice groups. I was with Ropes & Gray for about five years, and for the last two years I was relocated to Hong Kong, which was really exciting but also terrifying.
In Hong Kong I was put in charge of developing the practice development team across our Asia practices – which meant figuring out how we would market ourselves, help develop our practices on the ground, and integrate regional strategies with international strategies for our offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo.
I knew I was going to go to business school long before that. I even took the GMAT five years before applying to McDonough, so I knew getting my MBA would always be on the horizon. But some really great opportunities kept popping up at Ropes, and I kept taking career-focused opportunities knowing that the GMAT wasn’t going to expire immediately.
In retrospect, I’m really glad I waited. If I had gone to business school sooner, I wouldn’t have been ready to take full advantage of everything at Georgetown. When I accepted my relocation to Hong Kong with Ropes, I said openly that I would go for a few years with the plan that after that I would return to the United States and go to business school.
Everyone knew it was going to happen, and when I left there was at least one person in each of the Asia offices, where before me there hadn’t been any. I saw my role in Hong Kong as laying the groundwork so things wouldn’t fall apart when I left. Along the way, I made great connections in Asia and London and in the U.S.
CA: How have you utilized the MBA career resources while at McDonough? What has been most helpful?
VD: So many things have been so helpful – I couldn’t put my finger on just one. It has really been the culmination of lots of different efforts. Support from friends for one. McDonough’s career coaches are phenomenal and really supportive both from a strategic and personal point of view. I was also involved in the Consulting Club, the Marketing Club and Women in Business. The Marketing Club has been really instrumental in my search, including in helping me prepare to ace the marketing interviews, which are so different from other interviews (such as finance or consulting).
McDonough’s peer advisors have also been really helpful. The peer advisors are comprised of second-year students who help first- and second-years with resume review, mock interviews and the career search. I am a peer advisor myself now, but last year they were really instrumental in my search.
Alumni have also been really, really helpful. In fact, an alumna was a large reason I was able to secure my full-time offer, which I now have. Sometimes you just need people who have been there to cheer you on, and that’s been really important to me.
CA: What was your summer internship? What were the most important or valuable things you learned from it? Anything you wish you had done differently?
VD: I worked as a summer associate at Citi, specifically in Citi Cards. Mine was a marketing/business development/strategy role. I was among a class of about 40 associates across the consumer bank, with 11 or 12 of us within Cards. I was the only summer associate in my particular group, so I had one-on-one exposure to my senior vice president and other top executives. But I also sat with the other summer associates in Cards – so there was plenty of camaraderie.
There really is nothing that I wish I had done differently. It was interesting for me because I’d only ever had two very short-term positions before I worked at Ropes & Gray, and I had been at Ropes for five years. When you’re part of an organization for so long, you forget what it’s like to be a new person. By being a new person at Citi I saw things through a whole new lens. The relationships I built, exposure to interesting projects and getting to be put into a really big organization and realizing how small I was – these were all really eye opening to me and something I wouldn’t have been able to experience were I not getting my MBA.
CA: What do you hope to do post-MBA?
VD: I did receive an offer from Citi following my summer internship, which I was so thrilled about. Upon receiving the offer, I took a step back and looked closely at what I had done in my first year at McDonough. I was looking at marketing roles within financial services – such as the role at Citi – because I imagined transitioning into such a role would be smooth based on my prior work in marketing in professional services.
But I had been looking at potential opportunities in the beauty and luxury industry as well. In fact, I had also interviewed for a summer internship with Estée Lauder. I got through the second round, but I wasn’t extended an offer for the summer. Nonetheless, I kept in touch with an alum who had helped me as I went through the interview process, and she has truly become such a mentor. She is not actually that much older than I am, but she was always there and willing to take all of my phone calls. In the end, she helped put me in touch with the right people to interview for a full-time position, and I was ultimately offered a job after graduation as a presidential management associate (PMA). It’s a great opportunity that involves completing four six-month marketing rotations across many of the Estée Lauder brands. I am so thrilled and excited for the job.
Longer term, as I told Estée Lauder in the interview – and I really meant it! – I hope to stay there for a long time. If I look at my past experiences, I have been at the right place at the right time and created the right opportunities for myself. Come next fall, I am going to be working for a great company with some really amazing people, and I just trust that some opportunities will pop up that I maybe would never even have dreamed of for myself.
CA: What advice would you offer prospective applicants in terms of preparing for the MBA career search before even arriving on campus?
VD: Good question. I don’t want to say too many things, but you are about to start working harder than you ever have before.
Having said that, at McDonough the MBA Career Center actually creates a curriculum for newly admitted students for the summer before we start the program. Prior to joining in the fall we had to participate in weekly webinars and had a list of deliverables – all career focused. They proved really, really helpful to us when we got to campus.
Specifically, we had to work on a list of “stories” based on the types of work positions we had held. For example, we had to come up with six stories about work that we really excelled in, struggled with, times we worked with a difficult team, assumed a leadership position, etc. We each came in with about 20 stories. It was so useful when we began our career search to already have a catalog of stories we could pull from for our interviews.
I would recommend that prospective applicants really think hard about what they liked and didn’t like about previous jobs. I personally found that I didn’t do enough of that before I started my job search, because I didn’t have enough direction for myself at the very beginning. But when I started thinking long and hard about the types of positions that really get me energized, I found that helped to refine my search.
If you plan to change careers, it’s helpful to identify in advance whether you hope to switch function or industry or both. If you are hoping to change both function and industry, you are going to need to do more work. You are going to need to learn how to do valuations if you are switching into finance, case prep if switching into consulting, etc.
Finally, I am a Forté Fellow and I was invited to an amazing networking opportunity before my program at McDonough began, but I wasn’t able to go because I was overseas in Hong Kong. I would advise prospective students to take advantage of as many opportunities to network with organizations and/or other students before you get to campus as possible. Really anything that gets you relaxed and comfortable in the setting you are about to jump into will prove helpful.
CA: What was the most challenging aspect of your job search process? What resources did McDonough offer to help with this?
VD: I just got the job offer at Estée Lauder, so I can still remember all of the angst leading up to it! One thing that I tell the first-year MBA students who come talk to me as a peer advisor is to really practice and do your homework when you are preparing to meet with different companies. Research is really important and differentiates you from other applicants. I knew that Estée Lauder was the right place for me, but being able to answer why a given company is right for you will prove important both for yourself and for the interviewer. Doing this research on multiple companies is challenging because it is really time consuming. But it pays off.
Something that people often forget when they are really stressed out is to use the resources in their career services office. Life gets in the way, especially at school where you have to juggle the social life with the career search and with your homework. Believe me, I know. But carving out time to focus on the career search every week is really important. Making use of those resources – reminding yourself that there are people there to help you – that was something that definitely helped me along the way.
I’d also remind prospective applicants to keep their chin up. This is a tough search. You do a lot of soul searching, and there are a lot of highs and a lot of lows because everyone will get rejected at least once. I was really thankful for my friends, my career coaches, and for having that network.
CA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
VD: I would just say that in terms of choosing an MBA, I think getting a sense for what the community life is like on campus is so important. I am so thankful I was able to get that sense even though I was applying from overseas. I did it by having conversations with students, chatting over email with various people in different departments. When you are deciding on an MBA program, it’s important to remember that you are going to be spending your life there for the next two years.
Choosing Georgetown McDonough has been a great, great decision for me.
Learn more about career resources available at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business.
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