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An MBA’s Career Journey at Indiana’s Kelley School of Business

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“Every MBA is running; they’re either running from their last job, or they’re running toward their next job.” – Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business

For the vast majority of MBA candidates, they’re running from their last job, and they know why they quit—they didn’t like their boss, salary, upward trajectory, city, etc. Unfortunately, that knowledge of why they left doesn’t always easily translate into what they want. In fact, the two questions that most MBAs ask are, “Who am I?” and “Who do I want to be?”

There is no easy answer. It takes a considerable amount of time and energy to dive into an MBA student’s skills, hobbies, interests and experiences to discover who they are and how that identity can be translated into a job. And, the reality is that most MBAs don’t have that kind of time to spend.

MBAs don’t have two years to figure out what they want to do; they have four months. Internship applications start in December, and students who are still trying to answer the basic questions about themselves are in a world of hurt. Worse yet, most MBAs choose an MBA program based on the idea that they’re going to get a great job when they graduate, but if they’re not prepared, it’s all for naught.

But there is good news. At Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, MBAs aren’t left to figure out life’s big questions on their own. Instead, they are brought into a program that’s dedicated to making the job process as smooth and successful as possible, and it all starts with Me, Inc.

What Is Me, Inc.?

Me, Inc. is a two-week program that every full-time MBA student participates in at the start of his or her schooling. The goal of the program is to help students reflect on who they are and who they want to be. In fact, that’s the only reason it exists. It’s not about resumes, LinkedIn profiles or job skills. It’s about developing an in-depth understanding of each MBA’s personal story and how it connects to the next steps in a career before classes ever begin.

Kelley Director of Graduate Career Services Eric Johnson

“No other school has anything like it,” shares Eric Johnson, the director of graduate career services at the Kelley School of Business. “We begin with a personal history to really evaluate every choice a student has made in life: which ones worked out, which ones didn’t and what they’ve learned about themselves along the way. And, through that process, we help our students gain insight that, maybe, they didn’t even know before.”

For example, during this process, a recent MBA discovered how much time they’d spent producing content throughout high school, college and afterward. And, after putting it all together, they realized that creating content wasn’t just a passing interest, it was a passion with skills to back it up. Suddenly, a career in finance didn’t make sense, but a career in digital media was ideal, and that knowledge only happened thanks to Me, Inc.

But the program isn’t just about history. It’s also about planning. “Me, Inc. closes with a ‘future state’ exercise where students build a vision for where they want to be in three years and start thinking about the choices they want to make,” says Johnson. “And, in order to go from their history to their future, we really have to take them through a lot of where they are in the present: their skills, values identification and how they want to activate those values.”

Johnson at work with a Kelley student

That’s what makes Me, Inc. so unique and successful. It’s a deep dive into each student’s life, looking at everything from personality to natural preferences, background and more. Now, that isn’t to say that Kelley believes in “pigeon-holing” its students based on their natural preferences. In fact, that’s the opposite result. Instead, the goal is to determine natural preferences so that each student understands where his or her strengths and weaknesses lay in order to overcome any hurdles. As an example, students who aren’t naturally detail oriented can still become financial analysts; it’s just going to take more grit and determination to succeed compared to someone who is naturally detail oriented.

In the end, Me, Inc. is not about telling students what they can and can’t do; it’s about helping them learn who they are and what they want to do, and that’s only possible because of how the program is set up. Unlike the career services at many schools where students have to schedule time to talk with an advisor, Kelley assigns each student a certified career coach who will follow them throughout their time in the MBA program.

Kelley’s Certified Career Coaches

Every career coach at the Kelley School of Business has a background in corporate because the school understands that in order to have credibility with their MBA students, their coaches had to have had careers at places like Eli Lilly, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs. That’s not all; each career coach at Kelley also goes through the rigorous International Coach Federation certification process.. The certification process requires:

  • 125 hours of training in executive coaching,
  • 500 hours of coaching,
  • and a difficult oral exam conducted in front of a panel of experts.

It’s not easy to become a Kelley certified career coach, but it serves a valuable purpose. “When students work with their coach, they can be confident in the knowledge that their coach has gone through an enormous amount effort to become and expert in the field of coaching and helping others grow,” explains Johnson. “Kelley will be the only program in the country where the entire team has certified coaches. It was a significant investment, but the school believes that the more you invest in your career services office, the better an MBA’s advantage is in the job market.”

At Kelley, all students work with certified career coaches.

And the best part is the fact that every student has a very close relationship with his or her certified coach. There’s no limit on how often MBAs can visit their coaches. On average, most MBAs see their coach about three times a month—some come more or less—but every student spends an enormous amount of time in the career services office at Kelley. In fact, the relationship that most students build with their certified career coach spans the professional realm into the personal, which provides a myriad of benefits.

“We get to know our MBA students very well,” shares Johnson. “And because we get to know their preferences and background, when a job description comes across our desks that someone is uniquely qualified for, we can send that description to a student, track down an alum who already works there, arrange an introduction and set up the next steps.”

And if you think being located in the small town of Bloomington, Indiana, is a hindrance to the types of jobs and companies available to students; you couldn’t be more wrong. Kelley has great relationships with hundreds of companies. If there’s an industry or a company that a student is interested in, the odds are extremely good that career services has a relationship with someone who works there.

Landing a Job at Kelley Business School

Each year, the Kelley Business School brings some of the biggest and most admired companies—LinkedIn, Microsoft, Google, McKinsey, etc.—to campus. For those companies that don’t make it to Bloomington, the school sends students out to interview on site. And, if all else fails, career services can even set up a webinar or virtual event if in-person isn’t possible.

“If a student wants to work in Chicago, Minneapolis, New York or San Francisco, many of the companies that are based there are going to show up on campus at some point,” explains Johnson. “However, we also facilitate quite a few trips each year to some of these big cities. So, if someone wants to be in Chicago, they’re going to have many opportunities to do so even while living in Bloomington.”

And unlike at many schools, those career experiences don’t just happen in a student’s free time; they happen during the school year. Every spring and fall, students participate in a week-long learning experience that includes a short trip. For example, students interested in business marketing may head to Indianapolis and Minneapolis, while those interested in investment banking head to New York.

“We also do a great job of keeping in touch with our 100,000 alumni, especially alumni in the five or six big cities where our students ultimately end up,” says Johnson. “So, if there’s a company that a student really wants to work at, the odds are really good that we know some of the alums working there, and so we can help them get a foot in the door even at some of the small startups or companies that are based overseas.”

There’s really no end to the types of connections the career services office has at Kelley, and that includes some pretty unique opportunities that no other school can boast, including connections with NFL players and executives at major corporations.

Through its executive coaching arm, Kelley’s certified career coaches work with managers, directors, senior directors and even vice presidents of major corporations, which gives them tremendous experience and expertise to bring back to MBAs. Plus, it connects the school to some fairly influential people.

Then, through its transitional coaching arm, the school has partnered with the NFL Players Association to offer an MBA degree for players as well as coaching on how to transition out of pro football and into a more classic job market. “These skills are what allow us to be so good with students by creating some unique perspectives and connections,” says Johnson.

Career Success

And there’s no better example of the effectiveness of the Kelley School’s career services than 2015 MBA graduate Julia Wilcox. Wilcox was an accomplished concert pianist who ran her own music-lesson business before she entered the MBA program at Kelley. And it wasn’t an easy transition.

Immediately, she struggled with confidence and wondered if she’d made the wrong choice. She didn’t have the same business background as her fellow students and her experience in quant and statistics was behind most of her classmates. But Me, Inc. was a turning point for her. During those two weeks, Wilcox spent hours with her career coach. He helped her see herself as the job market would see her, and the results were incredible.

“The great thing about people with a music background is that they have a phenomenal dedication to practice, and they are extraordinarily humble and coachable. They have to be,” Johnson says. “Concert pianists also learn quickly from their mistakes, aren’t afraid of failure and perform well under pressure. We also discovered that to have a great understanding of music theory you have to be quantitatively oriented because there is a lot of math behind music. Helping Wilcox figure out how to articulate her skills allowed her to build a phenomenal story about what she brought to the table, and to present herself as a really complete candidate.”

And it was from that in-depth analysis of her strengths and weakness that Wilcox received one of the highest profile job offers on campus. She was one of just a handful of individuals from around the country to land a job within the coveted 3M Strategy Business Development Group.

“We’re lucky to have the talented students that we have,” shares Johnson. “They all have a story that’s still in development, and we’re just the instrument to help them tell it.”

To learn more about the MBA program at Indiana University’s Kelley Business School, visit the school website.