With uncertainty in the economy, an MBA can increase your probability of career success in the future, allowing you to be marketable for both the function and industry you are currently in, but also helps you to make a transition to a new function or career. Learn how Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business can future proof your career in this deep dive into their career services.
Christy Murray leads the Georgetown McDonough Career Center as the Associate Dean and Managing Director, overseeing a team of 17 full-time employees who support career coaching, employer engagement, career curriculum and communications as well as operations for approximately 2,800 students in both full- and part-time business academic degree programs. The team works with all business undergraduates, full-time and flex MBA students, specialty masters students, and executive MBA students. Christy mainly sets the strategy and prioritizes the initiatives the team focuses on to set the students and graduates up for career success, and by helping to ensure the team has the tools and resources needed to best support students. Christy especially enjoys exploring new and expanding current hiring relationships through alumni and employer engagement to support internships and full-time job connections for current students.
Read on for Christy’s insights into how Georgetown McDonough prepares candidates for career success.
Clear Admit: How does Georgetown McDonough prepare you to be successful in your career even before you get to campus?
Christy Murray: The McDonough Career Center works closely with incoming students throughout the spring and summer prior to the start of their first year to develop an internship search strategy. As part of this program, students clarify their career goals and values, are equipped with tools to prepare and tailor resumes and begin to practice formulating their “tell me about yourself” pitch. There are multiple industry specific preparation sessions led by the Career Center to educate students on industry-specific timelines, followed by experiential practice sessions to help students continue to develop their story and materials for the internship search.
For some Full-time MBA students, the preparation for recruitment for a summer internship could begin before they start their first class if they are targeting an industry that has early deadlines like consulting, finance, and technology. This means a student must have clarified what industry they are targeting, prepared their documents, and tailored their personal brand.
Students from underrepresented backgrounds have access to several summer events, through organizations such as Consortium or Forte, prior to entering the program that help jumpstart the internship recruitment timeline. McDonough provides advance preparation and on the ground support for these events.
CA: How can you switch careers? Is there a path to do that?
CM: One of the most common reasons that people pursue an MBA is to pivot or change their career path. Over my tenure working with MBA candidates, I’ve seen a number of people who have successfully pivoted from one industry to another or who remain within the same industry, but have changed functional roles. Their keys to success include having a clear objective in mind, engaging in experiential learning in their target industry or function, and immersing themselves in available resources.
A business school is filled with smart, talented people – from one’s peers in an MBA program to students in other business degree programs – not to mention faculty, staff, and alumni. Students seeking to pivot should carve out focused career time each week as if it were as important as a class. There should be a goal to do at least one thing each week to advance their objectives. Part of building a pathway to a new career is talking with people. Ask them when their career took an unexpected pivot or how they successfully navigated transitioning into a new industry – this is more common than one might think. Very few career pathways are strictly linear and the more stories students hear, the more that student will be able to shape their own narrative.
CA: What lifelong skills does the Career Center teach you?
CM: I recently spoke with a second-year MBA student who was reflecting on their first year (this student interned over the summer in banking and already had accepted their full-time return offer to work at the same bank post-graduation by September). I asked them what they would have told their first-year self. They said, without hesitation, “Trust the process.” Some students seem to be looking for someone to hand them an internship or a full-time job or to tell them exactly what to do to be successful. When someone has this attitude, they will often struggle in the job search process. In order to prepare students not only for an internship or full-time job search around their MBA program, the McDonough Career Center has a variety of activities that we consider “lifelong skills” and we encourage students to be proactive and take initiative in owning their own process. These skills include developing personal accomplishment records, preparing their “tell me about yourself” statement, writing effective resumes and cover letters, developing a personal brand, and preparing rigorously for interviews and negotiations. Students who are empowered and biased toward action in their job search strategies, career planning, and goal setting are much more likely to find success and satisfaction.
CA: For the students who are successful in obtaining the job/internship they want, what actions did they take with the Career Center?
CM: They fully engage in the process we have intentionally designed for them – beginning prior to the start of their MBA program with their pre-MBA summer preparation career course, meetings with the industry-aligned career coaches, creating their resume in our recruiter-tested format and developing their career action plan. For first year, full-time MBA students, during orientation, students engage in experiential learning sessions with feedback loops to practice their “tell me about yourself” statements. Within the first month they are on campus as a first year, they take part in multiple career open houses to learn about the various industries and timelines for internships. During the first semester, students are encouraged to participate in career fair preparation and networking activities that are designed to prepare them for all the fall affinity and diversity conferences, coffee chats, and informational interviewing. A student who is successful in obtaining an internship is engaged in all of these activities. Recently, a member of my team shared that in addition to all of the above, students who are successfully securing a consulting internship are also taking advantage of multiple career coaching sessions during their first fall, as well as engaging in case interview preparation and practice.
McDonough also recently launched the Career Catalyst initiative which connects first-year students in small groups of five or six peers that are facilitated by a trained second-year student. The goal of these groups is to promote accountability to the job search process as well as provide support and encouragement along the way. These groups have been well-received by our first years and we anticipate that active engagement will positively impact our students’ career success and increase their sense of belonging within the McDonough community.
CA: What if, during your internship, you realize you do not like that industry/function—is it too late to forge a new path your second year?
CM: No, although depending on how drastic the shift, you may be starting from the beginning, and you will need to accept that’s where you need to start again. One of the hardest things to do may be to turn down a return offer when you don’t have another offer.
Stepping back, the goal of the pre-MBA and first semester career preparation is to help you refine your narrative, goals, values, and gain information to allow you to focus your internship efforts. If you choose an internship that ends up not being a good fit, the great news is it was intended to be a trial run of that industry/function/company and you aren’t permanently stuck in a path that’s not for you. It also means that you will need to start the process over, in some ways, at the beginning of your second year so will be juggling multiple priorities of school, co-curricular activities, and a full-time job search. There is a tendency for MBA students to compare themselves to one another. The more effective measure is to compare themselves against their own goals. When your peers are accepting return internship offers, you need to remind yourself that you are forging the right path for you (even if at the beginning of the fall of your second year you have no idea what that looks like!).
CA: How important is the alumni network at Georgetown McDonough?
CM: For a prospective MBA student, you should not only evaluate academic degree programs, but also consider where MBAs from the program landed before you – this is a testament to the return on the investment and a reflection of the integrated success of the person and the program. Georgetown McDonough’s community of alumni are a force. They are committed to helping one another and to helping students succeed. There is a phrase at Georgetown that permeates our halls and is part of the ethos of the school: “Hoyas helping Hoyas”. From a career perspective, alumni believe it is their duty to help current students reach their goals, as well as to hire talent from Georgetown. During the fall career day events, student organizations partner with the Career Center to invite back multiple alumni to share insights, inspiration, and industry intelligence. Each spring as part of the Leadership Communications course, 100+ alumni return to campus as part of the signature Executive Challenge program to serve as judges for first-year MBAs. It is the experiential element of the course that allows students to simulate presenting to a board room full of alumni who are able to see students in action, provide critical feedback, and develop mutually beneficial relationships that can last throughout a career.
CA: In the case of economic downturns and layoffs, is it important to be flexible and multi-skilled and how does an MBA prepare you for that?
CM: It is extremely important to be both flexible and multi-skilled. An MBA equips you with the ability to be an agile business leader now and as your career unfolds throughout your life. Many of our recent graduates who accepted full-time roles in consulting and technology experienced a significant test of their flexibility when start dates were delayed, in some cases, up to nine months after they originally accepted the offer. Short term projects were established to support these students, often through the connections of the alumni community. Alumni who experienced layoffs during past downturns have reached out to the Hoya community (faculty, career center team members, and fellow alumni) for advice, connections, and preparation as they navigated pivots.
CA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
CM: Look for the 2023 MBA Employment Report which will be published this fall — it tells a story of the impact and integration of the McDonough MBA that allows graduates to achieve the success they do while leveraging the resources and opportunities available to them.