Working abroad might be the dream of many and while we graduated from a reputable university, it does not guarantee our success to be recruited by international top companies unless we are occupied with the right strategies. In this article, our contributor, Tiffanie Sutanto shares her recruiting journey as an MBA student at London Business School.
I was over the moon when I got my offer letter from the MBA program of London Business School. I was excited about the opportunity of studying in one of the top business schools in the world and was even more excited about the prospect of working outside of my home country. Living and working abroad has always been my childhood dream. I believed that getting into business school meant that I was more than halfway closer to my dream of working in the UK. However, a couple of months into the program, I was faced with the reality of the recruitment journey for international students.
While most people back home think that the job searching process would be a walk in the park, the most interesting phenomenon is the fact that the reality is not as straightforward to say the least.
Recruiting outside of one’s home country can be a very intimidating process. An overseas job search has some unique elements such as visa sponsorship, a new recruiting environment, and additional justification required for the ‘Why do you want to move to this country’ question.
This is my attempt to share my recruiting journey during my time as an MBA student in London. These are the lessons that I’ve learned and the things that I would keep in mind if I were to go through the process all over again.
1. Pick your battles and position yourself well
Business schools indeed offer many opportunities to explore new roles and industries. Determined to experiment with roles that I might never consider otherwise, I jumped in headfirst into the recruitment process and applied for a wide range of roles available – from product manager roles in tech companies, marketing roles in payment companies, to Associate roles in consulting companies.
Although I found value in using the freedom to explore many opportunities, I quickly learned that I was trapped in a cycle of exploring things without any focus. I was stretched between having coffee chats for different companies, researching for the latest trends for multiple industries, and rehearsing my interview answers for different functions. I quickly stressed out every time I received a rejection email, and I was unable to highlight my fit for the roles that I got interviews for.
I realized that my lack of focus quickly became my major red flag. My profile was up against friends who took the time to tailor their CVs and stories to the industries that they were deeply interested in. Having realized this, I learned that I needed to focus more, not only by narrowing down the industry/functions that I was interested in but also by understanding how I could highlight my fit to my target companies and get my foot in the door.
2. Networking is key
Networking was not the prime element of job searching in Indonesia which made it quite unnatural to me. The idea of networking seems to be inauthentic, and at times it may even feel transactional. However, networking is an important element for job searching in the US and Europe, and even a make-or-break for some industries.
I learned that the emphasis of networking should be on relationship building. Networking should be an effort to build long-term relationships, as opposed to the single goal of getting a job. It is about genuinely being interested in hearing the other person’s journey and building a personal relationship that can last beyond the job search.
Over the summer, I did my internship with MetLife New York, which was made possible because of a simple coffee chat. I reached out to one of my seniors who was involved in the same school club. We had a coffee chat and I asked him for some interview tips while he shared his internship experience with MetLife. He ended up being truly instrumental in my recruiting journey. Establishing a connection in networking is essential, and a networking meeting can often be the start of a fruitful relationship.
3. Practice makes perfect
One thing that I realized: there is an encouraging correlation between practice and positive outcomes. I believe that repetition is key when it comes to learning. I am not a fan of acting on the fly and I always prefer to be overprepared than underprepared. Having English as my second language, I felt the need to put in extra practice. By practicing my answers out loud, I was able to get comfortable with my answer and sound as natural as possible during interviews or coffee chats.
However, it is not just about the number of hours that we put in. It is also about who we are practicing with. Practicing with the right people does matter. Practice with your consultant friends if you want to get into consulting industry. Reach out to your seniors who worked in investment banking, if you want to be a banker. You can also practice with your friends who are recruiting in the same industry. During the recruiting period, I set up a weekly mock interview session with my friend. It was one of the best decisions that I’ve ever taken in my recruiting preparation, as it not only helped me become consistent with my practice but also resulted in a friendship that I will treasure for life.
I was lucky to secure an internship offer with MetLife for their Global Leadership Development Program (GLDP) over the summer. There were 9 summer interns in total, coming from various business schools such as Tuck, Rochester, Georgetown, and London Business School. Despite the virtual format, it was definitely one of the highlights of my MBA. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of the GLDP Summer Intern 2020 cohort. It reinforces my belief that with a vision and hard work, life may always reveal positive surprises.
*All photos are provided by the author