What is the “perfect job”? Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist. This is not an alarmingly pessimistic point of view, but rather a real one. Every man and woman has different strengths, weaknesses, opinions, personalities, and an unfathomable amount of other characteristics that, when combined and utilized, can help in the search for a job role that is a good fit. When you focus on finding your job fit, success is almost guaranteed to follow.
Now that it’s April – a time during which many first-year MBAs get and assess internship offers, and the time when present MBA aspirants start deciding whether attending a specific b-school will help effect the career change they hope for – it’s a good time to examine a straightforward, three-step framework for evaluating any new job opportunity, one that can apply in any situation (from choosing among large multinationals to deciding which start-up venture is the right ‘fit’ for you).
More and more professionals are viewing their careers to be dynamic, touching diverse sectors and roles, but centering their work around what gives them meaning and purpose. The truth is, instead of testing for a role, job searching has become more like shopping. And like buying a new outfit, it’s helpful to have a thorough understanding of yourself before you go into the fitting room- your assets, your liabilities, and what makes you smile, instead of buying anything and getting stuck not being able to return it.
The key to getting a job is about understanding how you and your potential employer fit together. To do that, you have to know how you find value at work and what drives that. Finding purpose in your career is about finding what excites you, and ultimately, what will allow you to create the most consequential impact in the world. It’s about your desire for impact, personal growth, and relationships. Clearly gaining perceptive on your drivers greatly increases your odds of success in a particular role or company. So, as you’re “shopping” for jobs, start by asking yourself who, why, and how; Choosing a career path (or changing one) is, for most of us, a mystifying experience. Many will tell you to “follow your passion” or “do what you love,” but this is not very useful advice. When I graduated from college, I liked lots of things. But love? Passion? That would have been seriously exaggerating it.
Facing a roadblock in career can be demoralizing, to say the least. Luckily, some successful people prove that it’s possible to bounce back. Clearly, the pop queen Madonna was destined to become more than working at a diner, and J.K. Rowling wasn’t passionate about her job as a secretary. Steve Jobs went through a crisis and eventual transformation after the company he created fired him. Walt Disney went from being bankrupt in his first biz venture to building an entertainment giant. For some, walking through the hard way is exactly what they need to launch into the success stories they are today.
We all want to choose a career that will make us happy, but how can we know what that will be? Rather than going through the rough path, we need to take the cautious steps from the start. Research suggests that human beings are remarkably bad at predicting how they will feel when doing something in the future. It’s not hard to find someone who started out thinking that they would love their chosen profession, only to wind up hating it. In fairness, how are you supposed to know if you will be happy as an investment banker, or an HR, or a professor, if you haven’t actually done any of these things yet?
So if passion and expected happiness can’t be your guides, what can be? Well, you can begin by choosing a career that fits well with your skills and values. Since you actually have some sense of what those are (hopefully), this is a good starting place. But a bit less obviously- though just as important- you also want to choose an occupation that provides a good motivational fit for you as well.
The upside is that there are fundamentally only three things to consider – industry, function, and organization. The downside, however, is that it is easy to lose track of these simple measures and tempting to overcomplicate one’s preferences by focusing in on variables that tend to matter less in the long-run (such as variation in compensation or signing bonus at the start of a new job vs. the long-term growth or raise in one’s income). So keeping the above pointers in mind, we can elaborate the heads as:
Regardless of what you do for an organization (from managing its supply chain to overseeing its public relations), the time that you spend doing that work means that you’ve amassed more and more domain expertise specific to that industry. Whether you work in telecom or IT, in wealth management or manufacturing, in higher education or research, your accrued time in that field converts to both practical know-how and capacity to innovate and capitalize on change that would be complex for a newcomer to replicate.
Therefore, a big driver of your MBA internship or full-time job decision should be the extent to which you would be happy being more and more deeply involved in the above profiles and the exposures provided.
Although one’s career options considering functions can sometimes feel vague (‘product management’ and ‘business development’ can mean many different things across industries), focusing on one’s practical choice- whether that function is finance, marketing, HR, operations, etc. can be an important way to not only build domain knowledge but also an effecting capacity and skill-set that can be applied across varied businesses and industries.
Having practical expertise can act like prevention agent against a dip in a specific industry (for example, marketing skills one develops in the automotive industry, could offer a good transition to marketing roles in hardware and technology). When MBAs pursue careers in banking and finance, they are developing their financial and strategy/consulting functional skill-sets primarily, though, those functional abilities are more often than not linked to a specific underlying industry (e.g., ‘technology, media, and telecommunications’, as a specific area of client service in banking). Over time, most MBA graduates experience a union of their industry capability and functional role having an area of focus and a track-record within a specific field, combined with a broad general management education.
It may seem apparent, but opting for the right company whether a private sector corporation, nonprofit organization, or a public sector agency can make the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful career, and there are three things to consider when choosing the right one.
The first is the organization’s current and future competitive course within its industry. Are its products and services good? Is the company’s name well known? Does it rank high in reliability with respect to all of its business practices? Does the organization have a talent strategy that makes it an employer of choice? Joining an organization that is on an upswing is better at all times than joining one that is facing downsizing, layoffs, restructuring, etc.
The second thing to reflect on and a factor not to be ignored, is your own ‘fit’ with a specific organizational culture. Though fit can also seem difficult to identify, here are some ways to check if a company is the right match for you. Is the stuff you read in media about your company pride worthy or it makes you cringe? The main aim is to choose that organization where you will feel most mentally stirred and socially content, and where your input to its efforts will connect to a convention and a set of recollections that you would be happy to narrate years down the line. Searching all of these positive pointers can feel impossible at times, but it nonetheless brings logic to seek out and select those businesses that signify more positives than negatives for you.
Last, organizations are made of people, and whether the group is large or small, those few individuals whom you work with closely have immense power on your ability to be successful and recognized for your contribution. It’s a smart b-school scholar who understands that his or her second-choice employer might trump the first-choice company due to the existence of a finer management and a functional affiliation that is likely to grow into the sort where he/she will be mentored for success and that can truly accelerate an MBA graduate’s career.
When coming across the people of a company, notice the way they practice their work, their backgrounds and training. Such points will deeply signify what sorts of talent and qualities are expected of you, as well as what you will likely learn and gain from your peers. Joining a small company, in which you are mentored by an industry leader with a wide network who is likely to recognize and endorse your capability when you seek your subsequent career step may be a better option than joining a large organization merely for the sake of the weak association with thousands of fellow firm members spread across the world.
Thus that’s all there is to it. These three brackets – industry, function, and organization, the elementary building blocks and categories for assessing a job prospect – are all that you need to make a good career choice.
Contributed by Deeba, (Class of 2013, IBS Gurgaon)