Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Open letter to current B-School students (struggling with loans and jobs)

Dear MBAs:

I hope you are all getting a good experience at b-school. I am sure these are difficult economic times for all of you. I am sure some of you are all going through some soul searching, wondering whether this was the right thing to do, how the loans will get paid, will you ever find a job, and how long this downturn will last.

I've lived through some very difficult economic conditions myself, and faced the brunt of it (remember the post-internet bubble in 2000 and 9/11). I've also seen many suffer through it. Usually those who suffer through tough times do so because they take a long time to get through the denial phase - that there are no jobs in i-banking, consulting, hedge funds or private equity at the moment. By then its too late. The important thing is to be agile, flexible and open to options.

In case you are going through similar pains yourself, I have ten recommendations.

1. Grab a brand name job in tough times. When you try to get out, the brand name will help. E.g. if you want to be a banker (later) working in a brand name company may allow you to get into equity research and eventually into banking. If you cannot get that brand consulting job, take something else, and have a two-year strategy to get back in.

2. Remember that this economic cycle (or any economic cycle) will be behind you within years; you just have to find a way to sit tight for 2 years and then you'll get a chance to move to do what you really want to do. [For those of you from India] I've seen people move to India and return to the US to get into sales & trading jobs at investment banks when the markets turned. The important thing was that they had the skill set to get back in.

3. Feed, nurture and grow the network. Don't withdraw. Make friends. Keep a bold face. Be kind and helpful to those with your own rolodex. If you cannot help yourself, help someone else.

4. Do right by the people who need help in this job market if you are doing well. These people will remember you when things are good for them.

5. Keep your ears open. Anecdotally, for example seem to be jobs in the Healthcare sector in Boston (consulting with smaller companies). Also watch out for the big layoffs. Biopharma - if you are in Sales appears to be in trouble. Long term I believe healthcare is a sector that does not have violent cycles so if you like this space, try to build a career in this sector.

6. Follow the early-growth hot spaces. Cleantech is one of those spaces. In cleantech, the hot spaces are water and solar (from what I hear). Read equity research reports and follow the markets, download all the ppts and you can become a knowledgeable person in this space quickly. There are few people with experiences in this area.

7. Work for someone important or a good position for free. Think carefully before you give up a chance to do a free internship instead of no internship. If it takes you to India or China, take it !

8. Do a simple test of the people you are with. If you walk away after hanging with them, and you have a bad feeling about yourself, don't hang with those people. They are bringing down your confidence.

9. Always surround yourself by diversity. Find out what the marketing people are up to. Know what's going on in high-tech. If you get a job, don't hang with people like yourself. If you are in a difficult spot, chances are that they will be too - so always hedge your people; best ideas come from groups that are different from each other.

10. The most important fact: I don't know any bankrupt MBAs, and no Indian MBAs whose careers careened off a cliff. If you are tenacious, persistent, focussed and inherently good, good things will happen.

Good luck. Remember it gets better. I've been through it, as have all my friends. And once you've been through the storm, you realize its not the end of the world.

If anyone is in desperate need of help, please email me (or this group) and we will try to help you to the best of our abilities.

Take care.



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