Hello from the Other Side!

I’m Nupur, a first-year MBA student at the Kellogg School of Management, originally from Bangalore, India (the “Silicon Valley of India”). I’m thrilled to be interning as a Product Marketing Manager for a FinTech firm in Silicon Valley (the real one!) this summer.

Coming from tech sales at Cisco and initially set on management consulting, I’m grateful for how things unfolded! Landing this internship took eight months. While the market played a role, many struggles stemmed from my reactive approach.

Proactive is the Name of the Game

Unlike popular belief, recruiting starts before you even hit campus. Career services often advise students, especially career switchers, to prep for summer internships beforehand (resumes, cover letters).

Let’s be honest, many students are overwhelmed and don’t prioritize this “far-off” problem. The irony? “Fall Quarter Fatigue” is real. So, how do you conquer it? Caffeine helps (b-school essential!), but the key is being proactive. Small steps go a long way.

Looking back, here’s what I wish I did differently (keeping in mind the precious time!):

Diversify Your Applications:

“Diversify, diversify, diversify!” applies to recruiting, especially for international students switching careers. I fixated on consulting and had no backup plan. Apply to multiple industries! Create industry-tailored resumes early on. Minor tweaks later will allow you to apply quickly. The more you apply, the more efficient you become.

Here’s how to make this easier:

  • During the lull before the busy school year, brainstorm a list of industries that interest you, even if they seem like a stretch. Research companies within those industries.
  • Identify your transferable skills: Can your tech sales experience translate to project management in a different field? Highlight these on your resume.
  • Create multiple versions of your resume, each tailored to a specific industry. Focus on the skills and experiences most relevant to each position.

Strengths over Weaknesses:

Talking to different firms, I learned “playing to your strengths” is a game-changer. Initially, I targeted consulting firms focused on Consumer-Packaged Goods (CPG) clients, despite my tech sales background. This misalignment put me at a disadvantage against candidates with deep CPG knowledge.

Focus on what you can offer!  I should have highlighted my ability to leverage technology for complex problems, making me stand out.  Find the intersection of your passion, skills, and employer needs. This positions you as an attractive candidate who understands their own value and aligns with the company’s goals.

Here’s how to translate this into action:

  • Before applying to any jobs, take a personal inventory of your skills and strengths. What are you naturally good at? What did you enjoy most about your previous experiences?
  • Research the companies and positions you’re interested in. Identify the skills and experiences they value most.
  • Tailor your resume and cover letter to showcase how your strengths align with the job requirements.

A Two-Pronged Approach to Switching Careers:

As a sales professional, I craved customer interaction. This led me to Brand Management in CPG, but I soon learned it wasn’t readily accessible for most international students. Devastated, but determined, I embraced a two-fold approach (key to surviving a tough market) advised by my career coach:

  1. Pivot Within Your Industry: Leverage your existing foundation. A marketing role in tech lets you gain relevant experience while staying close to your passion.
  2. Plan a Long-Term Pivot: This is your longer-term goal (Brand Management in CPG for me). Once you have marketing experience, this transition becomes more feasible.

Remember, career pivots take time. Make calculated moves that gradually steer your career in the desired direction.

Your MBA: A Lifelong Asset

Think of your MBA as more than just a degree. It’s an investment in your potential that unlocks unforeseen opportunities. Keep your goals in sight and let them guide you. While you work hard to achieve your dreams, take a moment to appreciate your progress!

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