Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Psychologist to Marketer, Part I: First Come Decisions

I’m sure many of you are considering an MBA to transition to a new career. Making the decision to take the plunge and enroll in an MBA program can be scary for career-switchers. You don’t know what to expect and success is not guaranteed. Take it from one who knows – I have been navigating a dramatic career change since beginning at Booth last year. This is the first in a series of posts I’ll be writing about my career shift, and my new found passion for Marketing.

Before business school, I trained as a clinical psychologist and subsequently worked as an assistant professor of Addiction Studies. It’s not a traditional path to business school. However, I could not see myself working happily as a professor or psychologist for the rest of my life.  I needed something more fast-paced and challenging. I thought business school might be a gateway to a career that fulfilled these needs. Therefore, my first task in switching careers was honestly evaluating my motives for attending business school and understanding if my expectations for what business school would provide were reasonable. Conversations with friends who had completed their MBAs were vital to this assessment. Most of my friends agreed that dramatic career changes are possible, although not easy, following an MBA and that with all of the options an MBA makes possible, I was bound to find a career that I enjoyed. 

After careful consideration, I applied to Chicago Booth and was offered admission. Soon after arriving at Booth, I realized that I didn’t exactly know what my career goals were. I thought I wanted to be a consultant, but after hearing about the typical consultant lifestyle, I realized it wasn’t a good fit for me. Luckily, Career Services was really great at helping me sort through and evaluate options. As it turns out, many students spend time with Career Services trying to figure out which career path makes the most sense, so they have had a lot of practice in this area. In the end, I decided that I would recruit for marketing internships.

Internship recruiting starts really quickly after arriving on campus. In fact, as early as October, students begin attending information sessions with organizations excited to hire Booth talent. In an ideal world, I would have spent some time over the summer before Booth familiarizing myself with marketing, but that hadn’t happened. I felt unprepared compared to many of my classmates who were not career switchers. Career Services, the Marketing Group, and my classmates provided me with a lot of resources and feedback to prepare me for the internship recruitment process, but I had to put in a lot of preparation hours to compensate for my lack of experience. For me, the most important preparation task was thinking through how to highlight the skills from my previous career that would be important for my success in marketing. I also had to learn how to answer marketing case questions adequately.

In my experience, most firms look favorably upon career switchers. They view them as bringing a different perspective to the table. After sending off what felt like one million cover letters, I received interview offers from many of the firms I applied to. I had a fairly painless interview season because I received two internship offers early on in the recruitment process. Ultimately, I accepted an offer in brand management at Campbell’s Soup Company and began my first professional foray into marketing.

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