Last week I attended the NBMBA Conference in Orlando. I must admit that this was a highly educational experience for me. I had never been introduced to this type of job fair before (often relying on my own network or self-initiatives to advance my career). I would be hard pressed to say that this is the most efficient way to find a job or even to gain interviews in my opinion, but I do think there are several key takeaways that are worth repeating in the off chance you are thinking of attending one of these conferences.
- Timing and Time Management: I think it is important to take advantage of any special deals that might be offered that allow you (and other buyers of this privilege) to enter the career expo in advance of the general crowd. Your arrival timing is critical in getting the interview slots as basically by midday of the first day, all the slots had been filled up. It was a little frustrating as the lines got longer, as more people arrived, and as such you have to spend more time to speak to companies. Get in there as soon as possible and take advantage that you are one of the eager worms. I recommend flying in the night before the conference starts if possible.
- Research and Plan: I think it goes without saying to say to arrive with an idea of which companies you want to speak with, and how you will tackle the conference; but more importantly, make sure you have a second tier list of companies in the off chance that the ones you want to speak to have very long lines. As mentioned above, time management is critical during these conferences and speaking to two other companies instead of one might be a better investment. I do want to say however, if there is a company you really want to talk to, don’t be discouraged to wait in the line. Just try to find an optimal point between number of companies, your ranking of them, and the time needed to get in front of them.
- Apply: I think it is worth repeating that a solid piece of advice is to apply before the conference to the companies you like via their website. Not only will this maybe get you an interview before you show up at the conference, but it will prove to the company that you are serious and really do want to work for them. This question came up in every single one of my interactions and I don’t think it was a coincidence at all.
I definitely am happy that I went this past week to the conference even though it might be more beneficial to second years versus first years. However, if you are a first year or prospective MBA student, I do urge you to go to a conference in your first year for two reasons. First, you see how it is and how it operates and you learn things that will help you if you need to go back in second year (e.g. time management is my big personal takeaway). Secondly, it is never a bad idea to start expanding your network and reaching out to companies and this conference can help you realize a companies’ cultural atmosphere from how they act towards you and others at the conference. I will deal with this more next week and the overall importance of fit.
As always thanks for reading!