TL;DR Everyone gets a job eventually
School at Stanford begins late September, much later than most due to its quarter-based schedule. A week before the MBA2s arrive, all MBA1s gather to participate in the obligatory “Week 0” festivities. For a few, this is their first introduction to new classmates. For most, there are a few familiar faces in the crowd of 400. Some knew others from work or from undergrad; and many met each other on the annual trip to Colombia a few months earlier.
Week Zero really serves as a re-introduction to the academic environment. Many of my classmates are coming from pretty high-powered jobs where they wielded a great deal of power and influence. While I don’t think anyone wants to lose that edge, there is a bit of an indoctrination involved with being in a classroom again. A couple of classes meet, a wide variety of introductions to clubs, groups and the general environment – fairly similar to the on-boarding process at a larger established company, it’s a process.
With the start of Week 1, so also begins the AAP, Stanford shorthand (of which we are somewhat notorious for, see Stanford Shorthand) for Academic Adjustment Period. These first 6 weeks or so of school serve as a ramp for students to adjust to the whirlwind that is business school. To a non-participant, this may sound silly. Even as a first-year this so-called adjustment period seemed ridiculous.
We are high-achieving adults, here to take in all Stanford has to offer, and you’re (vague administration) going to hamstring us right from the start?
In retrospect, they were right. Tough to admit, but it’s true. AAP effective outlaws st years from participating in club activities and recruiting. It narrows the potential list of activities to class, socializing, and just hanging in there.
As the AAP comes to a close, right around Thanksgiving, recruiting is added to the now endlessly growing laundry list of things to do. There a couple of timelines which basically boil down to consulting, most things, and start-ups.
The consulting timeline happens quickly. When the AAP closes, MBA2s affiliated with consulting firms begin blasting their respective company’s get-togethers, meet-and-greet, happy hours, BBLs, etc. This provides potential consultants with the opportunity to get to know the culture of the big three that recruit heavily at Stanford (BCG, McKinsey, and Bain). Each have their nuances and people are often strongly drawn to one and deride another. Over Winter Break, or at least after GSTs finish, these intrepid associates begin prepping for their case interviews, some doing as many as 200 practice cases – food for thought: they take about a half hour. As these folks return to campus they quickly roll through the two-round interview process. If they do well, offers can be in hand before the end of January.
For the rest of us, the process is really just getting started. Many, but not all, will participate in On-Campus Recruiting. After soliciting resumes from interested students through the CMC, large companies from across the US will send an HR team to campus and invite selected students to interview somewhere around campus. This ranges from Amazon (interviewing dozens of people for several roles) to large banks (interviewing a handful with a strong background) to multinational CPG companies who hire hundreds of interns around the world. Some are well-publicized; others are heavily contested under a cloud of secrecy. Ok maybe a bit of an exaggeration there.
Many students take part in the process, some people interview for a dozen companies coming on-campus. And why not? It’s incredibly convenient and excellent general interviewing practice. Some companies will do multiple rounds on campus, some will just do their first rounds with a second in the office. Many folks will walk away from this process with one, if not several, offers in hand. While companies continue to complain that Stanford students show up unprepared, they keep coming back.
This concludes the vast majority of the school sponsored recruiting, so begins the ‘network-based’ job search. Though a fancy sounding term, this is basically the way everyone has done job searching since the internet started being a thing.
With the alumni database, LinkedIn, and a @stanford.edu email address a lot of doors open for you. There are rumors that people who did not get a job at Apple through OCR have emailed Tim Cook and asked for another shot. This level of audacity would not surprise me. For those that have an inkling of what they would like to do, a casual search can turn up dozens of alums in the same field, the vast majority of which are more than willing to grab a cup of coffee or jump on the phone.
This did not seem like a big deal until you really think about it for a moment. These people range from graduates within the last few years all the way up to CEOs of public company. The network is strong, and you need to get comfortable using it.
The network-based job search is a necessarily longer process. Relationships have to be established, connections made, needs assessed, all before even talk of as summer role arises. This often leads students to a conundrum. Responses to OCR companies are due in the middle of February, while other conversations are very much still ongoing. Do you roll the dice finding something better, or do you take the OCR position? The week leading up to that deadline is stressful, and my guess is most people turn down the OCR positions, but this is purely anecdotally based. As for me: I turned down two offers with no other strong prospects on the horizon, a tough choice.
As OCR wraps up, the recruiting schedule reaches a bit of lull. Most big companies have filled their spots, coffee chats with smaller companies continue, but they are usually unwilling to commit to 3 months down to the road. As March turns to April and into May, the intensity ramps up again. First years begin to look around and see more of their peers with jobs than without, inner-panic is not uncommon, but as a rule a strong face is put on outwardly.
The CMC makes a return for the GMIX experience. An opportunity for students to spend a few weeks in a country foreign to them and assist with a small company looking for help on a defined project. A substantial percentage of students take advantage of this, many choosing to ‘split’ their summer between an internship and a GMIX.
Towards the end of the year those that are thinking about working on their own projects buckle down to see if it will be worth their time. Surveys flood blast searching for needs and pain points. Those looking at smaller startups start to have a few more successes. Companies with only a handful of employees can see a month or so in advance and may be more willing to accept a student who comes with funding from the school.
As Spring Quarter winds down final decisions are made. Students find companies in desperate need of help tomorrow and are happy to oblige. Some choose to work on their own project, working out of space available in Knight.
The process varies greatly from person to person. The consultants are done early and paid well, the bankers happy with their future experience after surviving a tough interviewing process, the big company folks getting weekly updates from HR about upcoming scheduled activities for interns, the entrepreneurs steadfast in their choice to work for themselves, and the start-up crew happy to have found just the right place at the last possible moment.
The group thinking about the internship process varies from each class to the next. It’s said that some take it much more seriously, while others see it as little more than a continued paid vacation. No matter how it is approached, all students leave for the summer with something to do.
TD // 7/26/16