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Career tips from top 10 MBA from Europe in the US [#permalink]
12 Mar 2014, 10:29
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(My posting is for international applicants to US MBA programs and will appear on several forums)
I am from Western Europe / top 10 US MBA. This is my way to pay it back to the community that helped me along as an applicant.
About me: Pre-MBA: Startup cofounder / manager at US blue chip in Europe / background in trading with top European bank. Graduated 2001. Post-MBA: Good jobs with three blue chip US firms, long unemployment times in between, went through the whole work visa BS. Now having my own consulting firm in the US.
A few general observations:
1) 90% of what the glossy b-school brochures say is for Americans, NOY FOR YOU. You are considered a "full payer", because you won't get a US scholarship (but maybe one from home) and pay the full tuition, so they need you (at Berkley in the fincl crisis, they even PUBLICLY announced increasing the % of foreign full payers, causing a nationwide outcry). All this talk about 3 job offers on average, great camaraderie, one-on-one with professors, etc. APPLIES MOSTLY TO AMERICANS.
2) Having gone through all the ups and down of bubble burst 2001, financial crisis 2008, and tons of paperwork and struggle with OPT, H1B, employment Greencard application, half a dozen visits to the home consulate, total 30K in lawyer costs (yes, you need your own – don't rely on the employer's), fear of rejection, 350K in taxes, 100K in tuition etc. I finally won my Greencard IN THE LOTTERY – WTF!!! (started playing 3 yrs before I came here – total waiting time 11 yrs).
3) Out of 85 intls in my program, ONLY 5 MANAGED TO STAY HERE – THE REST HAD TO GO HOME. And I know that at least 2/3rds wanted to stay here.
4) While you will be able to get an internship (if no recession), you will discover in your 2nd year that 90% of job postings are FOR US MBAs ONLY. That includes on-campus recruiting. In a recession, it is 99%. No one hires you on an OPT, at least for something that is a REAL job. And of the 10% above, most are NOT REAL JOBS, either. Top firms that want to hire you will want you to work for their offices in your home country, which is fine if that's your goal.
5) While admissions lets you hype up your previous foreign work experience in essays, interviews, resume etc, NO ONE GIVES A RATS ASS about what you did in Rumania, China, or Brazil once you are here – AMERICANS ARE NOT INTERESTED, and that includes your learning team, classroom, professors, alumni, internship recruiters, and full-time recruiters. If you keep pounding on it in any of these settings, you will come across as an outsider (more than you are already) and awkward.
6) Therefore, if your goal is to stay here, my most important advice for you is GET THE GREENCARD BEFORE YOUR MBA OR AT LEAST AT GRADUATION. How? After all I went through, the ONLY REAL OPTION IS TO GET MARRIED TO A US CITIZEN. Sounds extreme? I have news for you: If you want to make it here as a foreigner, YOU HAVE TO GO TO EXTREMES. You have 2 years to get to know someone, for US people, that's the perfect length of dating. Don’t be too picky, though. There is a reason why someone still isn't married by the time they get into grad school. Esp. women see this as their last chance.
7) Think that immigration reform will conveniently help until you graduate? SORRY, NO. First, it's tweaked to STEM, and you are not. Second, the addtl H1Bs go towards silicon valley needs, and while rare opptys for MBAs at Amazon or Intel will pop up, YOU WILL FIND 1000s OF MBAS FROM PREVIOUS YEARS WAITING FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY who are all hanging in limbo on their OPTs and H1Bs right now. Esp. Indians and Chinese, who get West Coast jobs first. Plus, it is unclear if and when immi reform will go through at all. If the economy picks up, H1Bs will be gone in the first few days of April (as it happened before the fincl crisis), by when you are not ready yet (you graduate in May), plus you will compete with all the tech people who get 90% of them while you are here on the last months of your OPT. The L1 scam (an Indian favorite) is closing fast, too, and rejection of E5 investors is skyrocketing (rich Chinese buying condos and investing in casinos for their spoilt kids in hope of getting the Greencard).
8) Even if you have the Greencard already or get it through marriage, the competition is tense and you are at a disadvantage because you don't speak like an American, don't have the networks, don't think like Americans in terms of connections, and haven't proved yourself yet. Don’t assume that the MBA, the b-school or its alumni can change that much, although many of them will try help you. AGAIN, IF YOU MARRY A US CITIZEN, THIS WILL ALSO PROVIDE YOU WITH THE MUCH NEEDED CULTURAL ASSIMILATION AND LANGUAGE SKILLS and prevent many occasions scratching your head why you didn’t' get the job or promotion and no one telling you openly because that's not what Americans do.
9) I got to know Europeans and Asians from previous years, and even though some of them made nice careers and stayed 10 years or longer, MOST OF THEM RETURNED HOME. I think it goes like this: For 100,000 people who seriously want to come to the US and study, only 10,000 actually get here (I have this from a European exchange student brochure), 1,000 stay here for a few years and get a somewhat good job, and 100 actually make it and become Americans (from my observations). Think about this for a moment -- your chances are 1:1000. At the same time, your chance paying full tuition (100K) and loss of income for 2 years is 100%. That's why going to extremes is necessary as I said before.
10) If you want to get a good degree and return home for a better career, THAT’S A MUCH BETTER IDEA. I had 2 friends that were hired by McK here after graduation and sent back home for a few years ; one of them actually made it back to the US. However, both of them were in high demand by coincident (Chinese and Brazilian), and as we can see with the cooldown of emerging markets, these needs change quickly. If you return home, the MBA should help you greatly IF IT IS FROM A SCHOOL THAT EVERYBODY KNOWS IN YOUR COUNTRY – which means S, H, W, Berkeley, UCLA, Yale (only bec of the movies), and maybe Chicago. NO ONE ABROAD KNOWS TUCK, DARDEN, KELLOG, STERN, etc. and uneducated recruiters will think these are degree mills if you don’t attach the Bus Week ranking each time you apply.
If you still want to get an MBA and stay in the US:
1) ABOVE ALL, BE ABSOLUTELY CLEAR WHAT YOU WANT TO DO AFTER GRADUATION BEFORE YOU EVEN COME HERE! You will have NO TIME to figure it out here! Your classes, student clubs, professors, mentors, alumni connections, internship, full-time search -- ALL THIS MUST BE FOCUSED ON ONE GOAL, otherwise you won't get anything out of your 100K tuition. NO ONE CARES WHAT YOU DID IN FRANCE OR CHINA – ALL THAT COUNTS IS YOUR RELENTLESS FOCUS IN THESE 2 YEARS!
2) You are NOT the customer. The CORPORATIONS are. The b-school is nothing but a recruiting arm for the next generation of employees for its corporate sponsors. So don't behave like a customer, and don't think the b-school has a responsibility to get you a job!
3) Be careful which TYPE of school you chose. See my comment about brand recognition in your country above. In the US, most East Coast schools outside the top 10 are not really appreciated on the West Coast and vice versa. Even inside the top 10, grads from Tuck or Kellogg or Chicago have a hard time in the West. Berkley is seen as a leftist school in the East. Another HUGE factor is countryside verus big city. At Columbia, Stern, H, MIT you find a big number intls and have a better peer experience – but again, THAT DOESN’T HELP WITH A JOB. On the countryside, like UNC Chapel Hill, Tuck, UVA Darden, etc camaraderie is great BUT ONLY AMONG AMERICANS. You will MOSTLY KNOW INTLS, and MOST OF THEM WILL HAVE TO RETURN HOME. So, go with a big city school but try to get to know AS MANY AMERICANS AS YOU CAN – DO NOT HANG OUT WITH PEOPLE FROM YOUR OWN COUNTRY AND DO NOT CONTINUE SPEAKING YOUR LANGUAGE ALL DAY. GET AN AMERICAN ROOMMATE, JOIN CLUBS WHERE THERE ARE MOSTLY AMERICANS, AND STAY AWAY FROM THESE STUPID INTL CLUBS AND FOREIGN COOKOUTS that the schools are organizing to brand themselves as tolerant and colorful, THIS WILL ONLY HOLD YOU BACK FROM INTEGRATING! DO NOT PUT "INTL CLUB" ON YOUR RESUME!
4) Do not expect to make many American friends – at least in the first year. AMERICANS THINK THAT INTLS ARE RETURNING HOME ANYWAY, SO WHY SPEND THE TIME AND EFFORT GETTING TO KNOW YOU? That's why it is so important you stay away from your countrymen – only then Americans will see you mean business, become friends, and suddenly point you to hidden job opptys and connections.
5) Do not expect getting much one-on-one attention from professors, like you see in the movies – that's reserved for AMERICANS. Chances are they know their families or their ex-employer. THIS ALSO MEANS PROFESSORS WILL HELP AMERICANS WITH THEIR JOB SEARCH BUT WILL NOT BURN THEIR VALUABLE CONTACTS WITH YOU WHOM THEY VIEW AS A RISK. Instead, use your interactions with professors to get good grades, this might help a bit with your first job.
6) DO NOT HOLE UP IN YOUR ROOM TO GET STRAIGHT "A"s – you are not in China anymore. Go out and network as much as you can. THE MOMENT YOU SET THE FOOT ON CAMPUS, THE CLOCK IS TICKING UNTIL YOU GET THROWN OUT OT THE COUNTRY. Every connection you make to an AMERICAN can be an asset for your job search so that you can stay here. DO NOT LIVE WITH ANOTHER INTL! Get on the student forum or school matchup website early to find an American roommate before you come here! Be generous – they like presents – and offer up paying for cable or furniture in your roomie search posting, this will make you appear less of an intl pain in the ass. DO NOT LIVE BY YOURSELF, REGARDLESS HOW MUCH MONEY YOUR PARENTS SEND YOU!
7) This is for Asians / Russians / rich kids: You think buying a 80K Audi or BMW upon arrival and joining the car racing club makes you look cool in front of your Harvard classmates? Yes, maybe among the other Asians, but NOT THE AMERICANS. While they might publicly cheer you on and smile, privately among themselves they roll their eyes about you jackass with the big corruption bucks from your Chinese or Russian apparatschik parents. It is the opposite of networking – you just piss everyone off.
8) A word for my Latin American friends (this is from two of my close Latino friends): You now have a large network across US business (not only in the West, but everywhere). So, when you network at school, network with LATINO ALUMNI IN US LEADERSHIP POSITIONS. They are always looking for the next gen. Do not go for low-level Latino clubs, local Latino community etc – these are holding you back. A guy from my class who became SVP Corp Dev at a large bank does not even socialize with my Latino friends anymore because he feels American now and doesn't want to be drawn back-in family-style.
9) I could write an entire 3-page posting about the work environment and what no one is telling you pre-MBA because they either want to sell you on it (b-school), are PC ("politically correct" Americans), or BS you to appear successful (the few alumni from your country who say they made it). However if you are here on an H1B, be prepared that EVERY MANAGER KNOWS IT, will take advantage from you bec you can't switch companies easily (lower pay, slower promotion if at all bec that triggers another H1B approval process, less attention bec you are seen as someone who can return home anytime), and can throw you out ANYTIME ("employment at will", no protections) which means you have 30 DAYS TO LEAVE THE COUNTRY unless you are VERY creative like I was. If you get the Greencard (lottery, marriage, US family ties) it is much better but you are still seen as a foreigner until you learned the American way which HAS NOTHING TO DO WHAT YOU SEE IN THE MOVIES, ESP MAD MEN (except on Wall St). The world of American work consists of "strategic thinking" (=crawling your bosses and co-workers up the ass at every turn and agreeing to everything), ruthlessness, conformism, risk-avoidance, fake appearances ("everything is great" and "he is such a great guy"), vanity (esp. from young privileged people rising to the top in short time and then hitting the wall), hidden connections, and most importantly, a certain race that dominates much of high finance, law, media, politics, and now also silicon valley (this is the strongest network and if you are not born into it there is no chance you will become part or they even deal with you).
10) If a foreign company sends you here (and many Asian do), and you feel you make good progress, DON’T LET THE CONTRACT GET IN YOUR WAY! Get an internship, get a job with a US firm, break the contract and pay them back the tuition over time! YOUR MBA IS 10X MORE WORTH HERE THAN BACK HOME! Don't let your life and opportunities stop short of success in America only because you signed a contract 5000 miles away! Btw – for all of you – that’s a little taste of what American business sense is about!
That's it – hope you got something out of it. I won't read or reply to comments, because – gladly, with my lottery Greencard – I have a busy day. Good luck to y'all!