Yes, There Are MBA-Level Startup Jobs Out There: Impressions from the Sloan School Tech Trek
When I first moved from Detroit to Boston a year ago, I discovered a plethora of opportunities in technology companies that are not available anywhere else. Unfortunately, I’ve found that personal connections sometimes matter more than resume credentials in finding a job in the start-up technology space.
As a second year MBA student at MIT Sloan School of Management who graduates in May, I will be jumping head-first into the
workforce in an economically difficult time. I am focusing exclusively on Boston start-up technology companies, which means I may not have a finalized job offer until April. Start-ups rarely know what their cash position will be three weeks from now let alone three months from now. If this all seems a little gloomy, well, then you are spot on. Business has never been tougher in recent history for fledgling ventures (unless you ran a dot-com back in 2000). So what is a poor MBA supposed to do?
Network as if your life depends on it.
Putting together a cold-call campaign is quite a daunting task for one person. The sheer volume of companies in the Boston area is enough to make my head spin. Furthermore, a target company may not have the time or resources to recruit and select from dozens of individuals who want a full-time job. Assuming I do not wave a stack of venture money in front of him or her, I find it hard to believe that a CEO will take an hour of his or her time to chat about jobs with me. How am I going to solve this dilemma?
Well, if I brought a group of MBA students all at once on a company visit, the company saves on recruiting costs. In addition, my classmates and I would get access to top executives at the companies of our choice. Sounds like a plan to me!
Years ago, a group of MIT Sloan MBA students and school administrators had the same revelation and called it the “tech trek.” The MIT Sloan School of Management created the Massachusetts Technology Trek (MTT) to give students an advantage by connecting them face to face with Boston area startups. The premise of the MTT is simple. Small groups of students meet with local companies to listen to a presentation by top executives. Students run the whole program with the assistance of school administration and this year they arranged for 32 company visits over 3 days.
Connections are the name of the game in this tough economy. From this couple of days of networking I received a solid foundation to begin my job hunt this spring. I netted follow-up coffee chats and e-mail conversations with some of the fastest growing tech companies in the greater Boston area. CEOs and directors from startups such as Vlingo, Pongr, JumpTap and HubSpot all took a seat to talk with me about their companies. The conversations got rolling along and I am now further toward getting a job than my classmates who did not attend the MTT.
So can you get a job out there? I assert that you can, but you need to get in the door first. Using the MIT brand name certainly helped me to open doors. Alumni want to help you; otherwise, they would hide from the alumni database. Leading a pack full of focused, excited MBA students also helps to get the ball rolling. Strength is always in numbers.
However, I think the most critical traits for getting a job in this economy are being creative and being assertive. The organizers of the MTT did not wait for CEOs and directors to call them for a time-slot. My fellow students sold themselves as an asset this company would want to have visit any day. So too will I sell my strengths and create projects that bring instant value to any start-up I join. Companies have pains and you can use this to your advantage. Is your dream startup running out of cash? Come in the door with a list of alumni VCs or maybe a few sales leads for their flagship product. Your imagination is the only bound to what value you can bring.
Now back to the issue of MBA-level jobs. I feel better now that I see all the work that someone needs to do inside the companies I visited. Cash-strapped companies desire the biggest bang for their VC dollar in terms of talent, now more than ever. Building companies is a full-time job and I think there is plenty of work to go around. If you are a MBA student and you’re graduating this year: keep your head up—and network hard.