Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Shark...

Hello Dirt Readers,
It's that time of year again. That oh-so-dreaded time of year. Not tax season (although, that's a close second). No, I'm talking about something that involves being critiqued, berated, and judged by a group of peers. I'm talking about a process that's more rigorous than a marathon, more stressful than any test you've taken, and will play a major role in determining where you spend 40-60 hours a week, every week, possibly for the rest of your life. That's right people...i'm talking job interviews.

Doesn't it seem like yesterday that you just heard me bitching about finding a job? If you'll recall, after a couple of lackluster interviews, a 9.6% unemployment rate and absolutely no help from my university ("it's such a rough economy right now"), I basically decided to say "screw it" and run off to study abroad in Germany for a month.

Well now it's a year later and not much has changed. Unemployment is now 9.4% (mostly because people have just given up looking for jobs...yay?), my university has no career counselor for MBA's (because of the last one being completely incompetent), and I'm doing another round of interviews again.

I actually just interviewed with a biotech company that has one of the most rigorous interview processes that I have seen. So far I've had a phone interview, and 2 in person interviews. The last interview alone took 3 hours, involved an excel test, a personality test, and a PowerPoint presentation! Yikes, talk about high pressure.

Regardless of whether I got the job or not, one thing is obvious...although the economy is picking up, it's still an extremely competitive market out there. If your a first year MBA, your competing with second year MBA's. If your a second year, your up against graduates. And at the end of the day, the employers win, because they have their pick of the litter.

And you know what...this is F*&king scary. As a job hunter, walking into an interview felt a bit like an episode of American Idol. As a matter of fact, I definitely had a cheerful Paula, a down to earth Randy, and a rigorous and "in charge" Simon (complete with British accent!) critiquing my every response. It was absolutely nerve racking, and who knows how many people are gunning for the same job. Is it 3? 5? 10? At the end of this do I get a little placard that says "You're hired!" or do I get booted, only to be seen in a  cheap highlight reel of those who didn't make it?

This interview culminated in the delivery of a PowerPoint about the company to, ironically, the general manager who had been at the company for 10+ years. This to me seemed a bit presumptuous ("let me tell you how you should run your own company!"), but hey maybe I did well. Or maybe they thought "who the hell is this kid with the PowerPoint?".

Let's just say getting judged is stressful, and in this economy were all just numbers, guppies in the ocean if you will.

What the he'll is my point? Do I have one? Probably not. No wait, I think I do...my point is, as special and unique as you might have thought you were, your not. So don't waltz into an interview like a guppy, because you're not guaranteed shit in this barren US economy.

So what do you do when you get in that interview room? Be a friggin shark. Reverse the whole process. Ask the company what sets them apart from the competition. Why do your employees choose to work here? What's your work culture like? Do people rush to clock out at 5? Do you participate in corporate social responsibility practices? In my PowerPoint I managed to stick in a far side cartoon. Why? Because it showed I had a sense of humor, yet still managed to work it into my argument at the time. Why?

Because "Screw it", that's why.

Giving canned answers, predictable PowerPoints, and smiling and nodding doesn't work anymore. And if I'm going out, screw it, I'm going out in style.

When I gave my PowerPoint I was very forward about some of the weaknesses the company had. I think that some of the people got a little uncomfortable hearing about improvements I suggested. Maybe they like the fact that I was open minded about some of the improvements I made and strategies i suggested. Maybe they didn't. Regardless, if you're a company hiring and Don't like hearing about the weaknesses of you're company and how I have some ideas about how to tackle them (which I did in my presentation)? Then screw it, because when I interview with your competitor, guess what, I know what your weaknesses are AND that you prefer to turn a blind eye rather than tackle these weaknesses aggressively. It also shows that you don't want me to think critically, you want me to just do what I'm told.

And you know what? screw that.

Like I've said before and I'll say again, I didn't go into business school to box myself into a corner. I want doors to burst open. I want every opportunity that this world can give me. I want someone to use the degree I earned, not just shove me in a corner doing excel with the possibility of promotion to a middle management position in 5 years because I have an MBA.

Am i smart? Damn straight. Do I seem cocky? A little. But at the end of the day one fact remains. I'm either going to work for you or one of your competitors. So I ask you, company X...do you want me working for you, or against you?

Your move.

Until next time.

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