“Be thoughtful about what you want to do and think about your passions and what gets you excited. People are looking for something that is transferable — passion, excitement and relevant skills for that organization are critical.”
Students come to Wharton’s EMBA program to further their careers, but sometimes this means making a change. Whether they’re looking for a different function or industry, Wharton’s EMBA career services provides students with the necessary resources and support.
Dawn Graham, career management director of the executive MBA program in Philadelphia, recently interviewed students Kent Gryskiewicz and Brian Higgins, who both made career changes during school, about that process.
Here are edited versions of those talks:

Kent Gryskiewicz, WG’15 

Can you give us an overview of the change you made?

I previously worked in corporate strategy for a large systems integration firm, focusing on growth with new service lines and markets. I used that experience to move to consulting at McKinsey.

What resources did you use at Wharton to help with this change?

The biggest resource was the Wharton and EMBA network. I focused on what I wanted to do from a career perspective and then asked as many people as possible to help me identify where that could happen. I also talked to career services about what would be a good fit and then slowly narrowed it down to the types of companies that had that culture and activities I wanted.

From there I found more specific groups. My job opportunity came not from recruiting, but from a conversation that started with, “Hey, why don’t you come down and meet us,” which led to “Why don’t you come back and meet 15 people,” which led to a job offer. It was an organic process of networking and taking the time to think about what I wanted to do.

What tips can you share for someone looking to make a similar change?

Be thoughtful about what you want to do and think about your passions and what gets you excited. People are looking for something that is transferable — passion, excitement and relevant skills for that organization are critical.

Also, use the network as a resource to have discussions so you can identify whether this is a good move for you. Obviously, you’ll fail once or twice because not everything will be the right fit. Use the Wharton network as well as the EMBA specific network.

And use the career office. We had opportunities to get coaching on things like resume building and how you interview. Another resource was my Wharton classmates. We’d work at night on how you’d present yourself in an interview and on case questions to understand how to effectively come across in 30- minute sessions with someone who could have major impact on your career. The practice and prep work was critical, and Wharton gives you those tools.

Brian Higgins, WG’15

What kind of career change did you make?

I came to Wharton [with a military background] with the idea of making a career change. I went through the whole process of not knowing what I wanted to do at all to resume and interview prep to on-campus recruiting. I accepted an offer at a high-end consulting firm.

What resources did you use at Wharton to make that change?

I used just about everything put in front of me. I worked with career counselors on translating things in my resume that are impressive to people in the military to things that would be impressive to recruiters and hiring managers in the private sector. I did mock interviews and worked with classmates on the prep.

All of that was great, but none of it was as important as using the Wharton and EMBA network to talk to folks in industries so I could know what the job was all about. The most important thing was understanding what people like about their job, why people leave, and what people are doing at 4 pm on a Tuesday.

I wanted to understand those nitty gritty details so I did my homework to know what the job would be. The only way to get that knowledge is to talk to people in the industry and the only way to do that is to use the Wharton network.

How did you translate your military skills to the private sector?

I talked with folks, especially career counselors to know what hiring managers will value. You have to succinctly communicate those skills to someone who isn’t familiar with what it means to lead a platoon.

There are certain things in your background that you may not think are impressive, but that will be impressive to a hiring manager. Conversely, there are things you think are impressive that are irrelevant to a finance job.

How much time should a student expect to put into the job transition process?

The cliché is that finding a job is a job in and of itself. That was true for me. It’s easier if you start way in advance of when you want to be interviewing and spend 10-15 hours a week on it rather than waiting six weeks to a month before interviews to start cramming it in.

Between networking, case interview prep, and the other sort of resume work, I spent 10-15 hours a week for three to four months in advance of interviews. I felt very prepared, maybe over prepared, but I wouldn’t have wanted to do less.

Posted: May 1, 2015

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