Navigating the Post-MBA Job Hunt Landscape

Cecily Liu

Leaving an MBA without a job can be a scary experience – just imagine having lots of fun on your graduation trip, but at the back of your mind knowing that soon you need to venture into the real world of job hunting can be quite a scary experience!  

Worse still, after you leave the supportive environment of INSEAD and don’t manage to find a job for a few months, that can be a really scary experience – unlike exams that you just have to study for, job hunting is a task without any set timeline or right and wrong answers, so how do you navigate this landscape?
I was in this position a few months ago, and to be very frank it was a very stressful time. However, looking back, I’m grateful for the journey, and almost feel glad that I didn’t get a job straight away otherwise I would have missed a lot of the scenery on this path!
After INSEAD, I was really trying to engage my level of INSEAD academic rigour to job applications! I was applying for about 300-500 jobs a week (the hours I’ve put in were far worse than the worst work-life balance you hear about at INSEAD! It’s funny to think about it now, but at the time I was so desperate). And the worst part was receiving all the rejections, which made me start to doubt myself, because I felt I was not capable of doing anything. 
However, the INSEAD community helped me so much in regaining my confidence and energy level. I went to an INSEAD alumni event and met Gaby Glasener-Cipollone, who leads the Communications work for the INSEAD UK Alumni Association. Gaby invited me to help with the INSEAD UK Alumni Association’s communications work, so I started to engage and surprised myself by how much fun it was (as a former journalist, I knew how to do the work, so I received validation for all the tasks I performed, and it helped me pick up my confidence). 

Meanwhile, I received a lot of help from the INSEAD Careers Development Centre, and as a result of researching and interviewing for many jobs globally I connected with a few dozen alumni across four continents (Europe, Asia, North America, Oceania).

I could not believe how generous they were with their time, and how absolutely encouraging towards me – for example one alum, who is an MD of a big advertising firm, spent an hour on Zoom helping me to edit my CV!

I also connected with alumni from all walks of life – consulting, NGOs, government, sustainable finance, marketing and much more! I learnt so much about different sectors, and much of this knowledge helped me to reflect on who I am and want to be. 

After a few months of job applications, I am now in my dream job. I’m now working in London as ESG Consultant at ISS, specialising in Sustainable Finance. My team provides critical sustainability opinions on Green, Social and Sustainability-Linked Bonds and delivers training to various Debt Capital Market stakeholders looking to advance their ESG strategy. I also contribute to product and methodology development, pilot consulting and training for bond issuers, and to support the high growth of the business. 

I love my job because I feel green finance is such a meaningful way to help align capital market incentives with environmental objectives and other sustainable development goals. I’m grateful that many of my INSEAD lessons (especially the ‘Sustainable Finance’ elective module led by Professor Lucie Tepla) are super helpful for my job and that I’m making a difference.
So, what are my main takeaways on job applications? Here’s a summary: 

  1. Don’t ever doubt yourself as a result of rejections. Most of the time it’s because of the wrong fit, and not that you are not good enough for the role, so never allow rejections to diminish your confidence (I’ve experienced rejections where interviewers reached out afterwards to say they would love to keep in touch when a role with a better fit comes along, which is very reassuring).
  2. Actively ask for feedback from roles you’ve been rejected from (I’ve had super useful feedback, which helped me in subsequent interviews).
  3. Network, network, network! The INSEAD alumni community is super helpful – just reach out via Linkedin when someone’s profile/industry/company/role looks interesting, and ask for a coffee chat
  4. Don’t spend 24/7 applying for jobs! I learnt this from experience – it’s exhausting and unnecessary! Spend a good chunk of your time applying for jobs, and take time to do other things you enjoy! That way, you will feel energised and motivated - and when the right job comes along you’ll be in your best mood to grab it!
  5. Budget in 3-6 months for the job hunt – job applications take time. Sometimes you need to wait for the right role to come along, sometimes you need a lot of conversations to carve out a unique new role in a team (especially applicable for startups and fast-growth teams), so no need to rush it. 
  6. Apply, apply, apply, but do not ‘exhaust’ your pipeline! Applying for lots of jobs is easy to understand, but it’s also key to ensure that you do not ‘exhaust’ your pipeline. Once you’re in advanced stages of interviewing for a handful of jobs, it’s easy to get lazy and not apply for new ones thinking that probably one of the many you’re applying for will eventuate! The problem with this approach is that you may end up in a situation of doing last rounds for several of the jobs you’ve spent weeks applying and interviewing for, but they fall through simultaneously. Then, it’s very time-consuming to launch a new batch of applications (which probably take another 1-2 months to reach advanced rounds of interviews). Worse still, you may be caught in a situation that in the advanced rounds you realise you don’t like any of these jobs anymore (truth is, you start to learn more and more about these companies in advanced rounds), but the journey to start new applications is so time-consuming, that you may take the lazy approach of just accepting an offer – which may not be in your best interest, so having other applications in the pipeline is always helpful even if in the end you don’t need them!

I’m super glad that I have my dream job now, and I’m almost glad that I did not get a job straight away – for all the experience and friendships I developed with other INSEADers along this journey is certainly a part of the INSEAD magic I wouldn’t want to miss. I’m glad to be sharing my journey with you, and GOOD LUCK for getting your dream job too!