Archive for July, 2010

Careers Question: Why Haven’t I Received An Offer From My Summer Employer Yet?

In a bad economy, layoffs and hiring freezes are the norm.  So not only are companies downsizing, but they’re also more hesitant to bring in new employees and making fewer offers to summer interns. Objectively, this makes sense, as company managers strive to reduce costs and cut budgets as soon as possible. But that objectivity changes when it starts to happen at your company. And it really hits home when you come to realize that your position is impacted.  Whether a good economy or bad one, one thing to keep in mind is that every job is still a sales job, because ultimately you have to sell yourself.  And in a recent question I received on, a summer intern asked a question exactly about that.

In a recent question from a visitor on GottaMentor a member had a question about getting an offer after her summer internship.  Although the member thought she was having a great summer at the firm, it turns out that she has yet to receive an offer at the firm, while another intern that has been getting guidance from her all summer did receive an offer.  Not understanding what happened, she is worrying about her future prospects at the firm and also trying to reconcile why things happened the way they did.

I thought this was a great question that’s especially relevant in today’s economic environment.  Although the writer didn’t make specific reference to the economy, it still plays large part in hiring decisions today and interns are more reliant on getting an full time offer than ever before.  I also thought that there were some very clear takeaways to discuss regarding how to sell yourself in the workplace.  So I framed my response by discussing those takeaways and then discussing what I might do if I were in her situation.

As I’ve done in the past, I am putting this post on my website to showcase, an careers internet start-up company that I contribute to.  I recommend that everyone take a quick look at the site and consider joining if it makes sense for you.

Below is the reader’s question, and below that is my response.

Reader’s Question

My coworker – let’s call him Joe, and I started our internships at the same time in the same department. Joe frequently asks for my help, mostly with excel modeling or to explain procedures to him. Even though he seems to understand most of it, he comes back to me several times a day to check if he has it right. We are nearing the end of the internship and I found out that Joe received a full time offer! I did not receive an offer and am totally dumbfounded.

Everyone knows that I help this guy and that he’s totally dependent on me. Other coworkers have even mentioned it to me. I can’t believe my manager hasn’t noticed. I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but should I tell my manager that I should be the one receiving the offer?


My Response

Dear (Name),

It’s hard to give a strong opinion without understanding more of the context of your story. But in the end, I think there are a couple of lessons you can take away from the summer.

1. One lesson is that even though hard work is critical in any organization, success in business is often about more than that. Among dozens of other things, it’s about fitting in culturally, showing passion for the work, selling yourself to those you work with, and being someone who others want on their team. Similarly, as “anonymous” mentioned previously, the ability to “ask for help and clarify things when necessary” is a skill organizations definitely look for.

2. Another lesson is that it’s not only about the models you build and how good you are technically, but it’s also how you deliver the information and the relationships you build with the people you work with. This is true in every profession, even the most technical ones. In this example, if you had a good relationship with the coworker, you might have leverage to ask the context of how he/she received an offer. The same might also hold true with your manager.

3. And one final takeaway is the importance of having sponsors. I won’t take credit for the takeaway, since it’s something John Rice mentions on his GottaMentor profile. “As you demonstrate that you are competent and can get things done, it becomes all about the relationships. It is not who you know, but instead it is who knows you well and thinks highly enough that they will go to bat for you.”

If you’ve already shown #1, now might be the time to work on those relationships and see if anyone will go to bat for you regarding a full time offer. After all, if everyone knows you do quality work like you said, and if you are a good fit for the organization, then I suspect you’ll at least get the company’s attention. But as a summer intern that has only been at the company a short time, you may not want to overplay your “relationships” card. On the other hand, it probably does make sense to really speak up about how much you like the company and that you’d be thrilled to come back, if that’s actually the case.

In the end, I’d also recommend that you do your best to leave a positive impression no matter how things turn out. The world is small and it’s likely you’ll run into one or more of your current coworkers again if you start your career in the industry. Similarly, if it turns out that the company has another job opening, then the company would probably consider you for the position. And finally, it’s likely that you’ll need a recommendation or a reference at some point.

Good luck!

Saturday, July 31st, 2010 Careers 2 Comments

Applicant Question: How To Discuss Short and Long-Term Career Goals?

Writing essays for business school is a daunting task.  Applicants usually find it difficult to decide what story they want to tell the committee and as a result they have a tough time bringing all the details of their essays together.  That’s because some applicants are unhappy in their current jobs. These people invest a lot of time discussing the job they want after business school, but neglect talking about what they want to do in the long term.  Another group of applicants is more idealistic. They are strongly compelled by their long term goals, but in the meantime don’t articulate actionable steps to achieve them.  In my experience speaking with hundreds of applicants, many of them tend to fall into one of these categories.  That was confirmed in a couple of recent phone conversations I had last week with applicants who will be applying to business school this fall.

Just last week I spoke with two business school applicants.  One was like the first person I mentioned above. He didn’t like his current job and was focused on working in a very specific role after school. The other was just the opposite, focused on what he wanted to do ten years from now and willing to do anything he could to get there, no matter what industry or function.

In a sense, I could relate to both of them.  On one hand, I’ve been in jobs I didn’t like and felt like I had to maintain a laser focus on making my next move, so at the time I didn’t spend as much time thinking about my long term my career path.  On the other hand, I’ve also come to find the value in keeping the bigger picture in mind, especially when more opportunities become available. Today, I tend to spend most of time thinking about things from that perspective.

But specifically in terms of business school application, both the short and long term are important.  Without a long term plan, you’ll miss trends, be more likely to follow the crowd, won’t adapt to changing economic circumstances like today’s economy, and may not head down the path that makes the most sense for you.  On the other hand, without short-term goals, you may never even make it to the long term, because competition for post-MBA jobs is still and applications for business school are higher than ever. So being focused will give you an advantage.

Ultimately, both of my conversations ended on this idea of short-term goals.  That’s because admissions committees, at times, tend to be more interested in seeing those stated clearly in applications. And that’s especially true today, where the job market is contracted, and the committee will want to ensure that students can get jobs immediately after school in the slumping economy.  On the other hand, admissions committees are at times also more likely to give deference to an applicant’s long-term goals.  That’s both because many young professionals can’t articulate what they’ll be doing tens years from now, and also because even when they can most still end up changing their minds anyhow.

During my discussions, I talked about a couple of things with the applicants, and specifically discussed how to address these short term career options in their essays.  The list below isn’t exhaustive but it’s a short recap of what I recall discussing about in both of my calls. I hope the information is helpful.

1. Play to your strengths. Applicants should leverage things they have experience in and the things they do best, and then they should discuss how they will continue doing those things going forward.  Don’t get me wrong,  I’m a generalist at heart, and  I always think it makes sense to try new things and get as broad experience as possible.  On the other hand, focusing on your strengths will show you have a unique skill set to bring to the table and will differentiate you as a candidate.  Keep in mind, part of playing to your strengths means being explicit with details and discussing how those strengths will allow you to add specific value.  One, this will prove that your experience was one of substance, and second, organizations always want to add someone who will add value to their community.

2. Do (and discuss) things to reinforce your image. Applicants should also take part in activities that reinforce their image and make them a better fit for their short-term goals.  This means taking part in activities that enhance their story and help you develop the image they want to convey.  For example, if you want to be a project manager, then volunteering on community based projects would be useful. Similarly, if you want to enter the media space or be seen as a technology person, starting a website or helping an organization start one will demonstrate interest and experience.  There’s not much science behind it, but people should consider getting involved in activities that are correlated to their short-term goals as a way to not only show interest but also to build skills.  And during the interview, be sure to discuss it.

3. Understand the context of your surroundings. You should do the best you can to surround yourself with people that have common interests and similar values. These might be people you want to work with, or people who want to work you.  If you can find people at your career stage and have similar career goals you can leverage each other’s resources and work together. For example, if you want to enter the consulting industry, working together to research firms and practice cases is key.  Similarly, if you can find people that are older than you, then maybe they’ll eventually serve as a mentor,  and if you can find younger people, then you can do the same.  In the end, the more information you can obtain and the more people you can work with, the better off you will be and as a result the better off your applications and interviews will be.

4. Create an angle. In every circumstance, you want your resume/ application reviewer to walk away with a very clear picture of who you are.  So do your best to convey not only why you’re a good fit for an organization but also the things that make you unique and suggest that you would have real impact right away (i.e in the short-term).  And this idea of impact is especially true for people who are really good fits, because good fits tend to be the most common types of applicants to jobs and business schools – good fits in terms of grades, prescribed career path, and academic history.  But often times, there’s only a baseline of intelligence needed to do well in a professional environments, depending on the nature of the job or the industry that you’re in, so those who stand out, often do so because they have unique experiences and bring different perspective to the table.  But even if you can’t point to that any measurable impact, creating an angle will still usually tend to make you more memorable.

5. Give details. And last but not least, it’s important to provide details.  That’s because details evince that you’ve done your research, prove that you have not only the relevant experiences to contribute, but also the substantive understanding of the job role at hand.  So be sure to give details of your experiences, not your impressions, and when possible take that further by discussing  insights that your experience has given you and how those insights will also be helpful.  In the end, being explicit about how details played out in the past and how you will specifically contribute in the future will help you stand out from the crowd.

Good luck!

Monday, July 26th, 2010 Admissions, Business School, Careers 1 Comment

#AskJeremy – Applicant Question: Asking for an MBA Recommendation Letter?

Taking the time to write a detailed recommendation is easier said than done.  Writing a good one will take at least a couple of hours, though it’s more likely that it will take longer if the writer invests time to make it good.  The person has to get to know you and your resume in more detail, think about your accomplishments both professionally and personally, reflect on your career trajectory as an employee and eventually as an employee with an MBA, and then put all of that together to come up with something insightful and hopefully compelling.  Like I said, easier said than done.  So if that’s true, how should you approach someone who you really want to write it for you, especially if they do not have much time?

It’s finally that time again. Summer is in full swing; we’re already in the last week of July; and people are finally starting to get serious about business school applications, especially those who intend to submit round one applications in October.   I remember this time for me two years ago – I had just began studying for the GMAT, had drafts for a few of my essays,  and was thinking about how I could help my recommenders write good letters without taking too much of their time. It felt like a lot of things were going on at the same time.

Well, it sounds like many MBA applicants are feeling the same thing now.  And  I recently received a question from one of my readers about this very topic – how to get an MBA recommendation in the midst of everything else going on too.  The reader’s question was short and simple, asking for ways to approach a busy recommender.  I’ll note that there’s a lot of information about the topic online already.  So instead of writing a laundry list of items you could get online anyway, I thought I’d provide a few specific tips that you may not have thought about. Hopefully it is helpful.

See below for the question, and below that for my response.



Dear Jeremy

I was wondering if you could provide a bit of information on MBA recommendations.  Specifically what is the best way to approach my writer to ensure I get the best recommendation possible. My recommender is busy, but I really want to be sure that he writes it for me if possible. But I’m finding that process hard to manage giving everything else I’m worry about as well.

Thank you in advance.



Dear (name),

Thanks for reading my site and for sending your question. Your question comes at a good time, as I’ve recently received a couple of emails on this topic and because now is a great time to start thinking about your recommendation strategy.

Conventional wisdom suggests that your letters of recommendation are one of the least important parts of your applications, taking a back seat to essays, resume, GMAT, the data form, and the interview.  While it’s true that the other parts are important, in my view, the recommendation is still an important piece, not only of the application but also your story as an applicant.. It provides a different and unbiased perspective on the application. It can provide color on things you didn’t have time to expand on due to limited space. It can confirm or negate assumptions that the admissions committee may be making about your application. And it can tell if someone really thinks highly of you, by how much time and thought they put into your letter.

But asking someone to take the time and energy to do that is no easy task.  In fact, for most people, asking often feels like an inconvenience if you’re asking for multiple schools, and  even worse if you’re applying to schools that require a lot of work.

As such, here are a few ways that for some people tend to ease the process, which hopefully will ensure that your boss is more likely write your recommendation and also write a good one.

1. Ask someone who knows you well. This is the tip you hear from every source out there, but it’s still definitely true. These people tend to be more willing to take the time to write thorough, detailed letters. And they also know more about you so will help round out your application. This is especially for important for dual degree programs, such as a JD-MBA, where the committee may be looking for more nuanced responses that address multiple skill sets. People who know you well are better equipped to provide this perspective.

2. Ask in person. It usually makes sense to ask someone in person if you can. That way you can tell them a compelling story about why you’re deciding to apply, you can get a response right away rather than wait, and you can gage their reaction and level of organization, which might help you understand how much you’ll have to steer them along. Further, you’ll have the chance to communicate how important it is to you, which will ensure they understand the importance of the letter.

3. Highlight why you picked them. When you ask a person to write a letter, it makes sense to tell them why you are asking them specifically.  It will likely  make them feel flattered, and more importantly, it will also give them information on what you had in mind when you wanted them to write. That should give them some initial direction and provide some food for thought before they actually begin writing your letter.

4. Provide an outline. You should make it easy on your writer by providing an outline. Doing this will ensure they don’t have to spend too much time thinking about the basics and that they don’t have to go through old files and performance reviews to get caught up. On the other hand, be sure you don’t make the outline too long, or unorganized, since most writers will want to go through multiple pages to get started.

5. Do small things to make it easier for them. In addition to giving your writer an outline, you should also consider writing some background info on the specific school, provide them with all the links and passwords, alert them periodically to the upcoming deadlines, and maybe offer to walk them through the question beforehand. You should also put everything in one document and one email. Helped them get organized and by doing all the small things for them.

6. Give the writer a chance to say no. It’s always good to give your potential recommender a chance to easily say “no.”  Not only are you not likely to get a good letter from someone who doesn’t want to write it anyways but also sometimes things do come up. But in most cases, if you ask someone who knows you well, they probably won’t decline, so you shouldn’t have much to worry about.  But it is always smart to consider having a few other possible recommenders in mind just in case you need to find a substitute later on.

Good luck!

For responses to more recent questions, see the #AskJeremy segment

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010 Admissions, Business School 5 Comments

Law School Graduation And The Bar Exam

Have you ever waited for a special moment just to find it wasn’t everything you thought it would be? Like finally graduating from college after four years but then realizing that you had one more course before you actually got your diploma. Or running a marathon and when after running for hours you were excited to finally turn the last corner, but when you looked up you realized that you had another couple of miles to go.   Well something similar happens with law students, not only at Northwestern but at every school.  And after experiencing the euphoria of graduation, walking down the isle, and getting their law school diplomas, the students still have to take the Bar Exam at the end of July.

At long last, the Northwestern Law Class of 2010 finally made it. The law school class officially graduated back in May, and my JD-MBA classmates graduated from Kellogg in June, since it’s a quarter system.  And what a momentous occasion! After giving it all they had to survive the workload of the 1L year, spending dozens of hours interviewing at firms, agencies, and organizations the very next fall, finding jobs in one of the  most depressed legal economies of all time, and then surviving the final year of school despite thinking it would never be over, they finally made it.  Congratulations everyone!

But unfortunately, as good as that news sounds, it’s not quite as good as you think.  Unlike MBA students and students in other graduate program, instead of starting new jobs, going on lavish vacations, and enjoying summer time on the beach in Chicago, the newly minted law school alums have spent the past two months studying for the bar exam.  In fact, on my way to work today, I passed three new alums who were headed to campus at 7am to study for the day.

But there is one piece of good news. That news is that the exam is next Tuesday, so one week from now, all those things I said above, will become reality for 3Ls everywhere. I’m sure it will be a time of great celebration.

In any event, best of luck to everyone studying.  And if you’ve put in the work all summer, then don’t worry, people pass and I’m sure you’ll do great.

And a special good luck to all those at Northwestern Law!

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 Careers, Law School No Comments

Careers Question: Should I Confront The Other Intern? Or Should I Tell My Manager?

Have you ever saved a file at work, just to return the next day to find out that it looked different than it did the day before? I have.  And I bet you have too. Did you think that someone else changed your file, either purposefully or mistakenly, and that your real work was compromised as a result? Or instead did you assume that it was your fault and that you must have done something wrong? It’s often the case in these situations that a manager will come up to you and to address the mistakes. In such cases, you can either defend yourself and ensure that your boss understood that the mistakes were not your. Or you can agree to fix the work that you’ve, often never actually resolving the misunderstanding that actually happened. In my experience, most people have been in both situations before and often they find it hard to manage this conflict.

In a recent on, a person asked me just that. “I believe someone is trying to sabotage my work” the person said. The person mentioned that they love their job, and want to make a good impression because they’d like to return to the firm, but on multiple occasions they have found their work on the shared drive changed and the person has reason to believe that one of the fellow co-workers may have played a part.

It’s a tough question, and a hard one to answer without knowing more of the facts at hand. But I did have a few thought to share around the idea of handing conflict at work.  See below for the message (part of the message), and below that for my response.

And also be sure to check out for hundreds of similar question on careers guidance and information.



For the summer I am interning at a financial services firm.  I love it.  However, I think an intern in my group is trying to sabotage me.

On at least three occasions work that I saved to the shared drive was altered and errors were inserted.  I don’t have proof it was her, but I’m 100% sure that the documents were altered because the last two times I kept hard copies of my work before I left for the evening.  When I returned in the morning the documents had been changed.  How should I handle this?  Do I tell my manager or confront her directly?


Dear (Name),

The advice you received that you should “not insinuate bad motives or imply fault” hit the nail on the head. And I also agree that you should definitely not be quick to point fingers if you decide to chat with the supervisor.

Why? First, because you don’t actually know what happened. After all, mistakes do happen. Maybe the wrong copy of something got saved or perhaps there are IT or Microsoft problems. Similarly, maybe someone was given permission to check out the file and happened to make a couple of honest mistakes. And it’s also possible that at least of the errors did turn out to be yours. It’s happened to the best of us.

But even if neither of those are the case and someone did change your files with malicious intent, you still don’t have the proof that it happened or that there was mal-intent behind the action.  And even if you did have proof, in most cases, it’d still be a really bad idea to battle a coworker, especially give you’re still an intern. And that’s especially true now, given that economic times are tough and getting a FT offer for a job is more difficult than ever. At the very least you’ll want to walk away with a recommendation letter but ideally you’d like to come back, as you mentioned.

So instead of thinking about confrontation, and rather than playing the blame game when you discuss the situation with your manager, in my view the best thing to do is stand up for yourself without being defensive, and without blaming.

Being defensive is rarely the right answer. It usually comes off as a negative reaction, it tends to evoke negative emotions from others, and no matter what actually happened, it may look like you are doing your best to avoid responsibility. After all, the project was yours, and you were responsible to finish the work both accurately and completely. And from what you mentioned, it looks like you likely did a pretty good job of that.

On the other hand, keeping your cool tends work well in a majority of cases. Keeping your cool as you summarize the details of the project, walk through the facts of the answers and the subject change, and as you show the original file so that the manager knows exactly what happened. Part of that means being prepared to give any factual details if the supervisor asks you questions about the “right” answer and about what happened. It also means being patient to let the supervisor speak, even though you’ll be excited to tell your part of the story.  Similarly, you should try to keep your composure, smile when you can, and show confidence in your work, rather than anger at the situation.

And finally, if you’re up to the challenge, you should also be thankful for the parts of the feedback that are constructive, even given in the midst of controversy, because that shows that you can keep an eye on the bigger picture and that you’re above the back and forth that often happens at the ground level. And if you do that you’ll not only be better off now as an intern and be more likely to get an offer at the end of the summer, but it will also be good practice for when you get a high impact leadership role and need to manage conflict of an entire organization.

Sunday, July 18th, 2010 Careers, Leadership No Comments

#AskJeremy: Applicant Question – Can I Transfer To The JD-MBA Program?

The business and legal industries are radically changing.  Today it’s impossible to escape complex legal issues as a CEO in business. Similarly, if you’re a leading corporate lawyer, you consistently run into firm and client business issues, especially in today’s environment.  How can an employee who’s been in the industry for years keep up? And even if they can, would they be better off being trained in both business and law?  While some students know early that they want both degrees, others decide to make a career change later in their careers.  And then there’s a third group that comes to the conclusion during their first year of law school.

I recently received an email about someone in that very position.  They are interested in attending Northwestern Law and asked about transferring from Northwestern Law into the JD-MBA program.  If you’ve done a few Google searches, you’ve probably noticed that it’s not a topic that has a whole lot of public information, and in my view one where the answer is highly dependent on the specific person.

Nonetheless, I’ll provide a few of my thoughts here, and also present you with how I might think about the decision if I were in your shoes.  But I’ll also preface that given the lack of information, I won’t make many assertions and unfortunately can’t provide many data-driven answers.

See below for the question and below that for my response.



Dear Jeremy

Thanks for the blog. I was wondering how feasible it is to transfer from the NU JD program into the JD/MBA program. I spoke to admissions, but they did not seem to provide a very clear answer. Do you know if JD transfers to the JD/MBA program are common?




Hi (Name)

Thanks so much for visiting my site and for sending your question. I’ll preface my response  by saying that, as I alluded to in my intro paragraph, this is definitely a tricky topic, which is likely why the response from admissions may have “seemed” a bit unclear to you.  Not only is it a topic without much concrete information to begin with, but it’s also one that’s turns out to be more convoluted than you might think.

As you’ve probably already noticed here on Northwestern’s website, the JD-MBA program, unlike Northwestern Law School, does not accept transfers from other schools.  I suspect there are a number of reasons for that, one being that the JD-MBA program is considered a real joint “program,” not two disjointed graduate school programs.  As such, it has a handpicked class that gets to know each other well during the first year, the students are afforded the opportunity to strategically take certain electives in the fall that you would likely not take at another school, and we go through the same recruiting process together for our shortened and more intense first summer.

On the other hand, as you deduced, there is no “formal” policy against transferring from the law school to the JD-MBA program.  So why the unclear answer from admissions?  Probably because the process is  unclear, and also because transfers are not typical in the program.  One reason may be because transfers are not typical to MBA programs generally, which is the program you’d be in at the start of your second year upon transferring.  And if you’ve taken the time to look at our site, the JD-MBA application process at Northwestern is managed out of Kellogg.

Another reason, which is much less concrete, is that admissions has always been somewhat of a “black box” anyways. And that’s not just at Northwestern, but it’s the case at most top schools, especially business schools.  That’s because admissions has to balance determining the composition of a class, aligning competitive test scores and GPAs, looking at things like diversity of background and country of origin, read your personal story and assess fit to the program, and in the end make sure all of that fits together every year.  And for Northwestern, this is true not only of Kellogg but the JD-MBA admits must fit the same way at the law school and in the JD-MBA “program” specifically.  A herculean task by all measures, and one that can’t be described in a simple email or phone chat.

And one last reason that it’s difficult to measure success (i.e. “feasibility”), because there’s not much good data out there. For one, it’s hard to say how many people actually apply to transfer every year.  People certainly do, but I suspect a number of applicants don’t disclose to students that they apply, both (i) because of the complicated nature of the process and (ii) because of the competitive nature of getting admitted to Kellogg.  So it’s impossible to tell you how many people apply every year, and I also can’t estimate any number that might come to Northwestern Law with the hope to come to the JD-MBA program.  My hunch is that the latter number is not that big.

But perhaps more importantly than the pure numbers, is the probability that many transfer candidates don’t submit their best applications. That’s because to apply to business school as a 1L is a hard task. Taking the GMAT, writing your essays, interviewing, and worrying about your application are hard enough on their own, let alone balancing that with being a 1L, which has long been considered the hardest year in any graduate school.

Similarly, the application process to business school tends to be more difficult because the application is so different. Law school admissions have long stressed grades, writing ability, and the LSAT. On the other hand, business schools tend to emphasize things like quantitative skills, leadership qualities, and management experiences. So they look for different things in the application, and as a result, it’s likely many law students don’t submit the right information in their applications.

Further, there’s also the challenge that most candidates have that the biggest qualification for top business schools is strong work experience, and at a school like Kellogg it’s usually either prestigious or very interesting experience. And that’s in addition to managing teams, leading high impact projects and having strong sense of where you want to take your career, something many law student don’t bring to the application process because their focus was different and are often a tad younger.

As a result of everything I just described above, I’ll reiterate that law students likely don’t always submit the best applications, so this should not necessarily discourage you from applying if you do come to Northwestern Law.  Instead, remember that people have applied to transfer from Northwestern Law and have gotten in before.  And so a low acceptance rate may not be as relevant to someone who really does fit the MBA profile and has significant experience. If you have the experience, credentials, and a good application, but for some reason never knew about the program, then in year’s where there’s space, they will probably consider your application.

In sum, transferring into any program that has all these requirements would seem to be a convoluted process, and a nearly impossible process to quickly explain to a “potential” applicant to the program.  Ultimately, you’ll have to really asses your desire to obtain both a law degree and business degree, and balance that with the risk of not getting into Kellogg and only obtaining a law degree only.  On the other hand, if you decide the risk is not worth it and wait to apply to the JD-MBA program, that ‘s also risky, because the JD-MBA class is small and getting the program is competitive.  And in the end, it’s just a balancing test of sorts, and a decision that only you can make.

So take your time to think about it.  Collect as much information as you can. Talk to students in all of the respective programs. And try to speak with admissions, who will know more than any other source.  And after that, all you can do is use that information to formulate a plan. And that plan should be one that makes the most sense for you in terms of fit and interests.

And in the end, no matter what you decide (MBA, JD/MBA, or JD application), your success will likely hinge on your ability to not only prove you have what it takes to get in (intelligence, scores, experience, etc.) but also on writing the right type of application for each school and in the process evincing why you would be a good addition to the class.

I hope this helps.  Best of luck whatever you decide!

Good Articles: How to Spin Your GPA and Impress Campus Recruiters

I overheard a guy talking at a networking event earlier this week.  Turned out he was a law student working in Chicago this summer and had just finished his first year at another law school. Like so many others, he was afraid he might graduate without a job and was looking for a few tips on how to navigate the process.  He mentioned that he attended a top tier program outside of Chicago, spent a few years before that as a paralegal at a white shoe firm, and attained a median GPA at his school. But he still feared his prospects coming out.

Unfortunately, that story isn’t unique. I know dozens of people, if not more, that have been saying the same thing for the past twelve months.  And suddenly now, there’s an epidemic of fear rushing not only across the Midwest, but also across the entire U.S. because law school recruiting happens in just a couple of weeks.  Resumes are due in late July and interviews begin in mid August. And in the first recruiting cycle since the worst legal recruiting season ever, the question is, “how are law students going to fare?”

As you might suspect, that’s a really difficult question. One that most students, and even law firms, can’t answer.  After all, the legal industry did just experience on of the worst economic aftershocks in history.  Firms cut classes and handed out deferrals. Profits per partners fell. And morale has followed suit.

So today, firms today are treading new waters, scrambling to change the stakes of the market. And that’s not only happening in law school, but the pandemic and the associated reflex by the industry is also happening in other graduate programs and for those freshly minted out of college.

In my view, though, law students are probably feeling it the hardest, largely because the legal market trails the economic market, which has only started to recover in the past months. So students are studying a little harder, stressing out a bit more often, and many now believe that they’ve already sealed their career fate after two semesters.

But it’s always good to take a step back and think about things from a 30,000-foot view. Because in the end, there’s a lot more that goes into finding the right employee than two semesters of GPA.  After all, there’s a gigantic list of CEO, firms partners, and successful politicians who came out of school without a 4.0. And many of them had grades below the median.  In fact, I wrote a recent post about the CEO of the decade, Steve Jobs, who did not even graduate from college. But because things are looking so uncertain now, because things haven’t worked out perfectly for the classes ahead, and because summer associate numbers at firms have been cut by more than half, I definitely understand the concern.

And with this in mind, I recently stumbled across a couple of articles on the Wall Street Journal website. The first article is on GPAs. It discusses how to talk about your GPA during interviews, when to put it on your resume, and what other things you can emphasize if your GPA isn’t as high as you would like – things all of us have thought about before.  The second article is a shorter piece on how to interact with campus recruiters.  It comes from the perspective of a recruiter. And although it’s intended audience might be college graduates, it’s content is very relevant to anyone interacting with recruiters from any industry.

See below for summaries of the articles and links to written pieces on WSJ.

And more importantly, good luck with recruiting this fall.


Title: “How To Spin Your GPA”
Source: Wall Street Journal Online
Link: Click here for the article

“By the time a college graduate transitions to the working world, he or she has spent years being defined by numbers: SATs, GPAs, GREs, class rank and so on. As a result, and understandably, college graduates with a thin portfolio of work experience assume hiring managers will place a great deal of stock in their overall GPA as a gauge of intelligence, capabilities and competence. That’s not always true. …”


Title: “How To Impress A Campus Recruiter”
Source: Wall Street Journal Online
Link: Click here for the article

“As a member of the campus recruiting team for Ford Motor Co., I would travel to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign two to three times a year on a mission to discover the best available talent for opportunities at the company. These trips enabled me to gain key insights into the relationship between employer and prospective candidate. The most valuable lesson learned was…”

Friday, July 9th, 2010 Careers, Law School 2 Comments

Free Webinar With Advice For Top MBA Applicants By

Hey everyone, I hope you had a great 4th of July weekend.  This will be a pretty quick post, but I wanted to write to tell you about a recent MBA graduate I know named  Kaneisha Grayson. Kaneisha is a recent graduate from the dual MBA/MPP program at Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School, and she just launched a new MBA admissions coaching site called The Art of Applying.  To jumpstart her new venture, Kaneisha is hosting a free webinar for up-and-coming MBA applicants, where she’ll not only provide tips for applying but also share her story with the audience.  So I wanted to pass along a bit of information about the webinar.

I personally hope to join the call this Thursday and will probably do so from my office here in Chicago. Blogger extraordinaire Marquis Parker also plans to attend the call.  Click here to check out his post about Kaneisha.

I hope that some of you will join as well.  It sounds like it will be a great opportunity for those of you applying to b-school this fall or who plan to apply down the line.  Here is a bit of info about the call and about Kaneisha.

Title: “B-School Despite the Odds”
Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 5:15 PT
URL for Webinar:
Event Registration: Click Here To Register

“Hello from Los Angeles! I’m Kaneisha Grayson, a 2010 graduate from Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School. I recently received a grant from Harvard to found a coaching business. I specialize in working with what I call “interesting people,” applicants who have ambitious goals for where they want to attend school but whose grades, test scores, and/or work experience do not accurately reflect their best abilities. I help people tell their story so that schools can look past the numbers and see how phenomenal of a person and student the applicant will be. I’m a writer, storyteller, and coach rather than just an “admissions consultant”. My priority is to be as helpful and relevant as I can be in aiding people in achieving their educational and professional goals.”

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010 Admissions, Careers, Diversity 1 Comment

Leadership Lessons from the Chairman Of My Firm

About two weeks ago, only days after beginning my new job at Vedder Price, I had the special privilege of having lunch with Bob Stucker, the Chairman of our firm. In addition to making a good contact at the firm, and eventually making my way onto a couple of his interesting projects, I also had the thrill of seeing first-hand how a top lawyer and revered leader in Chicago navigated his way to the top and what his thoughts were regarding the future.

It was about 11:10am, and only my second week at the firm. I had a lunch scheduled with a couple of associates in the office, one whose office is across the hallway from mine and another who sits right next door.  At Vedder, most people tend to head to lunch around noon, so at the time, I was rushing against the clock to get a few things printed and to draft a couple of emails before heading out.  But as I was typing up my first email, I looked up and saw Maryanne head into my office.  Maryanne is the Chairman’s Executive Assistant, and she told me that the chairman wanted to take me to lunch.

“What a remarkable opportunity I thought to myself.”  So of course I told Maryanne that I was excited to head to lunch with Bob, and she replied that he’d drop by my office to grab me at 11:50am.  So after rescheduling my lunch with my coworkers and getting started on a couple of emails, Bob dropped by at 11:50 on the dot. He had on a nice gray suit that day, despite the fact that our office recently went business casual in the summer.  Fortunately though, I haven’t followed that trend, and I’ve been wearing a shirt and tie to the office every day. So I was dressed for the occasion.

So Bob and I headed toward the elevator, walking past reception on the 26th floor.  I noticed that Bob spoke to every single person we passed on the way out, addressing each one by their first name, including our great receptionist Vickie, who sits by the elevator. And although he’s a very busy guy, not once did Bob seem like he was too much in a hurry to say hello to anyone.

On the way down the elevator, he explained that he loved being at the firm and that it was a great pleasure to get to know everyone there over the years. And it was clear that he was sincere about it. After all, he had been at the same firm for his entire legal career and took the time to know everyone by name and learn about their families.

In the elevator, Bob said we would have lunch at an Italian restaurant, Coco Pazzo, which was a few blocks down. It was lightly raining that afternoon, so instead of walking, we hopped in a cab.  Bob had an umbrella but unfortunately I didn’t bring mine, a fact that Bob noticed before I did. Bob told me to wait inside while he waived down a cab. We hopped in, and then he sent me to the restaurant while he paid, so I could avoid the rain.

When Bob walked in, all the waiters said hello to Bob and greeted him by name. As it turns out Bob if pretty well-known in Chicago and at a lot of the local restaurants. So they sat us down ahead of the line, took our orders right away, and Bob and I had a nice discussion for the next eighty or so minutes.

We kicked off the conversation with a little business, first discussing an upcoming project he wanted me to get involved in, where we were retained by a CEO to help negotiate an employment contract. But the conversation quickly diverted into more interesting things, such as his background and mine. The practices I thought I’d be interested in and his process of choosing a practice back as a younger attorney. I also talked a bit about my personal history and Bob talked a bit about himself.

It’s funny, how when you’re having good conversation, eighty minutes can feel like twenty.  And before I knew it, we had finished our meal, paid our tab, and had to head out. Fortunately the weather had cleared up, so we walked back to the office, which was the perfect way to finish off our chat less abruptly.  On the way home, I brought up a few people I’d worked with in the past, including the Practice Chair of my old consulting firm, who Bob knew directly.  That was a good way to really connect with him at the end.

Upon reflection, here are a few lessons I learned from the discussion:

1. Good leaders are also good entrepreneurs. Bob spent his entire legal career as an entrepreneur. Out of law school, he turned down a couple of white shoe firms to join Vedder Price, which at the time was still an up-and-coming law firm in Chicago.  “It gave me the opportunity to have real impact” he said.  But rather than simply playing a part in an up-and-coming firm and taking what came his way, he also decided to make his own opportunities.  And along the way, he helped build a couple of practice groups, including the financial institutions group and the executive compensation group. Today, Vedder Price does more work with financial institutions than any other Chicago firm, and Vedder’s executive pay practice is second to none in the U.S.  Most law firms, and business for that matter, are not wildly successful entering new markets, but Bob was an exception to the rule because he sought out new opportunities.

2. Good leaders focus on their people. Bob was the kind of person who inspired others in the office. As I mentioned above, he said hello to everyone we passed and remembered everyone’s name and personal story. “It’s critical to retain every single employee that comes here” Bob said at lunch.  Not only because it’s economically better for a firm to do so, but also because we want everyone here to be successful and build a career here.  And it wasn’t just rhetoric. In fact, Vedder Price has done a great job of not letting many of its attorneys go during the economic downturn, and it didn’t let a single staff person go, despite the worst of the economic downturn. Bob had a laser-like focus on everyone at the firm. He knew there names, knew where they sat in the building, and reached out to them when it made sense. After all, he was even taking me, the new and only summer associate this year, to lunch during my second week.

3. Leaders reach back and develop leaders. Just a few days before lunch, I was speaking to one of the firm receptionists, and she mentioned that Bob had been a great mentor to many of the attorneys at the firm. At the time, I was glad to hear it, but she had also never worked directly with Bob, so I solicited a few other opinions.  I went to lunch that day with two senior partners here at the firm, and one of the them was the lead for partner recruiting at the firm. He said the same thing about Bob, that “Bob has mentored me over the years at the firm and that’s why I’ve done so well today.” And for the last couple of weeks I heard similar comments from a few others. “Was it all just rhetoric?” I asked myself a few times. After all, balancing the tightrope walk of managing client development and people development has always been difficult at services firms.

But for Bob, the answer is a resounding “No.”  Bob has already gone out of his way a few times now, to bring me into meetings and teach me lessons about the world of law firms.  And after the meetings are over he’ll always imparts a few lines to me.  He has also set me up with a couple of attorneys that he works with, so I could learn more about the firm.  I was glad to see this was Bob’s style. In fact, I recently wrote about this myself a few weeks back (click here to see the post).

4. To get to the top, do something you like. People who make it all the way to the top do because they are passionate about what they are doing, something I talk constantly about here on my site (click here for one of my favorite posts on passion).   Not only do they have good ideas but they actually have a real desire to go after them.  During lunch Bob told me that he’s always loved practicing law and that he’s never thought of leaving the firm. He also mentioned how much he like the legal aspects of executive compensation, financial institutions, and securities work.  And even though it wasn’t that hot of an area legally back then, because Bob enjoyed it and thought there was opportunity, he paved the way for Vedder Price by initiating work in those areas. That passion is especially evident now given the fact that he’s stayed with the firm and practice areas many years later, despite the modern trend that many professionals have of hopping from firm to firm.

5. Leaders are humble and kind. And it goes without saying based on my story above that Bob was as humble as firm Chairmen come. As I mentioned, Bob knew everyone’s name at the firm, he made sure that I didn’t get wet in the rain, and he even made sure I got enough to eat for lunch, ordering an extra plate while we were there. I was also impressed by the fact that Bob actually showed up to take me to lunch at 11:50 that day, rather than a little earlier or later. Leaders at his level are often so busy that they prioritize their work over other people’s schedules. In fact, many lawyers and client service professionals do. I was particularly impressed that Bob didn’t do that, because he valued my time.

Conclusion. Today’s leaders are called to help tomorrow’s leaders learn all they can, especially now, as the business and legal worlds are changing, as they become filled with new technologies and expand to the ends of every continent, and as they reshape themselves to thrive in today’s changing economy.  Fortunately, there are people like Bob who are already engaged in this process.  These leaders dedicate serious time and energy to prepare the next generation to face these new challenges and to take on some of the current ones.

That’s because the best leaders know that mentorship is critical. That a leader’s job is not only to cut costs, meet with clients, and negotiate deals but also to make sure the up-and-comers in the organization are well-equipped to do the same. Leaders set the tone and inspire others on how to produce results and eventually how to become leaders themselves. And when they do, these up-and-coming leaders will be inspired and committed to take on more than they ever could have before, which is critical in the ever-changing business and legal worlds.  And in the end, these lessons, meetings, conversations, and even lunches with interns can make all the difference.

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Sunday, July 4th, 2010 Careers, Leadership 10 Comments

Taking A Break Before The Fourth Of July In Chicago

Law firms, and most professional service firms, do everything they can to compete in today’s global market. That often means working long hours regularly, pulling all-nighters, coming in on weekends, and even going without vacation for the year.  But that wasn’t true for many people yesterday, as a lot of people at my firm, and in Chicago, took at least part of the day off to get started on the fourth of July weekend.

That’s because it’s finally the fourth of July weekend. It’s a weekend where families take off for a relaxing vacation. Where non locals come to town to enjoy the beach and see all that the big city has to offer.  And where students put the books down to roam the streets for the day, which is especially satisfying during times when we’re really busy.

For lawyers those times happen pretty often. After all, law firms are filled with people who are eager to make millions, make it to the top, and eventually make partner. Whether they’re competing in a litigation trial, writing a closing argument for a jury, or negotiating the terms of a deal, lawyers are often workaholics who constantly think about work, check their blackberries, and take on more responsibility, all while neglecting relaxation. And that’s especially true now given the economic times and the incessant need to generate revenues and find more hours to bill.

For me, this summer has me feeling a lot like a lawyer, because it’s also one of the most busy periods of my life. Although most JD-MBAs take classes full time during the summer, I am both working downtown at a law firm and taking classes. And I’m doing that in addition to a few sides jobs and all the other activities that I am involved in.

But on Friday my firm, felt like a ghost town.  Most of the offices were empty and most of the lights were turned off. And the same seemed true for many of our neighbors, because the streets were less crowded than usual and the bus ride home had a lot of extra space on it.

So unlike usual, I’m going to slow down a bit and enjoy the three day weekend. Sure I am going to get started reading a case from my accounting class and perhaps work on homework from another class, but I’m also going to catch up on a few blog posts, go see the Taste of Chicago, and re-connect with a few friends and classmates here in the city. In fact, just last night, one of my great JD-MBA colleagues threw a get together at her house. It was good to see some of the JD-MBA family together again.

I haven’t planned the specifics for the rest of the weekend yet, but it will definitely involve a mix of work and relaxation. Hopefully you’re planning to do the same.

Friday, July 2nd, 2010 Careers No Comments

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.


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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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