Job Offer Deadlines

On November 7, 2011, in Careers, by Jeremy C Wilson

The best CEOs once had to do it. Investment bankers and lawyers had to do it. JDs and MBAs who want to become leaders in organizations will also have to do it.  And over the next couple of weeks, a lot of people here at Northwestern Law and at Kellogg will be doing it. They’ll have to respond to outstanding job offers that they got over the summer or during the fall. Because if they don’t, the offers will explode.

Now, I know exactly what you’re thinking. “Lucky you! At least you have an offer to choose from. How could making that decision be so hard?” I get it. Your question makes sense.  After all, in today’s economy it’s harder to get a job than it’s ever been before. But for just one second, and think about how difficult it actually is to make the decision.

Most people come to MBA programs with one big goal — to get traction a certain industry and eventually to land the job of their dreams. The role they’ve always wanted. The position they decided to lay it all on the line for. In the process though, they came across other options. They faced disappointment. And they encountered changes of heart.

What’s most interesting about business school is that everyone goes through this process. It’s perfectly set up to happen that way. Things move fast. Jobs are competitive. And positions are put out on platters for everyone to be enticed.  It even happens in bad economies at top MBA programs.

On one side of the spectrum are the people who want to pursue all their interests. They want to see everything that’s out there. Meet more and more companies. Learn as much as they can about general business. And put all that together to come up with broad based set of companies to recruit for. So they do just that.

On the other side are those that are laser focused. They work on building a critical mass of knowledge, reaching out to more and more people in one firm, reading up on the company to find details that can help them stand out in the process, and most importantly finding resonance with the decision-making employees.

But both situations create a bit of difficulty. In the first case, students can get confused. They meet too many people. Dont have time to focus. And have interviews and offers in different industries. In the second case, people work so hard for one industry or one company, that they lose perspective. They forget about other great opportunities. Or work hard at something that never even pans out.  And in the end, both people can end up being more confused than before.

Nearly everyone experiences this to some degree in business school. We’re taught to dream big. Recruit at all the big firms. Go beyond the usual suspects. And leverage this one opportunity to do something different. And for most students, they come out successful. Some get the jobs of the dreams. Many get amazing jobs they never originally considered. And the majority get really great jobs by just about every measure, whether it was their first choice or not.

But perhaps more important than that, is that taking a step back, we’re all fortunate here because everyone is fortunate to face job offer deadlines.

Good luck with your job offer decisions.

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