This Is How New MBA Grads Can Score Their Dream Job and Conquer Debt
Entering the working world among an MBA class of ambitious post-grads can be like the Hunger Games. I’ve been there: Desperate former students scramble to not just score their dream job, but figure out how to pay for their—let’s not beat around the bush—very expensive education. Going to Columbia Business School was definitely a worthwhile investment, giving me a big-picture view of how companies work that would help me pursue my future goals in marketing. But, after two years of $60K tuition, I was over $100K in debt—which was pretty overwhelming, to say the least.
From getting a job working in Silicon Valley at top companies like Google, to paying off my student debt within three years of graduating, I’ve learned a thing or two about handling debt while finding a job you love. For all current MBA students out there who have their degrees in hand and are figuring out the next best way to proceed, I’ve written this guide as a way to help you get a job you can be proud of, and not let student loans run your life post-graduation. Because while now’s the time to start making money (cheers to that!), it’s also time to start making smart financial decisions with that new bump in pay.
1. Work your network—your real network
First off, when it comes to actually getting that dream job, you know to network—but remember to network the right way. I get emails all the time from total strangers who are interested in the company I work for, looking for advice on how to get their foot in the door. Unless you’re graduating from one of the smaller business schools, even working within your alumni network won’t necessarily be the best strategy. I can say firsthand that reaching out to people you’re closer to is more effective than blasting LinkedIn invites to random strangers. Instead, get in touch with friends-of-friends or colleagues, as one or two degrees of separation can make a huge difference in response rate, and really help you get the inside scoop.
2. Be selective with where you apply
When it comes to choosing a company to compete for, remember: less is more. I see a lot of opportunism, with MBAs applying to a dozen or more companies they don’t really know anything about. My advice is this: Narrow your search down to two or three companies and really do your homework. Don’t play the numbers game—quality over quantity counts, and that will be recognized in your application.
3. Don’t just to apply places that might “look good” on your resume
Keep in mind the importance of taking strategic risks. MBAs really encourage students to apply to larger, safer high-profile companies, but it’s the smaller companies that can offer the most growth. Find a company with a small present but big future, one that hasn’t gone public, and maybe has upwards of $40 million in annual revenue to their name. Don’t focus on your job title: Smaller companies provide opportunities for promotion often enough, so chances are you’ll be going somewhere instead of settling for a smaller slice of a big pie.
4. Stay humble, stay focused
Once you land your job, make sure to be humble—i.e, check your ego at the door, and be prepared to get your hands dirty. Companies aren’t hiring MBAs to make beautiful diagrams—you have to over-deliver to be successful, and do whatever it takes to get results. On that note, make sure to step out of your comfort zone, too. You might have a defined role at a company, but don’t be afraid to offer help to others, learn, and step outside of the responsibilities you absolutely have to do to get the job done. As I’ve learned, that’s where you can experience some of your most exciting projects.
5. Prioritize paying off your student debt
It’s important to remember that paying off your student debt should be a number one priority. I find it funny that MBAs will often save money using financial tricks like airline points or portfolio optimization, and not use their money to pay off their student loans. Most people settle for paying off their monthly student loan bills while their debt accumulates. In fact, plenty of people my year graduated with a 7% interest rate on their federal loans, which is really high. And if you think about it, at that interest rate, paying off your student loans is really the best investment you can make—considering how much you’re paying on interest, working your way toward becoming debt-free will have far better returns than any stock or bond.
That’s why, in addition to setting up a loan repayment strategy, student loan refinancing can be an important tool. MBAs are in a great position to refinance with a lower rate—way better than what you’ll probably be paying to the federal government. With a lower rate on your student debt and diligent payments, you’ll be debt-free in a much shorter time, and can start putting that money toward things like a down payment and retirement.
6. Don’t let lifestyle creep happen to you
My last tip is to avoid lifestyle creep. I see a lot of MBAs committing to more expensive lifestyles when they finally land a big salary job. That can be really tempting: As a student you live pretty modestly, so it’s easy enough to rationalize getting a studio, or maybe a new car. But when I worked at Google I lived very modestly, taking an apartment with roommates and relying on the three meals a day guaranteed at the office instead of going out. It was definitely worth it, since I was able to start taking care of those loans early on. Sacrificing a few pricey vacations and not upgrading my life with my new salary meant I was able to become debt-free much sooner.
Looking for a job with student debt hanging on your shoulders can be intimidating. But with a little work and some strategizing, it is a challenge you can rise to, and pave the way to post-graduation success as an MBA. Now I have the freedom to pursue projects that inspire me—not just ones that’ll pay those student loan bills.
Finding a job you love is hard enough without having to think of paying off your student loan debt. With SoFi student loan refinancing, you can find your dream job and not just take the one that pays the bills. Check out SoFi’s low student loan refinancing rates here.
The author of this article is an employee at SoFi.