I just got an MBA in finance, but I have no experience, and can’t get a job. What should I do?

“I just got a MBA in Finance and now I don’t know what to do.  My experience has been mostly engineering so I have no finance experience, but I want to go into finance.  The economy sucks.  What should I do?”
–Adam

The Harvard MBA says:
Almost every employer prefers to hire employees with previous relevant experience, and with good reason.  All other things being equal, they’d rather hire a proven commodity.  Therefore, you need a two-pronged strategy.  One, you need to make sure that all other things are decidedly *NOT* equal.  And two, you need to prove yourself in a hurry.

Ask yourself what you can do to stand out from other potential hires, and to prove your ability to do the job.  For example, suppose you researched a company you wanted to work for, and discovered that they were working on an important problem.  You could put together your own solution to the problem, complete with detailed statistical analysis and specific proof points.  If you walked in the door with a 40-page report that specifically addressed their most pressing needs, you’d probably stand out, and you’d also go a long way towards proving yourself.

Another possibility is to volunteer to work for free.  When the economy sucks, it’s tough for employers to resist free labor, and once you’re in, if you can make yourself indispensable, they’re not going to want to let you go.

Finally, you may want to consider working for a lower-tier firm.  Certainly everyone always wants to work for a brand name firm, but you’re better off working for a no-name firm where you can pick up actual experience than sitting around filling out job applications that are doomed to be rejected.  If you end up as a big fish in a small pond, expect to be poached pretty quickly.

16 Comments

  1. Ram
    Posted July 24, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    It ain’t easy to get employers to agree to working for free. They are afraid of legal repercussions (min wage, et al.)

  2. David Liu
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    Good suggestion! But in China,that may be a deadly behaviour.If you do so,you must offend somebody’s interest.

    My suggestion is that come to China.

  3. Victor Blackburn
    Posted August 25, 2010 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Seriously, you have a Harvard MBA and you advise someone to work for free?

  4. admin
    Posted August 25, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Victor,

    Naturally, it’s better to get paid for your work. I don’t do work for free, for example. But in a situation where you can’t find a job, better free work that allows you to prove your worth than sitting around sending out yet more resumes.

  5. Rick
    Posted September 9, 2010 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    Go into consulting. Let them train you. Do that for two years, then make a move if desired — or stay in it. It can be fun. Doesn’t suit my personality, but it may suit yours.

  6. Posted November 10, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Panicking and Worrying are going to lead to Early Stress issues.I Say don’t worry be happy.DUDE You Just Frigging Accomplished a Major Goal.

    The Time you take now to actually Help a non Profit and YES Work for free because your outlook and attitude will be less arrogant.

    Too Many Grads fall into the Narcism Zone.The ones who take a different path will be the Leaders of The future that have heart instead of Pure TYPE A Drive.

    That TYPE A Drive needs to be Saved for the Deals.The Heartless Bastard that takes that attitude to the Streets and perpetuates the Propaganda of The Wealthy Elite as well as gentrification of the Inner Urban Zones will have a Karma Defecit.

    These Grads can Have the Most Rewarding life or The Most Selfish.
    These Kind of Pauses may be the Beginning of a Long Hard Totally Rewarding Non Fortune 500 Corporate 501C3 Career or a Damn Good Resume Builder that Gives them Social Brownie Points.
    WTF Don’t laugh It’s True!!
    The Wealthy Elite are going to continue to devalue the dolllar and as a Grad You Know what kind of Long term gains happen for these wealthy A-Holes from Manipulations from Inflation ,Deflation and Then Inflation Cycles.Just Like the Founding Fathers warned us about the Banks and the wealthy in Control of the Banks.
    These Wealthy Heartless Elite Baby Boomers on Top can care less if they put a grads life on Hold or take from a Struggling Baby Boomers 401K.
    Yes a Harvard MBA is Awesome!Though you MBAs become wealthy You become a Puppet of these Titans.OR Not!
    What does a Hippie from San Francisco Know? I am Just a Paranoid Freak!
    DogEatDogma.blogspot.com
    PEACE

  7. Posted December 3, 2010 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    I have heard that having an MBA without any experience can be difficult. If I were you, I would be willing to take a lesser job to gain the experience you will need to make the big bucks with that top notch degree you have. A buddy of mine just went through this and it took him almost a year to find “that” job. Good luck in your search!

  8. Lisa
    Posted March 13, 2011 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    I have the same problem, although my expected graduation date is 2014. I work in a law firm full-time and I am getting my MBA part-time here in NYC. By working for “free” do you mean an internship? What do you suggest that I do at this very moment, during my first semester in business school, about my lack of experience? I’d like to figure something out before I graduate.

  9. Tony
    Posted June 30, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    I’M IN THE SAME POSITION. I graduated my MBA in 12-2008. Life became complicated around then: bad economy, death of a parent, and received custody of my son. I have work experience in finance, although that was prior to receiving my undergraduate degree (went directly from undergrad to grad). However, I’ve noticed that doesn’t count for much. What also doesn’t count for much is my 1 year’s work experience as a financial analyst for my university where I learned financial modeling, security valuation, and improved my excel skills (VBA, pivot tables, etc). I’ve put out over 3 resumes/day and have still haven’t been successful.
    Honestly, before going to school (undergrad and grad) I was making a lot more money than even what I’m seeing posted. Maybe it’s the zeitgeist or maybe I’m doing something wrong. Either way, I’m getting discouraged and have become willing to deliver pizzas just to make enough $ for food. It’s pathetic!

  10. Kevin Colas
    Posted September 7, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Don’t give up Adam & Tony, the economy is in dire straits since 2007 but it’s about to bottom, a little bit more of visibility will bring back confidence for corporate investment and hiring. Meanwhile, do some non profit, consulting or teaching, workout a business plan with friends and create your own business if you have capital ahead, and enjoy your time since it won’t last, you’ll be soon back working and will regret your free schedule. Take care!

  11. Joyce
    Posted August 13, 2012 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    I’m in the same situation. I started looking for a job 6 months before I graduate from MBA, yet no any luck yet. MBA without working experience basically means nothing to employers. I’m doing a business development internship in a law office right now. I really don’t like it, but just want to put something in my resume. I went to an internship interview for a small fashion studio in NYC, the interview lasted only 5 mins. That totally distroyed my confidence. I really don’t know what should I do.

  12. Randolph
    Posted November 13, 2012 at 4:13 am | Permalink

    I earned an MBA in Finance 10 years ago; could not find any relevant finance related position, and got stuck in the hospitality industry. My personality is not well suited for the hospitality industry, so I never moved beyond the entry-level management position. I have been interested in learning the accounting aspects, such as how to be a controller, but never could get my foot in the door of the accounting office to learn the basics. Basically, I feel like I have been underemployed my entire adult life.

  13. Posted November 25, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    i gust completed MBAfinance, present searching jobs every one asdk exprenince but i hove no exprenince please guid me where i go to got job in finance

  14. Litisia
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Now I see that I am not the only one with this problem. I have an MBA, and one Master Degree. I also have 9 years of work experience, but 0 relevant experience. I never thought that academic degrees in fact mean nothing, if you dont have relevant [emphasis added] experience. This is so unfair! Why bother then spend so much money, time and effort to get this freaking degrees if at the end of the day they mean nothing??? SO FRUSTRATED! I get so annoyed every time I see employers requesting 10+ relevant work experience and 5+ in specific industry. This is an age discrimination! Give me at most 3 month, I will handle any job in no time, just like that. I am not stupid, for God’s sake, if I managed academia. But nobody wants to see it! Completely agree with the previous comment that the loss is theirs.

  15. Anthony
    Posted June 13, 2013 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    Find a company that does a development program (duh Chris). Fidelity, for example, offers one. There are similar programs in just about every functional area for recent MBA grads. I went to Kellogg and interviewed for a dozen of these programs.

  16. tejjj
    Posted December 4, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    I earned an MBA in Finance 12/2008 in could not find any relevant finance related position, and landed in the Education industry with the entry level administration position.Finally got the chance to live in united state.So I was so happy & wanted to start my career in Finance field.I m here in us for almost 7 months looking for Finance job.Posting resume every where but not even got the one call for the interview.After working for administration feeling like ……what should I lost my Finance skill or what …please guide me what should I do everyone asking for experience in finance field…Does as i m having education out of country make any difference for consideration….?

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