For Business School senior Andreas Penna, getting a job is like
a chess game. The players in the game are him and 40 other
applicants, while the interviews and the resumes are the moves.

“It’s a game of chess because you have all these
variables. You have other people who are going for the same job.
Yet your moves, what you do, ultimately affects what you
get,” he said.

Yet for School of Art and Design graduate Jenna Major, finding
her job was almost like a fluke.

“I was just starting to see the job market, until I got
approached with an offer. I got lucky,” said Major, who
graduated last year.

Amid the many college seniors still tackling the tough job
market, hoping they can shake an offer out of it, some students
like Penna and Major have already persevered and found employment.
Although they took two different avenues to pursue their two
different careers, both found ways to overcome the obstacles of the
job market.

Penna, a consulting management major, began his search back in
October, and by mid-November he was offered a high-profile job as a
consultant for Microsoft. He said one of the keys to winning the
game of job-searching for his field was to differentiate himself
from every other competitor on the board and to show the employers
he was the most capable player.

Undertaking his job strategy was no easy task when compared to
an actual chess game though, he said. Constantly submitting
resumes, connecting with employers and sending out thank you
letters, would only be some of the first steps toward securing a
job.

But the last and most crucial move in getting a single job offer
is the interviews, he said. Fortunately, Penna said as the economy
was picking up, he could anticipate more interview opportunities
than what last year’s seniors had to contend with. Yet even
with an improving economy, for every interview he went to, Penna
knew competition would be fierce.

“These 40 other applicants (at the interviews) come from
the top schools, like Harvard, Stanford and Columbia. …
It’s gonna be tough to impress (employers),” Penna
said.

All of these applicants were just as qualified as him and had
been reading the same insider guides on the top business industries
and trying to forge the same contacts with employers. Everyone was
doing the same thing he was, Penna said.

Interviews would be the only part of the job application process
where he could truly interact with employers on a business level.
That was where Penna had to differentiate himself from everyone
else.

The interviews Penna attended were usually conducted by a first
and then a second round of interviews. In the first round,
companies usually look at an applicant’s credentials. If the
employer is interested, the applicant moves on to the second round
of interviews that determine if they will be hired or not.

Yet, in these second-round interviews, the job recruiters were
not asking about Penna’s goals or work experience. Instead
they put his credentials to the test, giving him case studies or
examinations asking him to solve marketing-strategy problems that
the company might face.

“Every interview is different. They’ll give you case
studies and say, ‘Here’s a marketing problem, you have
40 minutes to fix it. Solve the problem. I want you to think out
loud.’ It’s very high stress,” Penna said.

One of the most difficult second interviews consisted of five
back-to-back case studies, an hour and a half apiece. Vice
presidents and managers who graduated from Harvard or top
consulting firms like McKinsey & Company even stopped by to
gauge his qualities.

“You may have all these numbers (in a case study). If you
don’t have the right methodology you are out of work, you
know. You have to prepare yourself.”

But Penna was prepared. He had already been scouting out which
businesses he wanted to attack once October arrived, and he had
secured interviews through contacting employers and using the
Business School network. Penna immediately looked over resources on
previous case studies over and over again, practicing and refining
what his strategy would be once his interview came.

“I made sure I looked at them rather rigorously, and once
I got the methodology down, I was prepared. … Once you have
acquired all this knowledge, now it’s time to prove yourself.
Confidence is the key.”

Still, even with the most preparation and his confidence behind
him, Penna couldn’t win every chess game.

“Every time I go to an interview it’s almost like
‘You win some, you lose some.’ That’s the reality
of it. Very few people can win all of them.”

But Penna won the interviews that counted the most and was
offered a two-year job at Microsoft after he graduates. After his
time at Microsoft, he plans to attend a top graduate school and to
go and work for other top businesses.

While business students may have to face high-stress case
studies and tough competition, art students face a different, but
equally challenging process. Major, who graduated last year, had a
completely different job search. In fact she said she didn’t
even prepare for it.

“I had no strategy whatsoever, I was just really getting
into my job search and thinking like, ‘Okay I need to get out
of Michigan, I can’t stand another winter.’”

Major’s specialty is in metals, sculpting ceramics and
creating jewelry like bracelets and necklaces. Like many other
hopeful art students, Major hopes one day she can make a career
selling her art. Normally, art students apply for a position with a
company or try to have their work featured in an art show. Major
said her works probably wouldn’t make her famous any time in
the near future. She added that it is typical for artists to go
through years of rejection before they can ever find a career
selling their art.

“I definitely heard painters saying that they dropped off
all their (works) at galleries and got laughed at. You have to be
good or different, and it’s hard and the judging is very
subjective. You could make something and one jerk says its great,
and another jerk can say they don’t like it.”

The economy doesn’t affect the art industry much, because
it’s always tough to find a professional art job, Major
said.

So she hoped to find an interim position to give her
opportunities to work on her skills and then maybe go off to
graduate school. But during her time at the University, Major
wasn’t focusing on her future aspirations. Instead she
focused on her passion, creating art. As a result she said she
ignored the job search process until after graduation, which was a
big mistake.

Naturally, she then rushed to newspaper advertisements and
job-searching websites, looking for a teaching position or at an
art institute creating ceramics for students or clients. She just
desired to find something to accommodate her skills as an artist.
But there were no easy solutions as looking for an available job
position was nearly impossible.

“What was mostly frustrating was going on the Web. Half of
the time, when you look at postings, it is already taken and they
just don’t take it down.”

She also found that she couldn’t even apply to most of the
job openings available.

Her job searching finally turned up a few open positions. Still
that turned out to be just as wearisome. “I was looking for
places all over the country, and there were four jobs. And I
didn’t get any of them.”

Three months of searching and still out of a job, she cringed
thinking about other options like working at a jewelry store doing
menial tasks just to pay the bills. She said it was looking to
become a reality, until an old art professor told her of an opening
at a Dartmouth College art workshop. She later applied and finally
got a job. Major added that she never expected networking would
actually find her a job.

“Luck and making connections, that’s probably some
good advice, networking is just the only way I was able to get a
job. … This job sort of fell into my life, I don’t
know what I would have done if I hadn’t got it.”

The job wasn’t really what she thought she would ever be
doing though. “Basically, students come in and make stuff at
the workshop.” One student recently came in to make his
girlfriend an engagement ring.

Although the job seems like something at a jewelry store and its
only part-time, for Major it’s all she could have hoped for
because it gives her some time to make a few art pieces for
herself. “It gives me the freedom to express myself. …
When you make something just for you it’s special.”

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