Friday, October 2, 2009

MBA Diversity Conferences: Should I attend?

The answer without reservation or hesitation is a resounding YES!!!! (regardless of your ethnic background)

What I am about to say may not be widely agreed upon or accepted but personally I see no reason you should not be attending one of the major MBA diversity conferences that occurs each year. I attended National Black MBA Association's (NBMBAA) Conference along with about 5,000 other people this year. The NBMBAA Conference's large career floor space had more diversity than the United Nations! It was quite an experience being a part of something of that magnitude with so many talented people competing with you for roles regardless of the color of their skin.

It blows my mind that so many of my classmates are hesitant to look into attending the diversity event. I don't think it matters if you're not black and you want to attend the NBMBAA, one of my classmates last year who was not black ended up landing an offer from NBMBAA. This year a company is flying me out to interview at the National Society of Hispanic MBA's and though I know how to salsa, merengue, and bachata -- I am, by no means anywhere near being Hispanic. Though these conferences were begun as ways to expose companies to great diverse talent and ways for great diverse talent to be exposed to some phenomenal companies, these conferences have evolved to a point where both parties understand that there is great value add to do "one-stop" shopping may it be for great jobs or great candidates.

I will approach this from three different perspectives that I have actually lived, in order to paint a clearer picture as to why I would encourage ANYONE to attend.
  • Fortune 50 Recruiter
  • Prospective MBA
  • MBA Student

As a Fortune 50 Recruiter attending a diversity recruiting event, it was important to keep at the forefront of my mind that the goal was to walk away with some solid diverse talent to fill some of the current open positions that we currently had on our plate. However, who in the world was I to deny talent when I saw talent that may not necessarily have culturally matched the name of the conference. This became an even larger mute point when the economy went to crap. When you speak to most major companies, what are they doing when it comes to recruitment travel and their travel budgets? That's right, cutting back and cutting back in a big way. Keep in mind, that one thing that most major companies probably won't cut, is their budget to travel and recruit at diversity conferences. This is because it is something that remains important for many companies to maintain. I can tell you from first hand experience as a recruiter that if my travel budget was reduced and I was not interacting with as many candidates, since the number of events I attended was greatly reduced, I would be happy to meet and engage a large number of candidates whenever possible, regardless of the name of the event. Let that marinate for a moment!

As a prospective MBA student, this is a GOLD mine for information! Let's think about this, the best of master of business programs, top MBA students, top companies all under one roof. It can help you decide what school to go to since you have such easy access to some of the top business MBA programs across the nation in attendance, if you're lucky, maybe you will be invited to a private function for just staff, faculty, students and alumni so that you can get to know your potential school on a more intimate level. You can get to know some of the current students on a one-on-one level and their motivations for leaving their prior life to pursue an MBA and how that could translate to aligning your future with the best school for MBA for you. This is also an opportunity for you to begin understanding some of the job opportunities that are available out there for MBA's as interns or full-time employees. A lot of insight for prospective MBA's can be gleaned from attending MBA diversity conferences.

Finally, as you're already aware I'm currently a second year at one of the best MBA business schools in America; Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. Kelley does an amazing job of preparing you for interviews, providing advice on how to properly prepare and research companies, and exposing you to some major companies. However, let's be realistic, does Kelley or any top MBA program expose you to the opportunity to interface with 300+ companies during the course of the year on campus? Of course not! This is the pure unadulterated reality of a diversity conference, what other point in your job search process will you be able to interact with so many companies within a year let alone two days??!!? Take full advantage of great companies looking for polished talent like yourself to come in and knock their socks off. Please be certain to:
  • Do thorough research on the companies that you want to interview with -- nothing irritates recruiters more than an MBA candidate asking, "what does your company do?"
  • Set up time to interview with interviewing companies before the conference -- most slots are gone by the time you get to the conference
  • Map out your "attack plan" prior to hitting the career floor -- using a floor plan mark out your top 3-5 prospects for employment and be certain to "hit" them first
  • Have a plan and reason for attending -- don't just go to go, go with a purpose

So, once again, should you ask me, "Rashid, should I attend this upcoming MBA diversity conference?" without hesitation, my answer is YES!

1 comment:

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