The fast answer: it depends. You can argue both ways. On the one hand, being at school, in that “cozy” and friendly environment feels better than going through a tough recruiting environment. On the other hand, it is always great to be out there, facing reality, networking and, if you manage to get your desired job, it will speak greatly about the value of your candidacy.
In my experience, when Lehman Brothers imploded in 2008, recruiting felt ugly, cold and uncomfortable and sitting in a classroom felt like a very protected environment, and the prospects of adding some extra credits, another masters or even a PhD were out there being considered by the student body. In my case, I had no doubt that my choice was to go head first into recruiting; I gave myself no choice than giving 100% to networking and recruiting and that I should get a job offer to be working full time by graduation in the Summer of 2009.
THE CASE FOR STAYING LONGER IN SCHOOL
- Continuing to add skills that will serve you when you finally graduate and look for a job
- You can twist and steer your major or specialisation depending on the market moves
- Procure an exchange quarter or semester to one of your target cities (ie. Go to London if you are somewhere else), to be a student while you are closer to future employers
THE CASE FOR FACING THE MARKET FASTER
- Continued education has explicit and implicit (opportunity) costs. If you go straight to working (even when it takes longer than wished for) you have no education cost and you start earning money faster
- By being actively recruiting you are fully connected with the reality of the market, what employers in your sector are looking for and developing connections that will serve you now and in the future
- The market reality can be brutal at any time, but in the middle of COVID uncertainty, it is not inviting or a friendly place. But if you manage to succeed in this market, it will greatly boost your confidence and put a stamp on your CV
It doesn’t matter which camp you are on, one thing is constant: the need for deep and professionally executed networking. If you decide to continue to be a student, networking should keep you in touch with reality and avoid you looking only with “happy glasses” at the market by the time you graduate. If you decide to shorten your study program or graduate when originally planned, networking will ensure you not only have the formal roads into job opportunities, but also knock all doors, backdoors and windows that can get you a full time job or internship. Case in point of shortening study program: a good friend and star candidate at a leading European MBA, decided to speed up the 2 year MBA program and go face the market 6 months ahead of original graduation; not without efforts and pain, he landed a handful of internship and full time offers and has now agreed to join a top PE firm.
In either case, act with “Extreme Ownership” as Jocko says. If you stay in school, don’t be lazy or just face away from challenges. If you decide to look for your job right away, don’t waste energy complaining about how bad the market is, but rather look for the opportunities and capitalize on them. In both cases, networking and a mentor, will keep you in check, as we always say in our Breaking into Finance program.
Stay in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know your thoughts and the decisions you are pondering or have made. We are here to help! Until the next one.