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Here is How I Earned an MBA and Landed My Dream Job!

Laurin S., MBA

Laurin Lukas Stahl Header (1)

I was born in 1991 in Stuttgart, Germany, and never saw myself living anywhere else or doing anything differently than the people I grew up with. After I finished my bachelor’s degree in biology, I decided to shift my career to product management. I thought gaining some professional experience in the field would be enough to navigate a career transition. However, when I started applying to job opportunities, I quickly realized that armed only with a bachelor’s in biology and little professional experience, I couldn’t make the shift. The high-paying product management job in Europe that I aspired for seemed like a distant dream at that point.

I got lucky and managed to secure an entry-level position at Fave Asia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where I worked as a product manager for two years.  That’s when I decided to pursue my MBA. I learned about University of the People through a colleague at one of my previous jobs who was pursuing a degree at UoPeople–all online and at their own pace. Another important reason why I decided to go ahead with their online program was that the university allowed me to pay the fee for exams each semester instead of large lump sums for which I would not have had the financial capacity at that point.

The master’s degree in Business Administration brought about a complete shift in my career–and life. UoPeople allowed me to manage the workload quite easily despite my full-time job. I started off taking one course with an expected workload of 10-15 hours per week. I could focus 100% on my work during the week, and on the weekend I would complete my university assignments. At UoPeople, each learning week is designed in a way that I comfortably completed all my assignments, and there were no mandatory lectures that I’d have to attend.

As I progressed with the program, I got more comfortable with the workload and managed to take several courses at once, which allowed me to finish the degree within 15 months. With my MBA degree in hand, I felt ready to put myself out there and start applying to jobs. Nonetheless, applying to jobs still looked like a daunting task. I knew I had to have a process in place–to cut procrastination and make the job-hunt more strategic. I set aside 20 minutes every day, following a set of activities to look at jobs and apply. That way, I stayed motivated throughout the process. This method ultimately helped me land my current job as the Head of Product at trailty.com. I now lead a product management team in this consumer-facing tech startup and the job is exactly what I always wanted. It takes work to land your dream job– which is why anyone willing to put in dogged effort in a strategic manner can succeed!

Here are my top job search tips:

1. Know exactly what you want

I once saw this post on LinkedIn by Taylor Offer that I really liked. I feel this one surely sums up my first tip for anyone wanting to land that dream job. It goes like this:

“Don’t apply for 500 jobs. Don’t apply for 50 jobs. Apply for 5 jobs. Do your research. Know the company and the role inside out. Make relationships with people at the company. Ask good questions. Be overly prepared. Instead of using your energy to apply to 500 jobs, use that energy to apply to 5.”

While I agree with this statement and advise the same, make sure you stand a chance at those 5 jobs you select. My approach has been to find the 100 jobs I like and let the process drill it down to just 5 that are actually the best fit for me. While you shortlist your 5 best ones, keep in mind:

  • Desired countries/cities: I learned early in my job hunt that being as specific as possible, even nailing down the exact city, helps focus your search. Otherwise, there are simply too many opportunities out there.
  • Desired company size: I wanted to work in a start-up and not at a big company, or at a consultancy. Again, narrowing my desired choices down only made it easier for me.
  • Desired industry: My goal was to work in a company that provided digital products because that’s where my passion lies. This clarity greatly helped in identifying my best options.

2. Network

Luckily, I had a big LinkedIn network—both from my previous jobs, but also through UoPeople. Whenever I would interact with people during a course, either through the discussion forum or through group assignments, I would make it a point to find and connect with them on LinkedIn. This greatly increases your chances to know someone in a potential company. I pinned down my favorite organizations and always checked if I had some contacts working with them. In my experience, having a contact in a company greatly increases your chances of getting the first interview.

3. Make use of Peer Review

Before I kicked off my application process, I reached out to around 5 key people who I trust and respect. These are people who have successfully entered a career, are knowledgeable in the field I am interested in, or who work in HR. I asked them to review my CV and give me guidance for future steps of the application process. I learned a lot on how I can present my past volunteering and work experience, as well as how to highlight my newly acquired UoPeople MBA degree in a way that ensured I looked like a strong candidate.

4. Polish your CV

There are tons of tips and resources out there that I read to continuously tweak my CV to perfection. Some of my learnings were:

  • Don’t try too hard to bypass the ATS (application tracking systems) algorithms:  There are a ton of articles advocating for weird tips, like sending your CV in .docx format, etc. Since I was reaching out to people through my network, I realized I needed to create my CV for humans and give up being mechanical to beat the ATS.
  • Keep it short: just one or two pages (unless stated otherwise).
  • Tell your story: make your CV interesting to read instead of treating it as a laundry list of skills and achievements.
  • Proofread: grammar, spelling, and formatting errors make a bad first impression.

5. Create a Portfolio

In my line of work, I don’t get the chance to add a list of all projects I participated in into the application, so, I created a portfolio. I simply purchased a domain with my name and had it point to my Medium blog, then added the link to my CV. This step ensures other professionals in the field get an opportunity to thoroughly review your body of work.

About the author:

Laurin S. is passionate about automation and consumer tech products. As Head of Product at the European early-stage fintech, Trality, he is responsible for managing the roadmap and ensuring that user needs are met. In his free time, Laurin moonlights as a product management instructor and mentor. You can contact him on his website: laurinstahl.page.