Duke - The Fuqua School of Business

Personal Planning

Becoming More Strategic

"The (2-Hour Job Search) method helped me go from feeling completely lost and overwhelmed to feeling like I had a focused strategy that would end in an offer … this method will undoubtedly be the only way I conduct job searches in the future." — Beth Corcoran '10

The Daytime MBA program is where tomorrow's leaders are molded. So, if you don't have a clear vision of your career goals, it's okay. It's all part of the journey.

Our career development coaches work with you to create a custom career planning strategy for your unique situation. Whether you are interested in changing functions, changing industries, changing both industry and function, or working internationally, we can help you accomplish your goals.

Our phased approach to career development involves:

  • Exploration/Self Assessment: You will use CareerLeader, a program specifically for MBA students, to complete a self-assessment of your skills, talents, and career goals. You will work with a CMC coach to interpret the assessment and to set goals for your job search.
  • Preparation: You will learn about personal branding through resume and cover letter development and learn methods to best "pitch" yourself.
  • Implementation: After sharpening your job search skills, you will begin to exercise them during interactive networking, interviewing workshops, and actual interviews.
  • Lifelong Support: We provide continued career support through technology, outreach, and individual assistance after you graduate. Before you complete the program, you will learn more about our alumni career services.

The 2-Hour Job Search

In the planning phase, you also learn a rigorous high-efficiency job search methodology called The 2-Hour Job Search. This systematic model takes the anxiety and guesswork out of the job search by providing a concrete method for structuring your time and measuring the results of your efforts.

The strategies you learn simplify an otherwise complex job search. The 2-Hour Job Search is a model and book written by Steve Dalton, Fuqua Senior Career Consultant.

Steve Dalton ’04, Sr. Career Consultant & 2-Hour Job Search Expert

Below, Steve Dalton gives advice on how to maximize your time and stay focused during your job search. Based on his own personal experience and years of working with the Career Management Center, he finds that editing out a lot of noise will help you hone in on your best job prospects.

Q&A with the Author of The 2-Hour Job Search:

  • I met with a student during the 2008 financial crisis who had just lost her banking offer. She was devastated and asked me to help her get back on track.  Her request was unique in that she wanted exact job search instructions. Under normal circumstances she would have known what to do, but having just been through the job search process, she didn't have the energy to turn those general principles into specific actions.

    Unfortunately, I didn't have exact instructions for her, nor could I find any. Nevertheless, the request resonated with me. There is a magnitude of job search advice out there, but it isn't equally helpful.  I decided to curate this information into something specific and efficient, a step-by-step process that removes the ambiguity from a universally stressful experience. 

    I never expected it would turn into a book, but the literary agent of Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point and Blink) embraced the concept of a quick start guide for the job search. The interest from Random House followed shortly thereafter.

  • Tip #1: Start with a large universe of targets, then prioritize them using predictive data. 

    Most 2-Hour Job Search users typically do not contact more than their Top 10 employers before landing a job. Therefore, the act of generating a list of at least 40 targets is a critical first step to prevent feeling artificial desperation. Employers can tell which candidates have options vs. which really need an interview to work out, and they vastly prefer the former, as it predicts better job behavior.

    Tip #2: Target Boosters specifically, not everyone generally.

    Job seekers encounter three distinct types of contacts during a job search: Curmudgeons, Obligates, and Boosters. Curmudgeons won't respond under any circumstance, and Obligates respond only because they feel they must—neither will advocate for a job seeker in a meaningful way. The most traction comes from the Boosters, who genuinely want to be helpful. When a job seeker writes to a Booster for the first time, they don't need to "sell themselves"—they simply need to ask for help (which is thankfully much easier!).

    Tip #3: Collect internal referrals to get job interviews.  Don't target job interviews directly. 

    Hiring managers are incentivized to find a "good-enough" hire quickly, rather than a "perfect" hire slowly. Thus, whenever possible, they will consider their colleagues' vouched-for referrals before considering online applicants. The challenge for job seekers is to efficiently become one of those referrals. While spending eight hours a day becoming a referral via informational meetings may seem inefficient, it's far better than the alternative—spending eight hours a day applying to job postings online. The former increases one's odds of success—the latter simply wears job seekers out, providing only the illusion of progress. 

  • The job search is both an art and a science. I wanted to make the science half replicable to help remove the stress from the process. 

    To do this, I drew from what I learned during my job search while getting my Duke MBA ('04) and from recent research. In the last decade alone, exciting findings (in the fields of marketing, operations, and behavioral economics) have emerged that I felt could be applied to improve a job seeker's efficacy.

    In particular, Fuqua Professor Dan Ariely's research was very influential. He found that if a job seeker wanted to enlist a stranger's help, it was best to ask for a favor and offer no compensation than to offer low compensation. This insight underpins the final 2/3 of my book.

    My pre-MBA experience, as a strategy consultant for A.T. Kearney, was also critical in helping systematize the process particularly in applying the 80-20 rule. This is where one aims to achieve a majority of results in minimal time and with minimal effort. But in all honesty, my best education came from my amazing colleagues in the Career Management Center at Fuqua.  

  • Perhaps my favorite turnaround story involved an engineer who wanted to transition into business development in the mobile phone industry. He knew he had to network to find a position, but was so uncomfortable conducting informational interviews that he felt stymied. He asked me to help him get started.

    I taught him a framework called TIARA to help him systematically build likability during his conversations, and to help him maximize his chances of gaining his interviewers advocacy. The TIARA technique helped guide his conversations to quickly build proxy-expertise and a network in an unfamiliar industry. Unfortunately, due to the financial downturn, none of his target firms were hiring. So he turned to his Boosters and asked them what other organizations they'd recommend he investigate. One suggested contacting the Mobile Phone Industry Standard Board which ensures compatibility across mobile carriers. Along with the suggestion his booster gave him a contact.

    The contact set up a call with my student, and questioned his knowledge of the mobile phone industry. Because of the interviewees experience using TIARA, he was able to intelligently speak about the trends impacting the mobile industry, what problems the major players faced, and the resources employees in that space used to stay current. The Standards Board made him an offer on the spot.

    I too was an engineer-turned-MBA who had sought a career change. I also froze at the thought of asking strangers for help. So I had the knowledge and experience to get him through this situation. Using TIARA helped him get a job in his dream industry, but it also helped him develop a critical life skill that will serve him long into the future. That's incredibly rewarding to see.

Next, learn about the MBA career search process for international students.