Powering Up a New Career

How do you successfully go from operating nuclear reactors on an aircraft carrier to commercial banking? An MBA sounds like a great place to start and the internship sounds like a great place to take theory to practice. After many months of what at times felt like would be a fruitless effort, the internship hunt has finally come to a close. For MBA students, this process can be as time-consuming, if not more so, than the academics. Countless hours may be spent doing case preparation and mock interviews, scouring LinkedIn for postings and connections, and putting together suit combination after suit combination. When the offer letter was finally signed, my reflection led me to a few general ideas, with an emphasis on the experience as a veteran.


Have a goal but come in with eyes wide open: When leaving the military and applying to MBA programs, you are quickly reminded that you are expected to have specific goals in mind post-MBA. Well, never again in your life will you have the time or the resources to explore a wide array of professional options. Take advantage of them. Have a goal in mind but be ready and willing to pivot when a great opportunity presents itself. 


Network, network, network: As a veteran, you are uniquely positioned with a strong network, whether you believe it or not. Though you may not personally know many people within an industry, it is important to lean on fellow veterans who have successfully made careers within corporate America. Ask them the tough questions and remember, they were in your shoes not too long ago.


Be patient but stay persistent: The internship search can certainly be demoralizing at times. However, good things come to those who work hard. If you want a role enough, keep the press on but stay patient. It may come to you when you least expect it.


–By James Vika. Vika is a 2021 MBA candidate and the Assistant Director for Military and Veteran Affairs at Smith. He is originally from Philadelphia and served in the U.S. Navy as a Nuclear-Qualified Surface Warfare Officer prior to pursuing an MBA with a concentration in finance.