Learn how Jess Hoffman, graduate of UConn School of Business, made the most of her MBA experience by completing an internship at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, leading her to earn a full-time position there after graduation.
Name: Jess Hoffman
School: MBA, UConn School of Business
Lives in: Southwick, MA
Profession: Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Why did you choose your MBA program? Do you have any advice for students on how to make a decision?
I chose my MBA program for a number of reasons. When I applied to business school I was looking for a career change, so I knew that it was critical to find a school where I felt well supported. It was also important to me to find a program that didn’t present a significant financial burden. Ultimately I chose the University of Connecticut because the school offered a close-knit community feel, supportive student services, and an extremely competitive ROI relative to other schools. My advice for applicants is to nail down your top priorities and then choose the school that fits those priorities the best. For instance, if you ultimately care about cost more than you do ranking, then you won’t be truly happy if you land at a highly ranked school with a huge bill.
What is something you learned that was unexpected?
One unexpected thing I learned at business school was how to quickly identify and leverage the strengths of my teammates. The great part about business programs today is that you will likely find yourself in a classroom of students from all over the world with completely different backgrounds. You’ll have different groups assigned for different classes, so ultimately you have the opportunity to work with a ton of people you wouldn’t have otherwise. In business school we learn that everyone has different strengths, and you learn to capitalize on each other’s strengths as your projects unfold. Business school looks a lot like the real world in that your team and projects will shift rapidly – spending two years practicing how to quickly assess and adapt to a new team has helped immeasurably in my career.
What was it like to transition back to school after being out for a few years? What advice can you offer students returning for their MBA?
Going back to school after a few years is definitely an adjustment. I started my MBA six years after I received my undergraduate degree. The GMAT and application process went a long way towards pushing me back to the student mindset, however it was still a challenge to adjust to sitting in a classroom for hours on end again. My advice for students transitioning back is to fully engage in your classes- dialog with your professors and fellow classmates will help ease that transition back into the world of lectures. To help facilitate that engagement be sure to come to each class with a few questions or comments prepped.
When did you decide you wanted to pursue your MBA? What inspired you? Did you pursue your MBA to switch careers?
I did pursue my MBA to switch careers. After completing my BA I started working in commercial litigation with intentions of pursuing law school. However, in working with our clients over time I learned that I was more interested in the strategy and risk mitigation side of the business rather than aiding the firms after a loss had already occurred. I started investigating how to make a career out of that interest, which led to the decision to pursue my MBA.
When it came time to look for jobs, did you find yourself interested in a new career that you hadn’t considered doing before your MBA?
Absolutely. Before going to business school I had never considered working in banking. I entered business school with a legal background and strong qualitative skills, however, I had a big gap in quantitative skills. Up to that point in my career I simply hadn’t needed much quantitative expertise. As I progressed through my MBA program I eventually grew in this area and unexpectedly found myself drawn to finance. My MBA gave me the confidence to apply to a MBA campus program at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which is ultimately where I ended up placing after graduation.
Did you have an internship during your MBA? How did that experience influence your education and career?
Yes - I completed a summer associate internship with Bank of America Merrill Lynch during my first and second year of business school. My internship had a huge influence on my career and education decisions. Having the chance to work at your potential employer for a few months is a great opportunity- and I absolutely recommend an internship to all students. In my internship I learned about the firm, the type of work I would be doing, and I was able to start a new network of current employees and MBA peers. I ultimately decided to return to the bank after graduation, so I was sure to add a number of financial courses into my second year curriculum to help me prepare.
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