Paying It Forward: Recruiting During COVID-19

A deep dive into the stories of four students — two domestic and two international — who tapped into the alumni network to find success in a unique recruiting year (to say the least)

Graham Burgess ’20 entered Kellogg not quite know what he wanted to do. “I came from the military and, after discussing some of my interests with my peers in the Veterans Management Association, I decided I’d go down the general management path,” Burgess says. However, it was only after accepting an internship with DaVita in general management that he realized his love for finance.

After returning from his summer internship, he began the recruiting process for investment banking. While a pivot from a general management internship to a full-time role in investment banking is not common — especially given the networking-driven recruiting processes required for both — it became feasible because of Burgess’ Kellogg networks.

“Being a veteran at Kellogg, I was able to talk to Kellogg alums, as well as Kellogg veteran alums who were at the banks and that was where I could be unguarded and candid about what I knew and what I didn’t know,” Burgess says. “The Kellogg alumni network and vet network were incredibly important and helped me craft my story.” He ultimately secured a full-time role with Lincoln International.

Leveraging the Kellogg network is at the core of many students’ recruiting stories ­— even in the unprecedented event of a pandemic.

In the spring of 2020, Kellogg moved to a completely virtual quarter. At this same time, the impact of COVID-19 on recruiting was quickly beginning to emerge. Not only did it disrupt the typically in-person format of recruiting, but the economic impact was profound on a wide range of industries and the hiring needs of companies. Some students who were offered internships suddenly found themselves with rescinded offers or reduced stipends, for example.

The Kellogg administration pivoted by designing new initiatives to support students in the recruiting process. Kellogg doubled down on the HireKellogg campaign to engage the network of Kellogg alumni to connect students to job opportunities. It also launched the Student Assistance Fund, which raised more than $1.2 million to provide stipends for summer internships or supplement reduced compensation due to the pandemic.

Kellogg students pivoted, too.

In the fall of 2019, Eric Rotterman ’20 came back from his consulting internship at Bain to pursue more impact-focused work and considered going back to his background of aerospace engineering. However, when the pandemic thrust the entire aerospace industry into crisis, he had to reconsider once again.

“I had to pivot. And the change I wanted to do maybe later in my career towards community service just happened to move earlier. And that was the right time for me to pivot into the more altruistic career path,” Rotterman says.

Deciding still to pursue consulting, he learned that consulting management and strategy roles existed in larger faith organizations. In fact, he saw there was a management consulting role open within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which he is a member. He reached out to Kellogg alumnus, James Stubbs ’18, who worked there, to inquire about the role.

“At this point, it was late spring in 2020 and he helped me get on the interview schedule,” Rotterman says. The process moved quickly. “We discussed the role on a Friday and then we had interviews on the following Thursday. In between those interviews, he connected me with two of his colleagues, with whom I had formal interviews. From then on, I interviewed two or three more times and got the job offer.”

Though he received an offer, Rotterman would have to pivot again.

2020 wasn’t only the year of the pandemic, it was also a time when Optional Practical Training issues came to the forefront for many international students recruiting within the U.S. This impacted internal policies within the church and Rotterman could no longer stay for three years, which was the original duration within his contract. The church rescinded the offer.

“I made this decision not knowing the world would be upended.”

Maria Alvarez Ribeiro '20

“I was back to ground zero in May,” Rotterman said, and he moved back to Switzerland. However, within four days of moving, he found another job opportunity within the church that appealed to him. Again, he sent a message to Stubbs to inquire about the position.

“I was a bit late in their interview process and they already had other candidates. But the power of the network just gave me that favor to add me at the last minute.” A week and a half later, Rotterman was offered a management consulting role in the missionary department.

When it came to making a recruiting pivot for Maria Alvarez Ribeiro ’20, she looked inside the walls of Kellogg to her network of classmates for support.

In Portugal, Ribeiro was in the retail space, where her corporate strategy role focused on brick-and-mortars. She came to Kellogg to pursue e-commerce. “With technology disrupting retail so much, I wanted to get a better understanding of how the trends in technology were changing retail,” she says.

While Ribeiro received an offer in October of 2019 from a large retailer, she turned it down to pursue e-commerce companies that followed a more just-in-time recruiting path and waited for the spring to activate her network. “I made this decision not knowing the world would be upended,” she says.

When it came time to activate her network, the U.S. was in the midst of the pandemic and she needed to be mindful as people were getting laid off. She turned to her peer network for support, sharing her recruiting goals and companies of interest with her classmates.

“I had a bunch of classmates say, ‘Maria, I know you’re looking in e-commerce and I have a friend who’s looking for someone.’ Other classmates shared job posts or suggested I to talk with someone they know at a company that could be interesting,” Ribeiro says.

This outreach with her peer network proved successful, as a fellow classmate shared with her a contact who worked at Doordash — one of her target companies. He also happened to be a hiring manager for an open role. While she didn’t ultimately get that specific role, she eventually landed a different role at Doordash.

Pictured here: Lauren Meyer '20. Pictured above: Graham Burgess ’20.

Lauren Meyer ’20 also found herself at the mercy of an unexpected twist to her recruiting schedule. Entering Kellogg, Meyer wanted to join an early-stage health-tech startup as a product manager in the Bay Area. Like many who recruit for startups in this space, she delayed her full-time recruiting process until the spring in 2020.

“I started applying blindly to a lot of companies, hoping to get a pulse on what the job market was going to look like and start networking with anyone I could in the Bay Area,” Meyer says. “If I heard back from a company, the response was often ‘let’s talk again in three or four months.’”

Prior to the pandemic in the fall of 2019, Meyer had reconnected with a 2019 Kellogg alumnus with whom she had worked on Kellogg’s annual Business of Healthcare Conference. She was interested in doing a part-time product management internship, and he helped her land an internship with Kalderos, a Chicago-based healthcare startup, for which he was a product manager. She was interning at Kalderos in the spring of 2020 while she was trying to recruit for a full-time product manager role in the Bay Area.

“Ironically enough, they were raising their Series B right around the time spring break was canceled. So, I got involved in helping with that effort,” Meyer says. “And it was through that effort that I was able to establish myself with the COO and president of the company, who also happened to be a Kellogg alumnus.”

As Meyer continued her job search, she and her alumni network at Kalderos stayed in close contact about her recruiting prospects. “I talked with them weekly, and they continued to ask how things were going, giving advice and offering to make introductions, even while knowing that I probably wasn’t going to stay there.”

However, towards the end of her internship in late spring, Meyer and her alumni network at Kalderdos collectively determined she was a good fit for the company, and she accepted a full-time role as a product manager with Kalderos.

“Not only was it a company I was interning at already, but I had established these Kellogg relationships. So, they knew what I was capable of and I was also able to hit the ground running really fast — owning my own product and shaping how the product works at our company,” Meyer says.

While the pandemic disrupted the landscape of recruiting for students at Kellogg, the strength of the Kellogg network remained unchanged and activated its pay-it-forward culture.

Meyer is now continuing to repay in kind. “Because of my experience, I was able to pitch an internship at Kalderos for a fellow second-year grad who had his start date pushed due to the pandemic. He was able to intern with Kalderos over the summer before starting his full-time job in the fall.”

If you are interested in pursuing job or internship opportunities with Kellogg MBA students, get in touch with the Kellogg Career Management Center.

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