After working in BCG’s Health Care Practice, Darden recent alumna Courtney Byer (MBA ’22) launched her MBA career laser-focused. When she saw the opportunities that the degree unlocked for her BCG colleagues, Courtney knew she wanted to pursue her own MBA with the career goal to work in the biopharmaceutical industry.

“I worked closely with a Darden alumna at BCG who had amazing things to say about the school and helped me prep for my application and interview,” said Courtney. “I came down to visit and fell in love. No other Admissions team was more personable. I applied early action and got in.”

Prepare Early and Often

The summer before her First Year, Courtney leveraged CDWhy, the Career Center’s pre-MBA recruiting prep program, because she knew she would be busy during the core curriculum.

“Career Leader recommended marketing, so it was a good validation and verified that it was a good fit. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t limiting myself,” Courtney remembered. “I took all of the self-assessment quizzes that were in CDWhy,”

Building on her experience in and passion for biopharma, she held informational interviews with contacts at different companies and began building her target list. Once Courtney arrived at Darden, she partnered with the Career Center, Darden alumni and Northeastern alumni to continue refining her target list, building a health care-specific resume, and understanding different roles in biopharma.

“Having the Darden connection is such a natural entry point,” Courtney said of her networking conversations with alumni. “Especially when you’re going into something more niche. They don’t receive these kinds of introductory emails very often, so they’re excited and open about talking to you about their company and industry.”

Network, Network, Network

She used informational interviews as opportunities to learn more about Darden alumni, meet further connections, and get advice on how to navigate the internship application process.

“Talk to as many people as possible who are in different industries and roles that you’re interested in. Come with specific questions you want to know about the role,” Courtney advised First Years. She encouraged students in specialized searches to be curious and act in alignment with their values.

“If you know that you thrive working cross-functionally and don’t want to work in a spreadsheet all day, ask that question. Figure out what’s important to you, and try to be as specific as possible” Courtney said. “Unless you’ve been lucky to meet people who have jobs you’re interested in, you don’t know that they exist. That’s why talking to people is so helpful.”

Courtney also recommended that students nurture new networking relationships over the long-term, just as they would with any other colleague.

“I networked with alumni to learn about internship positions, and then when I formally applied, I followed up with the alumni again to let them know I submitted my application. It’s not just one networking touchpoint; you have to let them know where you’ve landed and how you’re doing,” Courtney recommended. “I had a whole spreadsheet of names.”

Courtney at the Takeda office

Chart Your Own Path and Don’t Feel Diminished

Ultimately, Courtney accepted an internship offer to work at Takeda Pharmaceuticals in the firm’s Commercial Leadership Development Program and near her target location of Boston. As a member of the company’s Omnichannel Engagement Strategy and Operations team, Courtney helped one of Takeda’s brands build and scale a social listening platform.

“One of the exciting things in biopharma right now is that the industry is so ripe for disruption, innovation and digitalization. There’s lots of change happening, and I got to be on the team at the forefront of that,” said Courtney.

Once the summer ended, each of the 8 MBA interns from top programs across the country that received and accepted offers accepted to re-join Takeda full-time after they graduated – including Courtney. She credits the thoughtful, feedback-driven and collaborative nature of the organization and internship experience as part of the reason why every person in Courtney’s internship cohort has returned to Takeda.

Courtney believes a combination of focused recruiting efforts, early preparation and networking helped her accept and start a job in her target industry, target role and target location. She encourages future Darden students to trust their abilities to accomplish their unique career goals.

“As many students recruit into consulting and banking roles, don’t feel diminished,” Courtney said. “What you want to do is an amazing choice. You have the flexibility to chart your own path.”