• Checking the “boxes of success” will not guarantee happiness, says the CEO.
  • Always be discovering: Gain clarity about your strengths and interests.
  • Plan beyond 12 to 18 months to pave the path to success.

While it is easy to celebrate the idea of having freedom, the fact is that for a student looking for a job, the sudden lack of a prescribed structure can be frightening, ESSEC alumnus Michael Ohana shares.

“When you’re a student, you don’t understand the differences between firms and what they’re looking for,” he explains.

Half-joking, he adds: “You don’t want freedom. You want someone who cares for you, can take you by the hand, tell you exactly what to do, and show you the door to Goldman Sachs.”

Inspired To Take Action

During his school days, Ohana had been fortunate to have an elder brother who could walk him through all the jobs available and career paths he could take in the finance sector.

Some of his classmates didn’t. When he returned to ESSEC after an M&A internship at Citadel Investment Group in New York, their questions and the distinct memory of his brother’s advice inspired him to start helping his friends with their job search.

AlumnEye was born there in 2012, while Ohana was still in ESSEC doing his Master in Management (MiM). Its goal is to provide talent direction and career support to achieve a career that matches their ambition.

Almost a decade into operations, AlumnEye has grown into a structured training program to help students, like those at ESSEC, prepare for interviews in investment banking, market finance, and strategy consulting. With over 4,000 talents in their network, the firm has also begun offering headhunting services to private equity firms.

Finding A Calling Unique To Him

Admittedly, the first two years were especially rough with student loans and other bills to pay.

“You question yourself because of social pressures because other people are getting the badges of success—the signs that you’ve made it in life, especially out of an elite B-school like ESSEC,” Ohana recalls.

His experience while on an MBA exchange at the Tuck School of Business kept him going. Watching the investment bankers try to pivot their careers into consulting and the consultants trying to escape to the finance sector. He realized that “even if you check all the boxes, you can still feel unsatisfied.”

His internship at Citadel Investment Group helped him understand that he didn’t want a role in finance. It also clarified that what drove him the most was the desire to meet and engage with new people. There was a certainty, therefore, that AlumnEye was his calling.

Keeping His Eyes On The Prize

The certainty, in turn, gave him the patience to ride through setbacks.

“A year is nothing when you start a business,” he says, sharing that the first time AlumnEye lost a contract with an existing client, it had seemed like such a huge blow. Yet, after another year, he was able to turn the tables and recover the client.

So instead of thinking in terms of 12 or 18 months, give it five years, so you have time to try, fail, and try again, he suggests.

Noting that “at ESSEC, we have a level of freedom that is unmatched in any other school,” he adds that embracing freedom to seize the opportunities available is equally important.

“I think many ESSEC students make inspiring life choices earlier because of this level of freedom,” Ohana shares.

To him, ESSEC isn’t just a school or a client but a culture that empowered him with the wings to soar. “I would never have been able to do what I’ve done without being at ESSEC. That’s 100 percent certain,” he says.