Sunday, May 29, 2005

The saddest part of breaking my foot has been all of the things I’m missing. When I fell, one of the first things I thought of was the fact that I wouldn’t be able to go on GIP. I was really looking forward to that trip. I hadn’t left North America since I was 9 years old, and I had never been to South America.

Beyond the fun of the trip, GIP symbolized something. It was an example of the new life I started when I went to Wharton. Because I worked for a nonprofit where I didn’t make much money, I didn’t travel much, except back home to Houston to visit my family. While I did get to go to different cities because of work, for the last few years most of my leisure travel was to the Lone Star State.

Going to Wharton has meant more than just earning a masters in business administration. More than building a new network and more than getting a new job. It was a fresh start. A chance to live and do the things I always wanted to do. Like sing on stage, like take a road trip across country, like travel abroad. I’m not saying that I couldn’t do these things without coming to Wharton, but for some reason, attending business gave me permission to spread my wings and do things I only dreamed. Going on GIP was one of those dreams.

So what do you do when a dream’s deferred? Well – I’m getting caught up on all the things that I missed. I didn’t have much time for the news beyond the front page of the paper. So now that my life is TV and books and movies and more TV, I’m learning about all the stuff I missed – like Michael Powell resigned from the FCC, and Howard Dean is head of the DNC, and CNN axed Crossfire, and Paige Davis got kicked off of Trading Spaces. (I’m really upset about the Trading Spaces thing!)

And I’m still trying to get a job. Because of the extent of my injury, (I have a lisfranc fracture – which is what Duce Staley from the Eagles had and then some) I can’t work until July. That makes an already trying job search all the more difficult. I have a couple of good leads, and I guess if they like me enough, they’ll let me start in July. I guess I just have to have faith.

And I will travel. I will go somewhere. I’m thinking African Safari for Spring Break. Or maybe a weekend in Paris for Fall Break. Or India GIP over Christmas Break. I’m not sure where I’m going but I’m determined to go somewhere.

So maybe this set back will make me appreciate my life at Wharton even more. Maybe I’ll take greater risks. Maybe I’ll push myself even further outside my comfort zone. Maybe it’ll make me realize that my self-discovery does not need to be limited to my Wharton experience.

At least I’ll have time to get caught up on the guilty pleasure that is reality TV.

Friday, May 13, 2005

All in all, my first year at Wharton has been phenomenal. I've met people who will be friends for life. I've learned so much, and this time around the knowledge seems to be sticking! I've also learned so much about myself: my weaknesses, my fears, my strengths. I would never change my decision to go back to business school.

But that being said, there are some things I wish I had known this time last year. It might have made my transition back to school a little less rocky.

I wish I had known that recruiting would take up half of my time in the fall semester. Coming in, I had absolutely no clue about the time required to (not) find a job. In the fall I focused on Investment Banking only. I didn't recruit with any other industries (although now I wish I had). IB alone took 20-35 hours a week. When you add class time, study time, extracurricular time, and just plan old take-care-of-business time, I had about 2 to 3 hours left to sleep each night. The intensity of the recruiting schedule hit me like a ton of bricks. And contrary to what the career management office might tell you, if you don't have banking experience and you skip an event at a top tier bank, you can forget getting on their interview list. So I pretty much had to go to everything.

I wish I had known that banking wouldn't work out for me. Hindsight is 20/20 right? So looking back, there were clues that it wouldn't work out. Whenever I would tell a former banker that I wanted to do banking, they would cock their head to the side, shake their head, and say, "You don't seem like the banking type. You're too nice to be a banker." I interpreted that as "You can't hang with the bankers," and "You can't do that job." But that's not what they were saying. They were questioning my fit for the job. If I had been smart, I would have put my ego aside, heard what they were saying, and realized that the people interviewing me would feel the same way. If people don't think you'll fit, you're not getting the job. It's not a judgment about ability. I wish I had realized this sooner. I think I would have saved myself A LOT of grief.

I wish I had known that I would have to work HARD to excel here. I've always risen to the top. I worked for my accomplishments, but there have been few things (at least academically) that I couldn't do reasonably well. So when I got here, I rested on my laurels. After all, I had learned so much of these subjects before. I'd done marketing, accounting, finance, etc. So I expected it would be relatively easy for me to understand. So first quarter, I just went through the motions. I showed up, did the minimum required. And it totally bit me in the ass. I quickly learned that if I wanted to do well here, I was going to have to WORK. I'd have to do practice problems, and do all the readings if I wanted to master this stuff. I'm glad I learned that because, I think I learned MUCH more in quarters 2-4 because of my improved effort. I just wish I had gotten my wake up call sooner.

And there are some things that I were different at Wharton.

I wish the Career Management Office provided more support post-DIP week. After the Dedicated Interviewing Period, I felt like the CMO just dropped us. Sure they had sessions to give you tips on getting a job, but those tips were basically "Look on our website for jobs" and "Use the WAVE alumni database to make contacts in the companies." Well, duh. What would have helped me would have been sessions on different industries so I could figure out what to do next. They had them in September, but in September I was focused on banking. Sure that was my decision, but the nature of the process kind of makes you choose early. For people like me who were focused on something that didn't pan out, it would have been helpful to do these sessions again in March.

I wish some of my fellow students were able to hold their liquor better. These people are the minority, but there are a few who clearly were never really around alcohol - because now they act like they are 21 again. So either they didn't party with alcohol in undergrad (they were studying while the rest of us are partying) or they are alcoholics. The jury's still out. But I wish this small group would learn how to drink and have fun without acting like complete asses.

I wish people here respected nonprofits more. When I mentioned that I worked for a nonprofit, it's like the people I was talking to instantly shut down, and start looking for someone more important to talk to. I quickly learned to leave "nonprofit" and "community" out of my elevator pitch. I've been SHOCKED by some of the stereotypes people have of nonprofits. People assume that nonprofits are all poorly run. That's completely untrue. There are well run nonprofits and poorly run nonprofits - just like in the for-profit world. And I wish MBAs didn't think it was up to them to save the nonprofit world from itself - that's just presumptuous. And because I worked at a nonprofit for part of my career, people assume that I'm an idiot, I know nothing, and all I have are soft skills. But many of the classes I kick ass in are "quant."

I wish that Au Bon Pain in Huntsman Hall could be replaced by a competent vendor. That restaurant has to be the most inefficient "quick" (and I am clearly using THAT term loosely) service I have ever seen. "How to fix ABP" would be an excellent OPIM project - maybe that would get me more excited about OPIM!

And there are things I wish I had done differently.

I wish I went to more parties.

I wish I had dinner more often with friends.

I wish I had met more people.

I wish I had studied more.

I wish I had learned more about careers in product development, strategy, marketing, and consulting.

I wish I had taken more time to find a career that fit me well.

I wish I had gotten to know my professors better.

And I wish I had won just one session of Cohort Bingo.

The cool thing about this process, is that I have a whole new year coming up to do so much better. I'm sad that I only have one year left, but I'm excited because I know my second year will be better than the first. The best is yet to come!

Oh, and no I still don't have a job.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

I am officially done with my first year of Wharton, albeit a week late. I just finished my marketing strategy or "markstrat" test (which was SURPRISINGLY difficult - advice to soon-to-be first years - Study for that test... no matter WHAT the professor tells you) and put all my books away. It feels wonderful to not have to worry about what to study next. Now I can focus on getting a job.

I suppose it's a good thing that I still don't have a job. The severity of my injury is such that my doctor says I can't work until July. So at least I'll get a vacation. The ironic thing is now I'm getting calls for interviews. Go figure.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

It's been a crazy two weeks.

Classes ended. I was sad to realize I wouldn't spend anymore time with my cohort. I really enjoyed having classes with Cohort L (Give 'em L!!). It was a good batch of people. I felt like I was losing apart of my family. I will definitely miss their smart ass comments in class.

I spent last week looking for a job and working on my many extracurricular activities. I studied a little but not too much - I spent more time around the second years who will leave soon, trying to soak up their company while I still could.

Finally on Monday morning I decided to get cracking on the books. I left my apartment a little before 8 AM to get prime real estate in the study lounge. On my way out of my building I took a tumble down the stairs and popped a ligament on my foot. Apparently this ligament holds all the other bones together so my entire foot shifted out of place and I managed to break several bones. I had surgery to put my bones back into place on Monday and missed most of my finals.

Besides the suckiness of breaking my bones, I'll miss out on my Global Immersion Program (GIP) Trip to South America. I was really looking forward to this trip. We were going to Argentina and Brazil. I'm pretty bummed about that. AND I was still looking for a job. Ironically I've gotten 3 calls this week about jobs. Now I have to deal with a leg that needs to be elevated and hurts like hell. And on top of all that - I broke the same leg 2 years ago and it took forever to heal. Last week was the first week when the swelling wasn't a problem.

Oh well. So my summer is beginning much differently than I thought it would. I guess that just goes to show you the importance of carpe diem. (That and the mighty power of morphine....)

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