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.

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