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Drinking and B-School [#permalink]
24 Jul 2007, 08:52
Yeah, I now this topic is a bit off-the-wall, but I've just been thinking: If there are a lot of social/networking situations in B-school, and people go out drinking a lot (Friday bar nights, after tests, etc...), can anyone give me a perspective of a person who doesn't drink, and whether these people will be able to mingle and form bonds with their classmates at all?
you can still go and hang out but just order virgin cocktails or O'Dools.
Afterall it is the 21st century and people will respect your choice. But no matter how you look at it, you will definitely be missing out on some of the bonding.
Can you drink even a little bit? maybe just nurse like 1 drink the whole nite?
Well I can give you an interesting perspective on this from my undergrad. I went to a military school that was 90% male and we also happened to go to foreign countries for a few months each winter on a ship. So let’s just say 500 male, mostly underage sailors, in ports with no drinking age...pretty much all anyone did was drink heavily. And still I have never had a drink in my life, not out of religious or cultural reasons, it was simply a personal decision I made and have kept with since I was in my teens.
At first it was a little odd and people thought I was afraid to drink but as time went on people totally didn't even consider it. It was simply I didn't drink, I didn't tell them to not drink and they didn't try to get me to drink once they realized I wouldn't. Honestly my friends who were the heaviest drinkers were the ones who defended me most about it. You would be amazed how many times I had a drunken friend slur how awesome it was that I don't drink...being the sober one has always had its advantages and I think they realized that and appreciated it. I was the one to recognize when trouble was starting, kept them from embarrassing themselves too much, and wouldn't let them do anything too stupid.
Personally I still don't drink, and at 27 I don't think that’s going to change. I made it this far in life, have no ambition to try it, and my wife doesn't drink either so I have my instant support system. As long as you are sure of yourself and don't let your decision not to drink affect you then people will respect it. It will only be a problem if you let it be. If you show up at school and you are in your mid 20s to early 30s and dont drink...people aren't going to expect you suddenly to start taking part in their drinking games. Also think about whats going to happen when someone does give you a hard time (and that probably will happen), that the person who harasses you about it, is the one who is going to look like the idiot and people will most likely talk poorly about them and not you. People talk about the drunks making fools of themselves not their sober friends...just be personable and don't be a stick in the mud and almost everyone will accept you.
I think peer pressure to drink should be low - much lower than in college. I do believe that drinking is a way of life in certain industries and that you will look out of place if you order a virgin drink or a non-alcoholic beer. Sales & Trading would be a prime example of this; but all sectors of banking should probably be included. I have quite a few friends in consulting and drinking is the norm there as well (as it is lawyers at big firms) I haven't been through business school recruiting, so I can't really say, but as I understand it, you need to schmooze a lot for many of the most popular jobs, and for most functions schmoozing means drinking.
I directed rush at my fraternity for several years, and served as director of recruitment for the interfraternity council, so I've definitely done my share of drinking. If you want to make it through recruiting without drinking you can. Don't stand around empty-handed. Pour some water over ice in a glass and throw a lime on top - that will look like a drink. Grab a glass of wine if you can and sip slowly, I think that's very acceptable these days. If you go with non-alcoholic beer (yuck!) then pour it into a glass. Do Not stand around holding a bottle of O'Doul's. Do Not stand around holding anything that looks fruity (if you're a guy). Do Not order any drinks that are garnished with umbrellas.
I believe that firms host cocktail hours to see if you will fit in with them, and for trading, banking, consulting and I'd imagine most other MBA level jobs, drinking will be the norm. For any funciton that is client facing, you'll need to be able to get along during cocktail hour. These days, knowing something about wine is probably useful. So, I don't think anyone will try to make you drink, but I do think that you will look out of place at certain functions if you're the only one not drinking. You'll want to look comfortable in a cocktail hour setting because you'll probably be spending lots of time attending them.
I can also say that from the other side of the table (I did recruiting as a lawyer), you always wonder about people that shun drinking entirely. Certainly, some people like to drink more than others, and too much drinking can be a problem, but people that abstain 100% make you wonder if they are religious fanatics, or that they aren't social (let's face it, virtually all people have a few drinks during college). It also raises the question of what someone will be like when they have their first drink if they never drank before. I think that firms are most comfortable with people who have had some fun in college and as professionals, and are still at the top of their game in business school. There's less risk.
One trick that my friend does at networking events is getting a sprite with a lime twist in it. You're not drinking, everyone thinks you are, and you don't get the inevitable "where's your drink" or "let me get you a drink" comments.
There is nothing wrong with not drinking, but this might help keep the wolves at bay.
Wow, there are some great (and funny) comments here!
Most of the time, like riverripper, I enjoy being the sober one around, to help friends out when they're too drunk to even walk home. But once in a while I do wish I could drink more. I just cannot process alcohol, nothing more than 1/2 a drink and bad consequences happen (think people who are allergic to chocolages, but not as severe) I actually know wine and collect them, and at parties I often hold a non-alcoholic drink in a cup and walk around. If that's ok, then I'm ok. I was only worried about the certain situations that pelihu and others said about the people "not trusting you" because you don't drink at all. Hopefully an explanation of the medical condition will help in those cases.
Of course, my biggest fear is the international business arena. Many deals are made in the bars when everyone is completely trashed. I might be viewed as an alien from outer space there... it kind of sucks...
Personally I will take the out of place non-drinker title over the drunken fool who makes an ass of themself during recruitment events. I have seen people shoot themselves in the foot a few times by getting so drunk at an event they killed any chance of ever getting where.
Honestly my fear isn't about my not drinking, I could care less what people think about that. I am more worried about what people will think about me having a couple tattoos.
Getting too drunk is much worse, of course. A medical condition is a good excuse as well. Saying that you are taking allergy medication or something works just fine.
Where are your tattoos? In formal business environments, tattoos are indeed a major problem. The friends I know who have tattoos and also work at big firms have them in places where they won't show up in normal business dress. I know that most big law firms would have trouble hiring someone with visible tattoos and I imagine banks are the same way.
Oh just my whole left arm and half my right...I am not worried about covering them up once you have a long shirt on you wouldn't know they are there. Once you are hired and do your job effectively tattoos dont matter nearly as much as they do during the application process. I have a friend who is a lawyer and it took a year and a half for anyone to even figure out he had tons of them. Now that they know he always seems to be used with clients who have an edgier image and are youth oriented...his bosses seem to think it helps them connect which is kind of funny.
I am not going into banking, if I was I may be concerned. I might be concerned if I want to be a management consultant..once again not a field I am interested in. Though in some companies it still may matter at others it isn't an issue. I just have one more criteria to evaluate a company for and if a place is so super conservative that they would not promote me because of them then I dont think I would want to work there.
I have experienced spells of heavy drinking, pure abstenance, and finally moderation throughout my life, and thoroughly enjoyed each. Drinking, as Pelihu pointed out, is the expected norm to open up a little and build trust to usually clinch a big deal. You will find this is almost always the case in China. Even during non-drinking phases, I felt compelled to have at least one shot of baijo to break the ice while a fellow colleague downed bottles and bottles. After two shots or so I would cliam that the liqueur is simply too strong and switched to a seltzer with lime. It looked like a gin and tonic to everyone else, which was good enough to get through the client entertainment portion of the evening.
In b-school you will stand out if you make an issue about being a Puritan. One option is to volunteer whenever possible as the group's designated driver. Doing so will entitle you to all the free non-alcoholic drinks you heart desires.
If everybody is cabbing home or you find yourself in a situation where you need to drink in order to feel accepted (again peer pressure), then order a crown seven and try to catch the waitress before she repeats your order to the bartender. Mention that you would like your's "very light on crown, please" as you work your way to the restroom. Nurse that C7 for an hour or so, by which point everybody else will be buzzing and won't notice that you reordered a generic 7up with a twist.
Seriously though, if you are uncomfortable drinking completely (not a single drop) then that's your prerogative, however you will be the oddball. IMO, the essence is to savor a good glass of Bordeaux, local microbrewed beer, or single shot of quality aged scotch, in proper moderation. It enhances the tastes of food, relaxes the nerves and helps lift the occational harmless inhibition.
Last edited by GMATT73 on 25 Jul 2007, 03:50, edited 2 times in total.
If drinking were required in business no one would go to BYU. Mit Romney was supersuccessful with Bain Capital and he is a Mormon.
Seriously I think if you are in your mid 20s or above and have been successful in your career so far it obviously hasn't held you back at this point. Also I would be cautious as to who to give a hard time to you because you never know who is a recovering alcoholic or comes from a family with alcohol abuse problems I have friends who are very successful despite being raised by people who should have gone to rehab and I also have friends who are in AA and do well for themselves. And with the sensitivity in regards to race and religion these days you never know who has some belief system against alcohol so tread lightly or you may end up in hot water over a joke.
Yeah I was a heavy drinker during undergrad years..now I rarely drink at all ..I usually get diet coke at the bar..I tell people it's rum and coke..unless they want a sip, they don't know the difference..just have to be sneaky and order when everyone else has gotten their drink:)
If you judge by this thread chances are you won’t be alone in not drinking. At any large school there are going to be all types of people and at any given event there will be people chugging down beers, there will be those nursing a drink for hours, and there will be those who don’t drink anything. Just come up with some witty responses as to why you aren't drinking...like oh I am pregnant, this is good if you are a guy since its obviously a lame joke but if you are girl its probably a bad idea since you will be bombarded with congratulations for the rest of the night and in a few months have some explaining to do. A female friend of mine always used the “I am on a diet so I can’t afford empty calories” as an excuse…no guy will dare challenge a girl on a diet.
Besides if people are focused on what you are drinking they aren't focusing on what the purpose of the events are...unless its wine tasting at which point why would you attend if you don’t want to drink.
Honestly I've never been at a b-school event where there was heavy drinking - I mean people getting trashed - nor where anyone was paying attention to what anyone else was drinking. I rarely finish one drink in a night and sometimes don't drink alcohol at all and no one's ever said anything or treated me any differently than anyone else. Then again I'm a girl, I think there's more of an expectation between guys.
On the contrary, if you know you are in for a descent night of drinking and need to perform the following day, try taking turmeric root extract. It comes in both the liquid and capsule form. I swear by it's effects 100%. Of course, finishing the night by guzzling a gallon of mineral water never hurts either