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Going back in time - What would YOU change? [#permalink]
26 Jun 2007, 16:19
I am a future MBA prospect, very young (21) and ambitious. I want to make sure I do everything right. So in that regard I have a couple questions.
If you could go back and fix one or two things about yourself that would make yourself stand out more as a candidate what would it be?
Also, what are some examples of leadership experience with the exception of the work field? I want to get involve as much as I can and be a great leader someday, but I am not exactly sure where or how to start.
My situation never allowed me to take risks (Actually that's a lie. I did have the first 2 years of my work-life available to take risks, but I was too busy enjoying the moolah). So I would say, take risks .. and try your hands on things that you enjoy and that will really set you apart later. You are (hopefully) not making too much money right now and have no wife or children to support (again, hopefully). So, use this freedom.
It's shocking how little time it takes to go from 21 to 27. So, start NOW
Heh. No wife and no kids and not making too much money. I actually am only an intern for a Fortune 500 company and currently only making 12.00 hour.
When you say take more risks though, what exactly are you referring to? Is this financial, life in general, all of the above? Is it possible you can be a little bit more specific so I can get a better idea?
Do schools take your extracurriculars that you done in your undergrad seriously? I am entering my senior year with a 3.37 and the potential to raise it to near 3.6 that's assuming I get a 4.0 from here on out which I know I am very well capable of.
And I have been VERY much involve. Treasurer of an organization, joined another that focused on community service. Two others that help develop you in a better person/leader. Next year I will be joining a frat and one more leadership group where I will be aiding the transition of the next incoming freshmen group.
So in the short term I think I have everything covered. Now once I graduate though, what are some other ways I should be looking to get myself involve?
This post may come across as arrogant since the tone is kind of know-it-all-ish. To counter that here goes my disclaimer: I may be wrong and what I've written is just what I would have said to my about-to-graduate self if he (I) had come to my 30-year-old-self for advice:
1) While planning a few things ahead would probably put you in a better position come application year, don't overdo it. Choose the employer and industry you feel you will enjoy the most and be passionate about your job. If you enjoy your job, then performing well will be a natural thing and you'll get the steady progress at work that will impress admissions people (specially since it's usually much easier to progress from entry-level positions than from higher positions). Don't choose your first job based on a token compensation difference, choose it based on how you think you would feel being a part of each organization.
2) Make sure you have a life outside work and try and make it meaningful to you. If that means joining Habitat for Humanity or United Way, then by all means do so. But if you wouldn't like spending your free time doing those kind of activities, then do something else instead. Just make sure you are consistent with the activities along time and that they are meaningful to you. If you do so, you will get:
a) more out of your activities.
b) better stories to tell and opportunities to lead.
3) Leadership is not about being formally in charge of a group of people. While managing people will provide challenges that you have never faced before and arguably the most difficult (and typically most important) challenges in your professional life, you can be a leader from any position in an organization. Leading is about changing the status quo (but only if it needs to be changed). Leading is not about coming up with ideas to improve things at work but about selling those ideas properly and making sure they become reality. Leading is about influencing other people to do what's best for the organization and it can take many forms: from keeping employees motivated to making sure that needed changes take place through just keeping things functioning properly if they don't need any fixing.
4) Update your resume regularly. Are you stalling? Analyze why and take action. Are you progressing enough or even investing a few years paying your dues to get better opportunities later on? Then stay put as long as you are content. But at the same time, have realistic expectations, don't just go job - hopping looking for the Holy Grail job. If it exists, it's usually very tough to get.
5) There's plenty of time to both have fun and keep a succesful career and life. There's no need to cut down on leisure to focus on resume-building extracurriculars. Actually (going back to point 2), there's no reason why these two (leisure and extras) should be completely separated.
6) The world is a huge place with lots of cultures worth knowing and places worth visiting. Try to get international exposure through work or trips - if possible - or by reading and talking to people.
7) Try to get a balanced view on all issues, know that absolutes are simplifications at best and wrong statements at worst. Be prepared to change your mind about things you thought strongly about as you mature.
8) Don't set your MBA plans in stone. Be honest to yourself and go for it only if it makes sense to you and your career / life vision.
1. I would have applied 3/4 years ago at 23 or 24 . Then, I was working for myself in the consulting industry, had multiple clients, was responsible for everything -- owned my own S-corp and at 24, I had an income roughly double that of an MBA, was managing a team of six, etc ... It would have made for a very impressive application and I believe I could have maybe made it into HBS. Foolishly, I thought I was too young to apply. In reality, it was probably the perfect time. This is by far my biggest regret. I'm happy with where I ended up obviously, but I sincerely believe I could have had my pick of places three years ago.
2. My GPA. I'd go back and try and get it a little higher ... something like 3.3 or above.
3. Taken my career more by the horns... I feel like I took it by the horns at times, but I often just rode the slide to whatever pool it put me in. I would have spent less time focusing on what was wrong with project X or company Y or what I didn't like about my career and more time fixing it. I could have been somewhere impressive with my career by now - but missteps, poorly planned moves and short sighted decisions derailed me at 24, and the last three years, have, for the most part, been a waste. It put me in a tough spot explaining things on my essays, and it won't help me when it comes time to interview.
this sounds weird, I guess, but I really have enjoyed my twenties, and feel that I have done just about everything I wanted to. So mine aren't that helpful, probably:
1. Take stats in college
2. Take more spanish - even at the expense of russian (which was my 2nd major)
3. Buy our house the first time it came on the market, 9 months before we bought it: minimum of $20k in instant additional equity. Doh!
4. get your sh*t together quicker and apply to stanford. Yale's for the birds.
I didn't even start thinking about an MBA until about a year ago so any changes would be pure hindsight. It's been a whirlwind since then studying for the GMAT, applying, visiting, interviewing and now getting ready to go.
Some things about my profile that I wish were different:
1. Undergrad GPA - obviously higher is better in almost any case, but in my case it would have been great to be in the middle 80% range. That said, I don't regret a moment of my undergraduate days.
2. Cultivate better & different relationships with the companies I did business with in China. Things were much different just 4-5 years ago and business in China wasn't to hotbed that it is today. My contacts have largely been with owners of small factories and businesses and these experiences and recommendations probably didn't have the impact that they could have if I had business school in mind. International experiences are big for the business school applications, so do what you can do establish useful contacts.
3. Apply 2-3 years ago. I would have been within the middle 80% range at that time and my application would have been more or less just as strong. There's not much difference for the purposes of business school applications between running a business for 2 years as compared to 4. Also, application volumes were much lower 2-3 years ago, and admit rates were much more favorable. There's a running joke that many of the people currently graduating couldn't get into the same schools. It's tougher now.
4. Apply earlier in the process. Like I mentioned above, I didn't really start early enough to make R1 deadlines, but try to do that if you can. It may or may not be measurably easier in R1, but its definitely less stressful than having all your deadlines together in R2 as I did. Also, if you don't get admitted anywhere in R1, you still have time to submit additional apps. If you miss out on R2, it's pretty much too late.
So, there are definitely ways to prepare yourself if you're sure you will be applying to business school in a few years.
My biggest gripe is that I let my immigration status or lack thereof dictate my career moves. I waited too long for my green card to get approved and ended up not changing companies or taking more senior positions to avoid going through labor certification again. For the uninitiated USCIS doesn't allow you to drastically change your job function if you have a pending employment-based green card application. If you do happen to make a drastic upward move, you are penalized and have to start all over again. Don't ask me why?.