Sunday, November 6, 2011

Letter to Last Year’s Me (and to this Year’s Applicants)

Dear Jeff (Insert your name here if you hope to be part of Darden’s class of 2014),

It’s Thursday evening and you’ve just finished another tough day of running and gunning at work.  You’re tired and frustrated.  I know the feeling, because I am you.

(Okay, applicants, I’m not you, but you get the point.)

Anyways, I’m writing to remind you that not long ago, you realized it was time for a change.  Remember the day the light switch flipped on?

You knew it was time for the next stage of your journey.  Sure, you’ve been successful at your current career.  You might even have some trophies on your shelf, some fancy documents in frames on the wall, and some accolades on your resume (which will be SERIOUSLY reformatted one year from now, by the way).

But deep in your heart, you know you’re capable of even more.  You can have a bigger impact.  You can take on more responsibility.  You can be a leader.

Obviously, that stuff doesn’t happen overnight.  There is so much to learn, from people who’ve done it and from people who can teach it.  You’ve got to give it a try in a safe environment, where you can afford to make mistakes.  This has to be a place that welcomes new ideas, doesn’t push you down, and doesn’t restrict what you’re capable of.   It helps if this place surrounds you with smart, successful people who have the same goals.  These folks want to get to the top, but they want you to get there too.  As such, they’ll take their own spare time to help you, and they won’t grab opportunities at the cost of your success.  They’ll be your friends and your teammates.

These people are your classmates, and this place is the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration.

I know it’s the right place because I’m here right now, and believe me, life is awesome.  Granted, class is HARD.  Case method involves continuous class participation, constant thinking, lots of reading and lots of learning team time.  In fact, you’ll work harder at school than you currently work at work.  But trust me, it’ll be interesting stuff and you’ll learn a ton (WACC isn’t just a football conference (sic), Five Forces isn’t a Star Wars reference, and Crystal Ball really can help you understand the future).

On top of class and homework, there is something going on every night.  There are sporting events, social events and charity events (FYI you’ll end up taking the Darden Cup entirely too seriously).  And, there’s a networking event every day.  There are on grounds companies to talk to and off grounds companies to reach out to.  There are brand challenges and consulting competitions.  You’ll still want to rock climb and write songs on the piano (good luck scheduling that stuff in!).  Also, your mom, your college buddies, and the guy who currently occupies the adjacent cubicle will want to call and chat (always call your mom back first).

There won’t be time for everything, but that’s the point.  Great leaders strike the right balance, and Darden is here to help you become a great leader.

So, keep up the good work at the office, but be sure to crush the GMAT and get that application in on time. 

Darden won’t be easy.  You will be exhausted.  You will be tested.  You will be shaken.  It will be worth every minute.

You’re getting better, getting stronger.

And, you have a future- one both of us should be excited about.



P.S. In all seriousness, drop me an e-mail if you're interested in finding out more about Darden.

                                       Me, in another lifetime, during the Nashville Flood in 2010


  1. Seriously, Jeff, when you write like this how am I ever supposed to do a guest entry?

  2. Unknown comment = Liz Tang. Don't know why it's not linking to my profile.