Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year, Leap of Faith

I’m a pretty risk-averse person at heart.   That typically means I don’t take a chance on something without doing the calculations first.  I’ll do everything I can to maximize the probability of a positive outcome—work a little longer on a project, or pay a couple bucks more for the right gift.  Give me surefire bloop single over a chance at a homer any day.  The simple phrase “roll the dice” kind of freaks me out.

But obviously, there are times in life where you have to take a leap.  That’s how this former TV reporter ended up at Darden.  I saw that my industry was changing, my development was slowing, my ambition waning.  It was time for a change. 

I wasn’t the only one seeking new opportunities.  Almost all of my classmates gave up good jobs to return to school—it was a gamble that we believed was worth it, so we jumped at the chance to come to Charlottesville.

Now, the Class of 2013 is about to leap again.  The first chapter of our Darden experience is nearing an end.  We have just one more week of core classes in our sections, one more week of learning team meetings, and we’re currently choosing our electives for the spring.  This is kind of a sad time.  I’m going to miss meeting in room 293B every night, where intense and remarkable collaboration meshed with surprise birthday celebrations and impromptu dance lessons.  And, I’m incredibly attached to Section E— room 120 is where we witnessed Drew Barrett’s wolf shirt howl, where Leo Hergenroeder and I took opposing sides on countless class debates, where unsuspecting prospective students became sketch-a-scholars, and where 62 of the smartest people I know dominated during simulation competitions.

After exams, spring break and electives we’re on to our summer internships, where many of us will be dipping our toe into completely new waters.  We’ll have new job responsibilities, new cities to live in, new colleagues to work with and learn from, and a new career trajectory.  It’s extremely exciting, and yes, a little bit scary.

These are the thoughts that cross my mind on leap day of leap year—where strangely enough, it feels like we’re moments away from actually making our own leaps of faith.  The skies are beautiful, the wind is at our backs and the sun is shining joyfully down on us.

Now, all that’s left to do is fly.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mountaintop or Valley?

During the winter, heavy fog often rolls into Charlottesville and the surrounding areas.  In some ways, it symbolizes what our futures looks like as MBA First Years—cloudy and uncertain.

Over the past two months, most of us have thrown ourselves headfirst into internship recruiting.  It is a hectic, time-consuming and extremely difficult process.  Consultants practice dozens of case interview questions.  Marketers mow through mock behavioral interviews.  And bankers are blitzed all at one time during a week where candidates can have interviews with as many as five companies in a single day!

Our noses are stuck in books and online research.  We build spreadsheets listing our strengths and weaknesses, teamwork and leadership stories, favorite and least favorite marketing campaigns.  Some days, the only person you see is yourself—in the mirror as you practice your two minute pitch.

This, my friends, is being in the fog.  Will the hard work pay off?  Will a company see and value your abilities?  Will you convince them you are a fit for their culture?  Where are you?  Headed towards the top of the mountain or still wandering through the valley?

When you’re in the thick of things, it’s  almost impossible to tell.

Even more challenging, you don’t have long to break through— interviews last between 30 minutes and an hour.  And, almost immediately after you shake the interviewer’s hand, the fog thickens.  It takes days, sometimes weeks to know if you’ve moved on to final rounds, where the process repeats itself again.

And then… it’s over.  The fog clears, and you’re on top of the world, offer in hand, looking down on the horizon that is the rest of your first year at Darden.  That’s scenario #1.

Scenario #2 isn’t so rosy.  Sometimes it’s a “thanks for your interest in us, but we’ve decided to go in a different direction” phone call.  Other times it’s a stock mass rejection e-mail.  Worse still, some other recruiters are never heard from again.

These moments shake your confidence to the core.  They crush your self-esteem.

All you can do is get back up and jump back in.  Admit your faults and correct them.  Fine tune your stories.  Get help from the Career Development Center or a Second Year.

We are told constantly that all works out, but that can be hard to see when things are so hazy.

This is an interesting time for First Years at Darden: are we at the mountaintop or in the depths of the valley?

That depends on the day, who you’re asking… and what the weather’s like.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.

 -Arthur Golden