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The Value of a Vision

This is the kickoff for my 2016-2017 application season.

After a summer of introspect and debate I have decided to relaunch my b-school application journey. Why would anyone want to go through the “Doldrums” and the pain of rejection all over again? It comes down to one word: vision.

vision:  noun, vi·sion, \ˈvi-zhən\
a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination

Application consultants will talk about selling your story to the adcom. I’ve worked in sales and have seen all sorts of techniques. As the biggest customer of stories in the b-school world, adcoms have developed an ability to sniff out garbage. Your story is typically crap. Words you think they want to hear just so you can get in to their prestigious school, have a good brand on your resume, and get more money at some large company. If this sounds like you then your vision is the same as thousands of other applicants. That is to say, while your goals are clear, your vision is empty. It reads loud and clear in your application and typically ends up in the rejection pile.

How do we fight this? The answer again is vision. If your goals are similar to those stated above, there’s nothing wrong with that. Most people enjoy more money and titles at work. If they don’t, an MBA is usually far from their mind. Developing a vision is probably the most time-consuming task in your MBA journey. GMAT and GPA are great but your essays, interviews, and 2 years of school will be driven by a few very simple themes. Planning up front will maximize the value of your effort. I’ll attempt to break down my approach to developing a vision and then how to use it in the following steps.

Step 1 – Escape

Get out of your office. Get out of your house. Get out of your city. Close the laptop. Put down the phone. Get away from everything familiar. This step is about clarity. You’re taking a major step in your life. Don’t let the barista who made your latte with whole milk instead of coconut milk influence your outlook on school.

Now that you’re settled in, find something that can settle your mind. I use music. Dave Matthews Band (early) or this song usually get me in the right frame of mind:

 

Step 2 – Introspection

I’ll let you guys look that one up. In essence you want to develop an idea of what is most important to you. Write it down if you need to. But the list is just the start. Next to each item dig a little deeper. Think why that item is important. Where did it come from? How can you achieve it? Is it yours or someone else’s? Don’t be afraid to go deep*. This the rest of your life we’re talking about here.

*one caveat, don’t start assigning blame or have negative thoughts about each item. This clouds your mental clarity you achieved in Step 1

Step 3 – Let Go

Now you have a great list of what makes you, well, you. You have a better understanding of how you got there. At this point you can probably see where this exercise is heading. Time for a changeup. Drop the list. The list was to define where you are. It puts you in the frame of mind to create a solid vision for the future.

Step 4 – Back to The Future

This is the core of the exercise. Close your eyes and see yourself 5 years after graduation. We live in fast times. There’s no need for 3, 10, 30-year plans. 5 years will do the trick. When you see yourself in the future take some time to immerse yourself in the vision. Where are you sitting? In an office? On a beach? What are you driving? A bike, a car, a horse? Where and what do you do for work? Take in the entire vision, don’t just pick a job, house, etc…these are still generic goals. See deep into non-professional goals as well. Do you volunteer? Are you an avid traveler? Most importantly, what is the most exciting part of your day and week?

If you are having trouble with this step take the “legacy” route. When you die, what are the 5 things you want to be remembered for? This approach is rather depressing though.

Step 5 – Repeat, then Work Backwards

OK, now you’ve taken the time to really see where you want to be. Repeat this exercise a few times. You’ve tuned out external pressures to clearly find your true vision. Embrace it. Webster’s defines passion as an intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction. Vision = Passion.

Finally, work backwards and think hard about what steps need to be taken to get to the vision of your future. Research the career steps or skills needed to get to the job in your vision. Use specific examples from your future to plan out what you need to do. For example, if you want to help technology entrepreneurs in Malaysia you might want to go to a school on the West Coast or Pacific Rim.

Consider events in your past that influenced your vision. Use these examples in your essays and to explain your career/academic choices to this point. Most schools why them and how they will help you in your future. Don’t be generic, you already see the future. Find relative examples. You may even realize, for example, that Booth or Cornell don’t have a lot to offer for your specific goals. Don’t apply to schools that don’t fit your plan. Rankings are external pressures.

If you are looking for a tool to help define the path to your future, I recommend mind mapping. There’s a lot of software for this but nothing beats plain paper and colored pencils.

El Fin

So now you have a clear vision of where you want to be and you are developing your path and what b-school really means. This is finally YOUR STORY. Not the generic one that every half-hearted applicant submits. When you start preparing essays, interviews, and school visits you will notice a better reaction. Your passion about the what and why of your MBA will come through clearly.

This is just a first step in developing a vision, applying it to applications, and delivering on it throughout business school. This is also my process. Add to it. Enhance it.

Please feel free to share if any of this is useful and how your journey is going.

 

 

 

 

 

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The End…of Round 2

I survived! I even got an interview request at one of my top 3 schools! I will ignore the fact that I think it is because people who attended a diversity event got an interview 🙂

I made every mistake in the book and still feel as if I have a chance to get in to one of my top 5 schools. I have one more application to the University of Hawaii to knock out. This is a unique school with a unique program that aligns with what I am looking to do post-MBA. They are not even ranked in US News but stop into a QS World MBA Tour and speak with Marc Endrigat. He will make you a believer.

I am putting that application on a pause for a couple days to breathe. I am also starting to pick up coding because it’s a skill I feel I need for the future that I finally have time for. The MBA application process is great for those with time management skills. It’s also a great crash course in time management – a crucial skill while at business school.

I will round out my blog with more information once I start back up. The next couple of posts will be around interview prep and summarize how I chose schools, prepped essay answers, and some of the best resources I found for the first stages of the application. It’s hard to believe that I am only about half way through the ADMISSIONS process. Not even in orientation yet :-/

Also, if you are reading this, hopefully you found it through a social media channel. If not, and you are looking at business school, make sure you get active on social media! Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, about.me, blogs, and YouTube are all great ideas. Clean up your Facebook as well. No pictures of keggers in college or flipping off the camera.

One more thing…videos to come soon! for now check out VincePrep on YouTube and follow @TokyoVince for great admissions advice.

Diversity Weekends and School Visits

I’ve been finishing up my Round 2 applications at 8 schools so it’s been a little crazy around here. Word of advice; lock in recommendations early and form a solid essay outline for every essay a month or so before the due date. I am adding this post I started back in December.

It’s been a busy couple of months since my GMAT results. It’s pretty easy to take a big sigh and think you can coast your way into business school once the GMAT is done. I clearly fell into this trap.

During late November and early December I went on a whirlwind tour of my preferred business schools. I will give individual feedback on each one later in this post. These are the schools I visited:

  • University of Texas at Austin – McCombs Business School (Diversity Weekend)
  • Notre Dame University – Mendoza College of Business (On Campus Tour and Interview)
  • University of Michigan – Ross School of Business (Military Preview Weekend)
  • Carnegie Mellon University – Tepper School of Business (Diversity Weekend)

Three of the schools I attended were for some form of inclusion event. I was hesitant at first because I wasn’t sure how I would be perceived at a diversity event. I have always thought of diversity as inclusion of underrepresented populations.  I had actually registered for the Diversity event at UC-Berkeley in September but took myself off the list. I fell into the trap of thinking diversity events were about skin color or sexual orientation. Bias is a strong foe to overcome. I ignored the fact I was a veteran, first-generation college graduate, and someone whose long-term goal was the betterment of under-served and developing regions. I was just scared that I would be out of place.

I could not have been more wrong. Each school I went to was awesome. The diversity weekends form a sort of community that lasts throughout the application process and into school. I wish I had attended the event at  Haas just to meet some of them earlier. Everyone offers advice on GMAT prep, essay review, and interview tips. As round 1 acceptances came in we all celebrated the victories and supported the defeats.

Many of the people I met are applying through the Consortium. The Consortium is open to anyone who supports its goals of inclusion of minorities in business and business schools. I’ll let the organization speak for itself, but the resources and connections offered cannot be beat.

For anyone thinking about attending a diversity event I strongly recommend it. The fact it’s on your mind shows that you are sensitive to the needs of under-represented students. If you are part of this population or support these initiatives take part in one of these weekends. I learned more about myself and how well I will do in business school at a diversity weekend than I did over the past 6 months of GMAT and essay prep.

GMAT Success

I took the GMAT for the 4th and final time last Tuesday. I was traveling for work so it was a lot of hotels and meals out. I don’t recommend doing this before the exam. All the literature I have read says to get plenty of sleep the week before the exam and don’t study the day before. I threw all that out the window and expected to get a poor grade.

I showed up with a positive attitude. I would focus on timing and switching my mind set during breaks. The essay went OK, the integrated reasoning was tough but ended up with a 5, same as last two times. I took too long of a break and lost 1:49 on the quant section. After this I freaked out a little but recovered. I zoomed through the questions and I was able to answer quite a few. The ones I couldn’t get I made educated guesses and ruled out the obvious wrong answers. I finished quant with a minute remaining.

The verbal section had a few challenging prompts. I spent very little time studying verbal so I answered the best I could. I prepared myself for a score in the 600s and another attempt in December. Then the score popped up:

Quantitative: 47

Verbal: 44

Overall: 740

I don’t know how this was possible because I felt I did so poorly solving problems. My focus was on the overall test. The strategy and patterns is what I seemed to focus on instead of answering each question.  Jon Taves at EF Essays states it best: The goal in quant should be to win the war, not thirty-seven individual battles. Apparently something I did worked.

I was lucky. However, I had spent a lot of time preparing and working on the basics. Do not follow my example the week leading up to the test. Definitely start studying well ahead of time. Focus on individual areas such as algebra, geometry, powers and roots, and number properties. These are the core and the base of the other questions. Once you feel comfortable there go ahead and do some mixed question sets. The Magoosh website has some amazing training videos and questions for a low price. It was $99 for 1  of access.

Now it’s on to the applications. I can apply with confidence that my GMAT score will be a positive factor, instead of a risk.

Stock Market Meltdown

I was watching the stock market implode yesterday morning and one thought crossed my mind: How will this benefit my business school applications? If the market and economy really slows down will less people apply for school? Is everyone already set on their path, making it irrelevant?

Some of the books I have read note that during the financial crisis fewer people entered MBA programs due to a fear of not finding a job in the uncertain economy. I work in the tech sector and my MBA focus is going to be Entrepreneurship. I don’t have ambitions of working as a consultant or in investment banking when I finish school. If a slowdown in the economy means less people apply to school then I welcome it. However, I would also have to worry that as VC reserves dry up and firms take less risk, I might have to look elsewhere for funding if needed. These are interesting times and the challenges are plenty. Back to GMAT prep… 🙂

Beginnings…or Where to Begin?

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

OK, so maybe it’s not that epic but I am hoping for this to be an amazing journey. I have never managed a blog before and I am a little intimidated. The reading I’ve done says that it’s important to just get content out there. It will form and evolve as I evolve as a writer. So this is my blog about my journey to business school.

About Me:

I will have a more detailed “About” page as I get going on this. If I ever get any followers I hope they ask questions and are interested in learning more.

To start off I am an older applicant at 34. I have spent the last 4 years working up the food chain in risk management/information security. I just finished my second bachelor’s in Management with an IT concentration from Golden Gate University. GPA is at 3.55 and I think I did OK while working full time. I have worked many different positions in the past and spent 8 years in the military. I am really going to use my work experience post-military for my applications. The military will also help me address leadership questions when they come up.

My Goal:

Competitive MBA. This will allows me to work with entrepreneurs and startups throughout the world. Great ideas can come from outside of Silicon Valley (where I currently live and work). My goal is to be able to help those people with great ideas build a business and let them focus on their product. I can address the technical and business needs as a sort of one stop shop. If I happen to have some great ideas that turn into businesses along the way, even better. This mission statement will be refined as the blog is.

More to come. I will try to write at least every other day. I look forward to sharing my thoughts with everyone and hopefully set the stage for much bigger things. My biggest fear is that I will feel like Rodney Dangerfield (or Billy Madison for that matter):