Leaving the Doldrums

This is more of a personal post. But it’s needed to get me back to blogging about the MBA journey. I am finally writing about the one thing that’s been on my mind since submitting my applications. I couldn’t put a finger on it until today.

Since I hit submit on my las application I’ve been in this sort of frozen zone. I couldn’t move, couldn’t think, couldn’t make a plan for the future. I called it the doldrums because it reminded me of something I read many years ago. A vivid scene in a book where the main character was stuck in a similar place as me. Thanks to the modern technology that is Google I was able to put a name to the book. It’s The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. As a child I don’t think I really caught on to the main themes of this book. I’ll probably reread it at some point since I am going back to school. It might be a good break from management thoughts and theory. But enough about the book.

The struggle is real. People will often talk about the stress of applications. Sure the GMAT is tough and writing those essays takes a lot of thought. But the worst part is the waiting game. Especially if you get stuck on the waitlist. You begin to ask yourself if you did enough. Did I write a strong essay? Were my interviews on point? What could I improve? Why don’t they like me?? Hopefully someone writes a blog post on how MBA admissions is like dating. Are first impressions truly everything?

Even though I was rejected from most of the schools I applied to I am still in the same place. I have been accepted to Notre Dame, a great MBA program. I was waitlisted at Carnegie Mellon, Texas, and USC. Each of these schools have more to offer me than Notre Dame (or so I think) since my post-MBA plans involve tech and startups and coming back to the Bay Area. It feels like I can’t do anything or even talk to people until I know for sure where I am going. Sitting on the waitlist continues the journey through the Doldrums.

I have decided to force myself out of waiting. Self-doubt does nothing for the situation. It’s not a good trait for MBAs so I am eliminating it. Hopefully someone can apply this mindset for whatever their situation may be.

The school decisions are pretty much out of my hands. I did my best and followed up They know I want them and they need me. There are a lot of things to do prior to my MBA that I can focus on. I want to work on my social media presence. I also want to work on coding/PM/app development. I will hopefully have a mobile app put together and published before I leave for school in early August. Last but not least I want to keep exercising, networking, and practicing my communication skills. These, more than anything will help me succeed in business school and beyond. First impressions are very important after all.

The takeaway is that you are not stuck. There is a plenty to work on. Just start with one simple step. In my case it was a blog post. Yours may be a trip to the beach or finally going to that Meetup you’ve had your eyes on for months.

Best of luck!


The Consortium Event in SF

MBA Diversity Hosted by Google

I went to my first MBA event last night. This one was hosted by the Consortium and it was held at the Google offices in San Francisco. The offices were beautiful and there are nice views outside of the Bay Bridge and SF Bay. Google does what it does best and had tons of free food. It was nice to see some Googlers still working deep into the night. This is one of the reasons I love Silicon Valley. The spirit to love your job and work beyond the normal 9 to 5 is encouraged and rewarded. The east coast still doesn’t get it.

The event was great. Several schools had a panel for a Q&A session. The event was a diversity event but the questions asked were the types of questions asked on any website and/or webinar. I was a little skeptical that I would fit in at a “diversity” event since I am not a minority or a woman. I suppose this is a stereotype that I have been guilty of. I even dropped my reservation to a Diversity Weekend at Berkeley Haas because I wasn’t sure I would fit in. However, to me diversity is about inclusion. It’s about enabling the business school dream for groups who are not the typical MBA type. Former military and first-generation college graduates seem like a under-represented group to me. But, I was still worried I would stick out like a sore thumb. I am glad my concerns were unwarranted. The event was truly about inclusion and making opportunities available to all sorts of different groups. Props to The Consortium and the great attendees!

Schools in Attendance (that I can remember)

  • Dartmouth (Tuck)
  • Virginia (Darden)
  • Texas (McCombs)
  • UC-Berkeley (Haas)
  • Indiana (Kelly)
  • UNC (Keenan-Flagler)
  • Wisconsin Business School
  • Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)
  • NYU (Stern)

The panel was great and then the MBA Fair portion opened up. It was great to meet with actual ambassadors from some of the schools. The team at Indiana University was by far the most outgoing. I hadn’t really considered the school before but they get points for sales. I also spoke with a couple Haas students and really enjoyed their stories and input. One was a Navy lawyer and had awesome advice for my application. Military experience is huge at some of these schools so I really have to sell it. I have spent so much of my life trying to NOT identify with my military experience so this is a relief. He also highlighted the fact that rank is not a deal breaker. They don’t look at officers only. If you have strong experience and leadership stories then you are good to go.

I spoke with the Tuck representative and her advice was to definitely visit the campus if possible. I had worked with a few Tuck alum in the past and they had great things to say. The campus is remote but it’s a truly old-school college feel. If I do a campus tour I will be sure to add Tuck as a destination.

One table that didn’t get as many visits was the Texas representative. This was surprising as Austin is a very entrepreneurial city and the Texas computer science program is very highly ranked. Texas, at least that region, is awesome. I took the time to introduce myself and really gather his thoughts on the process. I mentioned that I have several close friends that went to A&M and they might disown me if I go to UT-Austin. I am hoping when it comes to application time I will be remembered positively.

I didn’t get to interact with the team from Tepper. They were pretty busy. I have a couple events coming up and I really want to hear more about their program. Tepper is in my top 5 and I am behind in communicating with the school. They’ll be on the campus tour list.

Lessons Learned 

1) More Confidence – Way too often I used the phrase “It’s definitely a challenge” or “It will be a challenge”. I’m applying at top 25 MBA programs as a 34-year old veteran from a tech background. Challenging is an understatement. It should also be assumed as the rejection rate at these programs is so high. Also, as an older learner who is going to switch careers and probably face a 50% pay cut, I should expect challenge. The admissions committees and representatives don’t want to hear that it’s hard for me. They need to hear how I took reins and owned it.

2) Smile – Body language and non-verbal communication is huge. I typically work with techies or by myself so there’s not a lot of personality. I noticed my posture gives in and I have a default scowl on my face. It’s not that I am not interested in what people are saying, it’s just what has formed over the years. I will be more inviting, open, and warmer at the next event. This is a critical communication skill and one of my goals for the MBA program. Can’t hurt to start early.

3) Suit Up! – I went out in the morning and bought some new threads. I am sure glad I did. I am not a black-tie kind of guy so it’s been a while since I wore one with a jacket. I felt very confident in my suit and tie. All the exercise lately is really paying off. While these events may be more informal I feel more is expected of me. It’s easy to loosen a tie or put it in a pocket. It’s embarrassing to be under-dressed. Especially if you are trying to make a lasting impression on school representatives.

4) Follow Up – Send out emails thanking the representatives for their time. It’s all about lasting impressions.

I strongly encourage anyone looking at an MBA to go to as many programs like this as they can. It’s not a bunch of drones in suits trying to get consulting jobs. It’s not a popularity contest. It’s people who really want you to come to their school. Take the opportunity to practice social skills and learn more about the great programs. More information about The Consortium can be found here:

HBS Accept – Great Resume Tips

  1. One Page!  You can maximize space by reducing your contact information, which will already be included in the application forms.
  2. Make a new resume for the MBA application. Your application resume should be easily understandable for someone outside your function and your industry.  This will take more work than you might think.  Ask someone outside your function and industry to review your resume to eliminate jargon, acronyms, etc.
  3. Create a resume with 2-3 sections.  If you have enough work experience include college internships in your education section.  I was told to include education first (not sure how important that is, but I took the advice).
  4. Always be thinking what makes you special. Were you given international assignments? Did you prepare deliverables for executives or board members? What have you accomplished that someone else in your role would not have? Action verbs are your friends. Your resume should not read as a job description for your replacement.


Source: My Top 4 Tips and Tricks for a MBA Resume