It’s hard to believe that last year at this time I was in orientation, full of questions, hope, excitement, (and a little nervousness) about what the first year and summer of this MBA program would bring. The two questions I remember very clearly were: Can I do it and do it well? And, will I be able to carve out the career path I set out to achieve? Therefore, I’ve divided this blog entry into two parts that I believe have equal importance.
Part I: Can I do it and do it well?
I have to say this question gnawed at me the most but it was the hardest to get reassurance about. So here it is: What I wish I’d known when I asked myself this question last year.
1) Okay, I lied. I already knew our admissions staff is a talented group of people who have quite a bit of experience looking over applications for admission to full-time MBA programs, but I wish I had reminded myself of that a little more often. When you received your acceptance, everyone knew you could do it. YOU are the one doubting yourself, so take a deep breath and jump in. You’ve got this.
2) Your classmates are extremely diverse and intelligent human beings. I have had so many wonderful experiences with my classmates that I wouldn’t trade for anything. However, the minute we all acknowledged to one another that we are merely human beings with our own insecurities, hopes, and dreams, it only got better. Reach out to one another early… we don’t have a lot of time in this program and I formed the best relationships with my classmates when I let my softer side show.
3) Last, and perhaps the most important lesson of all, not only could I do it, but I realized I could also do things I never thought I could. There is nothing like turning in a final exam in a subject completely foreign to your past studies and knowing you did well. Likewise, there is nothing like taking a professional or academic risk and seeing yourself succeed. I can’t tell you how many times either I personally, or one of my classmates aced the class he was afraid to take or landed the interview she never thought she would get. As you enjoy the journey and these moments, remind yourself (see #1) of what you already know but sometimes forget. You are not an impostor, you are earning this.
If I had known these three things going into my first year, the first few weeks may have been less stressful. However, looking back, I’m glad I had a chance to discover them. As with most things in life, the journey is where we spend the longest amount of time, and the journey is where true relationships are formed and personal growth is achieved. Without a doubt, I will be beaming when the MBA is accomplished, but I will genuinely miss the moments of discovery where I achieved the impossible and made some of the best friends of my life.
Will I be able to carve out the career path I set out to achieve?
Like most of my classmates, I had a very clear goal when I joined the MBA program at UC Davis. For several years prior to the program, I had been working in politics and nonprofit management full-time and doing freelance marketing consulting on the side. My goal for applying to an MBA program was to turn the freelance consulting work that I loved into my own consulting business. This meant rather than applying to a traditional internship, I looked for a client base to work with over the summer.
As I searched for my client base, I met with Professor Hargadon who teaches classes in Innovation and Entrepreneurship and is one of the founders of Davis Roots, a nonprofit incubator for start-up companies in Davis. Not only did this expose me to opportunities to work with these start-ups, but I was also able to do an independent study project with him that focused on start-ups in technology, science, and engineering last spring. This was a great opportunity to expand my resume before my summer internship work even started, as my previous experience had been oriented to the public and nonprofit sector. This is also one of the benefits of being a part of a small program. I continue to be blown away by the caliber of our faculty at the GSM, and their willingness to share their knowledge, connections, and mentorship with you. I cannot say enough about the value of this.
Outside of this, I focused on clients in the food and fitness industries. I enjoyed this work very much and plan to continue with a client or two during the year. Obviously, I like lists, so I will list the three things that stand out most to me about my internship experience:
- I appreciated having the chance to figure out which clients and consulting functions make me most passionate. I came in to the GSM knowing what I wanted, but the summer between years is a chance to put it into practice and refine it.
- I used what I learned in the classroom over and over again. In fact, I found myself referring to old projects and problems for some of my tasks. Karma works in mysterious ways… the one class I didn’t think I would use that much (and complained about), is the class I used more often than I thought!
- I have more confidence. This is similar to some of my points in my list above– but I knew what I wanted to do this summer and I did it. I also watched my classmates do the same. I even watched some classmates get pretty picky and land where they wanted. Patience, tenacity, and focus are extremely important traits to have when planning your internship work.
I will close this “year in review”, with a piece of advice and a thank you. First, some advice—hang on to what makes you happy. I really enjoy teaching fitness classes and running in races. In the frenzy of the first quarter last year, I let some of that drop. I became a lot happier when I resumed the outside activities that keep me happy. And finally—some thanks. An intense MBA program like this completely changes your lifestyle, especially if you have been in the workplace for quite some time. My husband truly was my teammate and a great support system. In fact, I think the spouses in this program know us all as well as we know each other! Now—I can’t wait to see what year two has to offer!