Archive for September, 2010

Applicant Question: Will They Ask Me About My LSAT Score During My JD-MBA Interview?

Have you ever gotten nervous before an important interview because you didn’t know how you’d respond to a curveball question you thought the interviewer might ask? I have. Well, even if you weren’t nervous beforehand, have you ever been asked a curveball question during an interview and stumbled as you tried to come up with a response?  We’ve all been in that situation too. In most cases, it not only pays to think about as many of those questions as possible before an interview but also to figure out strategies to discuss your strengths and weaknesses before the interview ever begins.

That’s because getting nervous in interviews and sometimes stumbling over difficult questions is perfectly normal. And it’s also something that happens to the best of us. After all, you’ve been putting in hours of  hard work applying to business school, and getting an interview question that throws you off your game and interferes with your chances of winning admission to the school of your dreams is risky.

In interviews, I like to take the approach of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, where the Master Sun says that “every battle is won before it is ever fought. In a recent question, a reader of my site is doing just that, and he/she sent me an email about the possibility of a question during his/her Kellogg interview.  Specifically, the reader asked about his/her chances of being questioned on their GMAT and LSAT scores during the interview.

See below for the original email, and below that for my response. As always, I’ll state up front that I’m not currently a member of the admissions committee, so despite my experience with interviews and applications, my response holds no formal authority.

Hi Jeremy,

I hope this e-mail finds you well and that your year at Kellogg is off to a great start.

I have a quick question for you regarding the NU/Kellogg admissions process.  (XYZ) is applying to the Northwestern JD/MBA program and is wondering whether he/she will be asked about his/her LSAT score during the interview.  For context, his/her LSAT score is (x) and his GMAT score and GPA are (x). In your experience, does the LSAT (or GMAT) score come up during the admissions interview?

Thanks in advance for any insight you might be able to provide.


Dear (name),

Nice to hear form you and what a great question! But before I answer, I’ll state up front that I’m not a member of the admissions committee, so my response holds no formal authority. But otherwise,  I’ll give you a few facts and then also provide you with a basic framework on how to think about this question (in three ways) in the context of your interview.  Also, I’ll plan to keep my email short/quick in the essence of time, but feel free to respond directly if you want or need more information.

1. Conceptually, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you applied to the JD-MBA program, not only to Kellogg or only to the Law School. As such, the possibility of being asked questions about either school are not out of the realm of possibility. That means questions related to Kellogg admissions, such as GMAT score, leadership experience, and management experiences are all “fair game”, so (XYZ) should be ready to discuss those to the extent they’re relevant to his/her background. Similarly, questions related to law school admissions, such as grade history, LSAT score, and writing and reasoning ability are also “fair game” so he/she may want to prepare answers for those questions as well.

2. From a program perspective, the JD-MBA program is run through Kellogg, not through the law school. As a result, the admissions process is also run through Kellogg, and the application and interview processes for JD-MBAs resembles that of Kellogg.  So every year, JD-MBAs apply in the Kellogg MBA application system, which means they interview with admissions committee members or with Kellogg alumni in hopes to gain acceptance. While those Kellogg alum could be JD-MBAs, it’s not a prerequisite.

For JD-MBA applicants, this tends to mean two things. First, it means that some interviewers may be less very familiar with the JD-MBA program, so applicants have to navigate that part of the interview accordingly. Sometimes that could imply really explaining the program to the interviewees in more depth and at other times, it could mean spending less time doing that, depending on the context. But second, it also means that because (name) is applying to business school (i.e. Kellogg) getting questioned more like an MBA student still might not preclude law school questions, where the interviewer may want to know the “why did he/she apply to the JD-MBA program” question, rather than to Kellogg alone. And in that scenario, any subset of law school questions could arise.

3. Broadly speaking, I’d suggest thinking about this like any other interview.  First, think about what’s important in an MBA interview (versus an application itself), including, but not limited to, experiential questions, academic questions, and leadership questions.  Next, consider the odds of receiving any given question, related to business and law, in a 45 minute interview where time and information are limited and where the interviewer wants to surface only the most important information.  Next, given those odds, think about the tradeoffs of preparing for any given question, which not only includes the LSAT and the GMAT, but also community service, leadership, and work experiences. And finally, think about that in context of the bigger picture, and think about what is most important to get across in the interview – holes in the application, glaring strengths, information not on the application and fit – and be sure to prepare to discuss those as well.

In my own experience, I didn’t get the LSAT question, and odds are that (name) won’t get the question either. On the other hand, like anything else, there are never any guarantees, and if the interviewer is a JD-MBA (knows program), admissions committee member (knows Kellogg well), or an MBA who knows about the program, they could always decide to probe on anything. Similarly, given it’s a Kellogg interview, the “why” questions could become important and so any array of law school questions should probably be considered fair game, so it might make sense to think about a response just in case.

Personally, I was ready for just about every question the interviewer could have possibly asked. And that was the case not only for my Kellogg interview but for all my interviews at every school, because I wanted to be sure that I could discuss any point eloquently and thoughtfully. But in my case, that makes sense. After all, I am currently in law school which trains students to become lawyers.

I hope this helps.

Good luck!

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010 Admissions, Business School 2 Comments

2010 Kellogg Preview Weekend

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year.  Because the MBA admissions cycle is in full swing. That means students have begun sitting in on Kellogg classes, prospectives have been walking around campus and taking tours of Jacobs, and future applicants have been emailing current students looking for advice on how to gain admissions into the next class. Similarly, there are also events and conferences that business schools put on for prospectives to give them insight into business school and the application process. And one of them happens in November here at the Kellogg School of Management.

I am writing a short post here to invite you to apply to an event at Kellogg this November. Similar to the event last year (click here for my post on last year’s session), Kellogg will be hosting Kellogg Preview again this year, which is a prospective student weekend for MBA applicants from diverse backgrounds.

In sum, the Kellogg School Office of Admissions, in partnership with the Africa Business Club (ABC), Black Management Association (BMA) and Hispanic Business Student Association (HBSA), is hosting this annual event to invite talented applicants interested in coming to Kellogg to come to campus for a weekend.

The overarching goal: to find a diverse group of top candidates all around the U.S. interested in learning about what Kellogg has to offer. For those most interested and for those with top professional backgrounds, the event can serve as gateway for meeting lots of current MBA students and putting together a top notch application.

But not only is this a time to learn more about Kellogg and ultimately help you write a better application, but it’s also a time to bring a diverse group of top MBA applicants together for three or four days, to introduce themselves to other participants. Participants who will likely apply and gain admissions to Kellogg and other top business schools around the U.S. Participants who come from a variety of backgrounds and a variety of roles.  And participants you’ll likely run into again making a big impact the business sector.

In short, it’s time to sign up for Kellogg’s Who Wants To Apply To Change-the-World Weekend. I’ll be there. Are you coming?

To register for Kellogg Preview and other Kellogg off-campus events, visit the Kellogg website.

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 Business School, Diversity 4 Comments

2010 National Black MBA Conference Recap

Thousands of future business leaders joined over 300 top organizations at the 2010 National Black MBA Conference, held this past weekend in Los Angeles, California. Those invited to the conference were a highly talented group of “diverse” professionals, most who were currently in business school, and others who were prospectives or recent alumni. Similarly, a majority of attendees were looking to make a difference not only in the business world but also in their communities.

I wrote a similar post on the event last year (click here for post) from New Orleans, but this year the conference was in Los Angeles, California. John Rice, founder of Management Leadership for Tomorrow was in attendance, as was Magic Johnson (a conference Co-Chair), Daniel Pink (author), and a long list of other prominent speakers (click here to see the list). Similarly, my good friend, and former Congressional candidate, Emanuel Pleitez was there, on behalf of his new company McKinsey & Company.

I spoke with John on two occasions, during events held on Thursday morning. In one event, MLT hosted a breakfast with a number of companies, some of which were conference attendees and others who came specifically for the breakfast. John Rice kicked off the event with a few words. Next up was one of Amgen’s Business Executives. And MLT’s president Ian Hardman concluded the session, before sending us off to our networking session.

After their respective remarks, about 200 MLT participants took part in a newtorking session with a few dozen employers. At the onset, I spoke with companies like Google and Mckinsey. I also had conversations with Booz & Company, The Parthenon Group, LexisNexis and Amgen, among others.

After the breakfast event with MLT, we joined the main part of the conference, which was the networking career fair with hundreds of companies on the main floor of the Los Angeles Convention Center. (Click here to see the list of companies in attendance). And this was a great way to have conversations with any company you might have been interested in.

In some of these conversations, participants experienced the typical questions you’d have with recruiters – what roles are you interested in? and why? — and in others, they were challenged to engage in more meaningful conversations. That’s because sometimes recruiters skip the easy questions and move more quickly into the  harder ones, and so you have to be ready not only to have more meaningful discussions but also know more about the companies, tell a good story, prove fit with the company, and pull all of that together succinctly to give your pitch. And that message was true for all the organizations, public and private, and for-profit and non-profit.

In fact, there was an astonishing similarity in all my discussions with companies, regardless of industry, sector, and pay opportunity. The companies wanted candidates who were intelligent and capable, and someone who also was well prepared for these career discussions. And that’s especially true for not for profit companies in attendance like Education Pioneers, Broad Foundation, and Technoserve, where many people think that because these companies have the goal to relieve poverty and solve the education crisis, that the interviews or the jobs are easier. But these are big issues, and companies want people who are not only smart but also want to really do the work.

On both Thursday and Friday, after long days of talking to employers and watching people run around looking for jobs, the career ended at 5pm, at which point a lot of people went to company receptions. On Thursday, I went to Google’s private reception. The session was both fun and informative, and it turned out, I had pretty interesting connections with two of the three recruiters in attendance. After that, I went to Kellogg’s alumni reception, and after that headed out for a fun night on the town on LA. Friday night was more of the same, except I stopped by Wharton’s reception and Ross’s Reception before heading out for the night.

Students at Kellogg took flights back to Chicago Saturday morning – I was on a flight with four Kellogg people – to arrive home just in time to head to our annual CIM Ball formal reception in the city that evening.

Altogether, it’s been a long week and weekend, but the conference was well worth the time, whether you walked away with new job prospects or not. That’s because today in America, diversity is still a critical issue, and today, we are in a “race” to bring diversity to our professional communities (click here for a past post on that race). And even though we all know that diversity is central to the market place,  at the top 20 MBA programs, there are still well under 10% blacks and Hispanics, and in the world of Fortune 500 companies and blue chip law firms, the percentage of CEO’s and Senior Partners is only about half that.

One step to helping a next generation of diverse leaders is to get together more often at venues like this. These venues help you re-engage with the idea that when we bring ourselves together around a common purpose, that we can effect change more broadly.  Both because we have more hands to help and also because you can connect with with more people, and inspire them on a larger scale.

So in the end, not only will these conferences help attendees advance their own careers, but it will also advance the missions of their organizations and of the entire world in our “race” to bring diversity to international business community. Only time will tell how long that will take, but if you’re thinking about going to the NBMBAA conference in the future, you should consider attending. I am personally enlisting your help.

Do you have any other comments about the conference? What about on the value of having diversity in business?

Sunday, September 26th, 2010 Business School, Careers, Diversity 7 Comments

First Day Of Class At Kellogg – What Will It Take To Succeed?

Kellogg School of Management, get ready! The class of 2012 officially attended its first day of business school today.  And what a fabulous experience! We’re a class that applied and got accepted during one of the most difficult application periods ever.  That came from every industry and sector imaginable. That comes from diverse backgrounds covering all parts of the world. And with plans to reach for the stars while here at Kellogg.

And we all finally came together officially in the building we know as Jacobs to embark on one of the most important experiences in our professional careers. It was exciting to finally get the experience.

Having spoke to a few past alumni of both Kellogg and other top schools, everyone consistently says that the next two years will be one of the most incredible experiences in our lives.

In a recent conversation one alumni said “I think, one of the best experiences that you can have for figuring out more about what you want to be. Because every single day, you’re reading cases and talking to people about things that are most important in your professional life.”

A second alumni said that “you have a chance to really think more deeply about your interests and understand more about what you think. And you get challenged every day.  And so, it’s a time not only for discovery but also deepening of your own understanding.”

But while both of these comments were great, many folks in the class are wondering what does it actually take to do that well, and how can we ensure that in the end, we do actually succeed? Will it require getting A’s, and if so how do we do that? Or instead will it require meeting with dozens of companies to finally find the one we’re most interested in? Getting to know everyone in the class to see who has that one link to a company you’ve been looking for? Or learning as much as possible about a specific topic, or a little about a lot of topics to arm us as future managers and leaders?

The likely answer is that for everyone (1) the answer is different and (2) the answer is more of a combination of those things. So on our first day, most people didn’t know the actual answer. And instead of trying to find it, for now, most of the class channeled their motivations to do some reading for class, to get to know a few classmates, attend a few club events, and to enjoy the first day with their professors – my first class was Strategy with Professor Meghan Busse and class was a lot of fun.

But in spite of the busy day of activities and various ideas about how to succeed, there is one important commonality for all of us. That despite some of the fun times we’ll have, it will take a little hard work, both in and outside of the classroom, to be successful. And that it will take consistent focus, especially given all the competing priorities, on the things that we decide we want to do, in order to do them well.

The good news is that at Kellogg, we will definitely have that chance. Because one of Kellogg’s goals is to create leaders that want to devote themselves to the world’s biggest global problems. And that process began for the class of 2012 today.

Next up tomorrow, Marketing with Professor Julie Hennessey and Finance with Professor Jiro Kondo.

Stay tuned!

Monday, September 20th, 2010 Business School, Leadership 2 Comments

Final Exam On Leadership

One month after moving to Evanston and beginning our Kellogg experience, my classmates and I finally finished our first class on Friday. Week number one was our KWEST where the entire class split into groups of 20 and went to different locations all around the world (click here for my post on KWEST).  After KWEST, we began the second week taking part in orientation where we participated in CIM and bonded with classmates while being immersed in the Kellogg culture (click here for my post on CIM). In the third week, we began our Leadership Class, where we read cases, wrote papers, and had a lot of interesting in-class discussions. And last week, that class came to and end, which culminated with our first final exam at Kellogg on Friday.

At most business schools, the orientation is filled with fun activities combined with non-graded courses that are more of a refresher than anything else. But that’s not the case here at Kellogg. One of the unique parts of Kellogg is that despite the fact that our MORS class is condensed into three weeks and despite the fact that it takes place during CIM orientation, it still counts for a grade.

One reason is because managing orientation and class is a good introduction of how life will be at Kellogg. All of us will not only have classes everyday, but we’ll also have a long list of other competing priorities, including extracurricular activities, fun nights with section mates, and job hunting. And another reason is that the Kellogg culture really is both team oriented and a lot of fun, so the activities we took part in were not unique to that week but they were also a staple of Kellogg. So in a sene so this was a good way to be immersed in that culture right away.

Right after our exam, everyone was relieved to finally be done with our first exam. We had about an hour after the exam to relax and chat with classmates, and after that everyone headed over to TG – Kellogg’s weekly social event that takes place every Friday in the atrium to celebrate finishing up. TG was a good way to catch up with old friends and make new ones, which is still important since we’re still meeting lots of people in the class of 2012. I spent time catching up with a few of my KWEST trip friends and also with some of my JD-MBA classmates.

After that, a small group of us went to have dinner at Bat 17, a local pub here in Evanston. The group included a few people from my section, a few friends from different section, and two members of the class that I met that night because they had previously seen my blog – this has been happening quite a bit here the past couple of weeks.  Over some good pub food and Cabernet in Evanston, we enjoyed being finished with our MORS final exam and got ready for what would be a fun night both in Evanston and downtown in Chicago, all before the first day of classes.

Ultimately, the sentiment of the last week was “fun but also touch times ahead” and that has been largely shared across the student body.  That’s because while Kellogg is going to be fun over the next two years, it’s also going to be a lot of work because we’ll be balancing all that fun with managing classes, taking part in the student-driven activities, recruiting for jobs, and anything else people have on their plates. And we’re doing this alongside a group of very highly talented people and at a school where there are grades for classes.

And as a result, my view is that Kellogg has a distinctive culture.  The students are both fun loving and driven. They work hard and play hard. And they not only like to spend time relaxing but they also have high energy levels. In fact, on a scale from one to ten, the energy level is probably a ten. The energy is both unique and contagious and it creates a culture that everyone is excited to be a part of.

But in the end, it’s clear that the next year is going to be a journey. Maintaining momentum for nine months will require finding the right balance. People not only want to feel excited about being at Kellogg but they also want to be rewarded for their hard work, so figuring out the right balance of activities will be important. It will be interesting to see how that process plays out and where everyone ultimately ends up.

Stay tuned to read as I write along the way!

Sunday, September 19th, 2010 Business School No Comments

Business School Team Meetings

If you think you are taking part in more meetings than ever before, you might just be on to something. Yesteryear, when leaders ruled under the command-and-control philosophy, meetings weren’t always required, as leaders often made decisions without asking for help. But in the modern business world, and in business school, important decisions more often than not require consensus. As such, decisions are usually made in teams, and meetings have become the norm. Given we take part in so many meetings here at Kellogg, one question many of us have now is how can we ensure that meetings are productive and efficient.

As I mentioned to above, much of the work we do here at Kellogg is in teams. Practically speaking, we’ve already had multiple papers we’ve written in teams. I’ve had multiple team meetings for clubs I am involved in. And I’v e taken part in a couple of team simulations as part of my MORS class. And that’s just for this week.

In general, the best case scenario for these meetings is that you get to know the other members of the team and that the team is both efficient and productive after that. On the other hand, sometimes the reverse scenario plays out, and instead of being efficient, the team goes on tangents and has long discussions about smaller issues that may or may not be central to the case. That’s because some teams may not always have great chemistry or people may have competing ideas, schedules, and agendas.  So in the end, you have to balance having discussions and making decisions.

After spending the past year in law school that dichotomy has become very apparent. Unlike law school, where assignments are due at the end of the semester and so scheduling is often less hectic and less iterative, in business school everything is more periodic. Assignments are due on a weekly basis and students participate in weekly clubs and activities, and at some point recruiting becomes a full time activity, which means the pace of the day seems to go a bit faster.

In many cases, people will simply schedule a time slot on your calendar because it’s the only way to squeeze in a meeting, and in other cases, people will set up regular meeting days to ensure the team is always available on a weekly basis. But no matter which they choose, it’s often the case that the meeting comes up a lot faster than expected and that you often run the risk of not making the most of the time.

One way many people ensure they make the most of their time is by spending an hour or so preparing for meetings beforehand, especially if you are responsible for organizing the meeting (Click here for my post on scheduling transition time).  That means thinking beforehand about the agenda, making sure people are reminded not only of the start and end times but also the content, and also researching as much information as possible beforehand.

Another tactic many of my MBA colleagues use is limiting the length of the overall discussion and of the meta discussions. I’ve noticed that in many cases, “intellectual” discussions that don’t lead to getting the answer are often stopped well before the discussion even gets moving. Because having five or six smart people arguing details and going on tangents may not always be the most efficient thing to do time wise.

On the other hand, I also think that’s a weakness of students in MBA programs. Because although having productive meetings depends on clear answers and efficient use of time, it also depends on understanding the diverse set of facts that might be contributing to a case.  Weighing tangible issues with intangible principles, incorporating diverse perspectives of the all the team members, anticipating a cascade of skepticism from the broader business community, and putting all that together to formulate a plan.

In a sense, that’s the value of putting the MBA and JD programs together.  You learn two different skill sets that allow you to understand the merits of both sides: understanding when to negotiate and when to compromise, when to cut through the information quickly and when incorporate more perspectives, and finally, when to decide and when to discuss for a bit longer.

To that end, I look forward to more meetings here at Kellogg and working with people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, workstyles, and ages. I suspect the meetings will be some of the most enriching learning experiences I have in business school.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 16th, 2010 Business School 1 Comment

Free Time in Business School

JD-MBAs are frequently asked about how easy business school is going to be this year as compared to law school last year. Will there be less reading, fewer exams, less competition. Well, for all of our sakes, I hope they are right. Law school was demanding and rigorous, not to mention competitive, but that made perfect sense given 1L has long been considered the hardest year of any year in a graduate school program. But despite that, it looks like the intensities of day-to-day work at Kellogg will still be difficult. But perhaps in just a different way.

Oddly enough, it looks like at Kellogg, we won’t necessarily have a whole lot more free time than we did last year. In fact, we might actually end up with less. That’s because unlike law school, where the focus in on studying and getting the best grades possible and where students can push work off to complete later in the semester, the work in business school is more iterative and has more deadlines.

In fact, MBA program are a bit like a three-part adventure. First, you have to study and do the work. And while for many industries grades don’t matter, for others they do play a factor. Second, you have to spend a lot of time on recruiting. And in some cases, this can take up a substantial amount of time. Unlike law school, where firms often rely on grades and journals to make recruiting decision, business jobs look more at things like fit, professional background, and interesting experiences, so the process is more nuanced. And third, you have to network. Not only for jobs but also to get to know your classmates, section mates, alumni, and even professors.

In general, students should expect to spend a lot of time on each of the three activities, and over the course of the year their time spent will probably come to even out. Don’t get me wrong, these three things don’t all carry the same weight, but time spent on each of them also won’t stay static because their importance changes as the year moves forward. For example, in the first quarter classes and networking will take up a lot of time, whereas in the second quarter recruiting will really pick up. And by the third quarter, networking will be most important again.

That said, it’s probably best to view this generality with at least some mild skepticism. Will every student really live up to splitting their time amongst these three? I suspect not, as some students will be more interested in studying, others more interested in leading clubs or activities, and another group who are married or running their own companies so will have dozens of different priorities that I didn’t even consider.

Personally, I have already become pretty busy. People are already spending a lot of time on our orientation MORS class, where we have a final exam this Friday. Similarly, I am already on the board of a couple of clubs and those activities are starting to pick up. And at the same time, I’ll be attending NBMBAA conference in just a few weeks out in Los Angeles so have to get ready for that. But perhaps most importantly for the time being, we’re all still new here at Kellogg, so I’m also doing the best I can to get to know my classmates, not only the ones in my section but also those in my class and in the class of 2011. Definitely a busy period without much free time. I suspect it will probably get a lot worse once classes start next week.

And that’s what’s so great about business school. The students are diverse and as a result people they will get involved in different activities which will enrich the setting for everyone here. And in the end, the diverse student body, with a rich compilation of skills and experiences, and ability to navigate the different elements of business school is what makes top schools like Kellogg unique. Despite the lack of free time, it’s a great luxury to be here, one that most people can’t even fathom until they come.

We’re all looking forward to the rest of the year. Stay tuned to hear how it goes.

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 Business School, Law School 2 Comments

Case Study: How Would You Lead?

The CEO of a start-up company is charged with analyzing the pros and cons of entering a team competition. It’s the last competition of the year and the company’s investment dollars depend on finishing at the top. But our team’s product has recently had problems that have gotten worse every competition until now, and the chances of it going bad during the competition are concerning, and it could put one of our employees in danger.  On the other hand, if we don’t compete then we we’ll have a significant amount of debt, lose our largest investor, and as a result, jeopardize the future of your company. As CEO, what would you decide? And how would you convince the people who disagree to follow your lead?

At long last, more than one week after getting started with orientation, we finally had our first day of class at Kellogg. The class is part of our orientation, which lasts for a three week period. At Kellogg, we take this as part of our leadership curriculum, in the Management and Organizations (i.e. MORS) department, which unlike most schools begins before classes ever start.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, MORS classes look like they should be a lot of fun and cover some really interesting topics that are critical for business leaders at the highest level. For example, in our orientation class, we’ve already taken part in a bidding competition to analyze group decision-making, we’ve watched 12 Angry Men to assess effective leadership and persuasion tactics (a staple at almost every MBA program), and we’ve taken part in multiple mock negotiations, where in one case we split off into teams of 3 and spent an hour negotiating with another team trying to agree on the terms of a partnership.

But on our first day, we took on a case study, which in retrospect was a really interesting case on decision-making. Sure we could have all guessed that it was about decision making before ever reading given the topic of the class, but in retrospect, most of us didn’t quite know how interesting the case would actually be.

In respect of the case, I won’t provide any of the details here, but in sum, we had to decide whether to compete or not given a myriad of facts (which are slightly different than I’ve described) and with unlimited time and information – characteristics of many of the best cases. As you might suspect, a lot of people used a decision tree to come up with a solution. Others took that further by putting numbers inside the boxes and performing calculations to figure out the respective future payoffs. A third group relied more on intuition. And a final set of people, chose more of a guessing methodology.

Our professor divided the class into groups of five, as we do in most of our class scenarios, to discuss the case and come up with a group recommendation, To Compete, or Not To Compete. And our recommendations were based on the case write up we had read the day before.

The hard part was that we had to decide what to do as a group, which was especially difficult given that no group had a team where everyone had made the same decision. In my group, three people decided To Compete, and two people, including me did not want To Compete.

The purpose of the case was to teach us about decision-making, when time and information are limited,  where members of a team disagree about the decision, and where the stakes and pressure are higher than usual.

In the end, what we found is that it wasn’t only a case about decision-making, it was also a case about leadership. How to make decisions for an entire organization. How to persuade and influence a team to follow our lead. And how to communicate that message, both to a group of five people, all who read and analyzed the case differently. A seemingly impossible task for class, and what would appear a herculean one in real life.

As you might suspect, there was no right answer to the specific case, but instead it was a good way to spur interesting debate and teach us lessons many of us will never forget. Bravo MORS for a fun introduction to Kellogg. I look forward to the MORS classes next week, and to the other classes once Kellogg officially begins in two weeks

Stay tuned for updates on class!

Saturday, September 11th, 2010 Business School, Leadership 2 Comments

How Is The Economy These Days?

Two years from now, many of us graduating from business school will look back on the last few years and compare those economic times to those times at graduation. I applied to business school in 2009, which at the time was the hardest year for ever for MBA applicants. It was also the year where round one applications hit a record high at a number of top schools and the associated yield rates expanded class sizes to unprecedented levels (click here for my post on the 2009 economy). At the same time, recruiting in the legal world last year also took a plunge, and students were scrambling all year to find the summer associate positions that used to be guaranteed upon graduation from a top school. The question is, how is the economy doing these days?

Well that’s one question that’s on everyone’s mind, because this past weekend was labor day, and so many people were talking about jobs and recruiting all across the country.  A lot of people are still referencing the recession that officially ended in 2009 and left millions of Americans without jobs, many of which haven’t found their way back into full-time jobs today. The period is still considered one of the worst economic periods in recent history, if not the worst.

For factual reference, the Department of Labor statistics say that more than 6 million people have been out of work for the past half a year, which is about double the count of 3 million a year ago. What does this mean? Maybe it suggests that things have not gotten much better, and in fact actually gotten worse?  Or maybe it suggests that the time it takes for the economy to recover will take a lot longer than we all think? Maybe it even suggests there were a lot of issues already swept under the carpet that were uncovered when everything came to a halt. Personally, I suspect all three probably play at least a small role (click here to hear what Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, said on Labor Day)

But the good news is at top MBA programs, like Kellogg, things seem to be on the rise. Incoming MBA students are pretty optimistic about their chances this year, not only here in Evanston but also across the U.S. at other top schools, which is the word I get from my friends. At law school things are finally starting to improve. This year is shaping up to be better than last year, and my classmates at Northwestern Law are still interviewing with firms in all geographies — Chicago, NYC, LA, DC, and the Bay, to name just a few — and others have already received offers from the very top firms.

On the other hand, it still seems like the recession was only here yesterday, so I think a lot of people aren’t quite “sold” on the idea that we’ve “recovered”. That’s especially true in law school, where the students are more risk averse, and where it was only last year that students felt the aftershock of the worst legal recruiting season ever.

It will certainly be interesting to see how everything plays out both at business school and at law school over the next few months. But one thing to keep in mind to all those applying to graduate school, to those currently in graduate school, and those already in the workforce post-graduate school, is that JD and MBA programs only represent a small subset of the population. The majority of the world isn’t afforded the opportunity to obtain a JD or a MBA degree, let alone both degrees and from a top school.  And so instead of thinking just about just MBAs and JDs, we should also consider the economic implications of the economy more broadly.

In the end, it’s in all of our interest to reduce unemployment and obtain a more stable workforce. Because having a stronger and more stable economy depends on it.

The Career Change Challenge: Jullien Gordon’s Career Search Resource

There is a new movement taking place in the “careers industry” which seeks to connect the world with leading jobs, careers ideas and resources, and unique professional advice. Careers entrepreneurship is, in my view, an up and coming industry that will definitely continue to grow and will hopefully accelerate the pace of growth in the economy.  After all, we did just recently experience once of the worste recessions of the past century.  A prime example of a pioneer in this movement is Jullien Gordon, Stanford MBA class of 2007, and founder of Career Change Challenge.

Jullien Gordon has taken on the herculean challenge of providing human capital resources that will revolutionize people’s careers, particularly those who are interested in entrepreneurship. The Career Change Challenge is his newest initiative, where he posts a number of helpful presentations and videos aimed at helping people to “identify the “right” purpose-aligned career path” and then take actionable steps down that path.  As a part of his services, Jullien sends out periodic emails with videos and online content that information that is useful to his readers.

Another leader in the movement is my good friend Marquis Parker, who recently wrote a post about Jullien as well (click here to see Marquis’ post about Career Change Challenge).  Marquis started the second or third “major” business school blog ever back in 2003, and as it turns out, I originally met Jullien through Marquis, who was  one of Jullien’s classmates at Stanford Business School.  And Marquis can attest, that ever since Jullien earned his MBA in 2007, he has been dedicated to the cause helping people triangulate their careers around their life purpose.

Personally, I’m excited about Jullien’s new website, and I hope you will be too. It’s clear that Jullien is not only passionately about his own entrepreneurial ideas but also about helping people find their purpose and find ideas to transform their careers.  And in my view, that’s especially important now given the current economic situation.

To obtain new resources to assess your own career, even if just out of curiosity, take a look at Jullien’s new website. And if you know someone else who might benefit, forward his site along to them as well.  Because one of the most important things that any great leader can do is not only ensure that they are on the right career path, but also that they’re proactive to get insights and perspective from others as well.

Saturday, September 4th, 2010 Other Blogs 2 Comments

Dean Sally Blount’s First 100 Days at Kellogg

Hi everyone, I have some exciting news to share.  Back in late July, Kellogg’s new Dean Sally Blout decided to start blogging about her experience as the new Dean this year.  Until now, the Kellogg community, like most business schools, relied on press releases, interviews, and other meetings and conferences to hear about everything that was going on.  But now, you can real time, up-to-date information not only about what she’s working on, but also about her thoughts for the future.

The title of the site is “Dean Blount’s First 100 Days,” and it’s purpose is to capture her weekly reflections on Kellogg and management education in the 21st century.  She’s already posted ten or so posts over the course of the past few weeks, and I suspect she’ll really start to pick up the pace a bit now that the new Kellogg class of 2012 – her first class as dean - is about to begin.

In my view, the dean’s decision to blog is a very good idea, though you might expect me to say that given I have a website of my own.  That’s because a leader’s ability to lead effectively in any organization, especially in today’s interconnected internet-driven world is directly correlated to his or her reputation.  A reputation as a thought leader and someone with vision for change.  Someone with a proven ability not only to come up with big ideas but also to persuade others and communicate the ideas to the masses.  And blogging provides a great venue to start building your reputation and delivering your message.

After reading through the dean’s blog, it looks like she’s hit the ground running and I look forward to seeing what the longer term message is.  For all those interested in Kellogg, affiliated with the university, or interested in the MBA community more generally, please join the dean’s ongoing conversation along with me.  I suspect that she’ll channel great insights about business and would love to hear what you think about her ideas.

And Dean Blount, thanks for your engagement in the univeristy and for sharing your insights about the MBA world as you take the helm of Kellogg.  We look forward to reading along and interacting with you throughout the year.

Click here for see the Dean’s new blog.

Saturday, September 4th, 2010 Business School, Other Blogs No Comments

Teamwork During Kellogg Orientation

We’ve all heard the saying before. That a team working together can accomplish a lot more than the sum of its individual capabilities. Well that’s definitely true here at Kellogg for orientation, where everything we’ve done so far has been in teams. One example is our section’s involvement in Kellogg’s section competition, where we compete all week against all the other sections in a series of events.  Another example is the section showcase, where we’re working together to create a ten minute skit to put on in front of the school. So far, I’ve found the team activities fun as they’ve not only provided a unique venue for collaboration but also for getting to know my classmates and having interesting discussions to foster close ties before school begins.

Like most endeavors at Kellogg, these activities are both more fun and more work than most of us expected. For the section showcase we’ve put in nearly a dozen hours so far planning our skit, orchestrating the music and the actors, and also figuring out how to bring everything together.  It’s definitely been a fun challenge.

Part of this is because our section is so big. Working together in a group of 100 people is new for most of us. On one hand it’s been fun because we get to know a lot of people, see a lot of different working styles, and incorporate a larger variety of ideas and perspectives. On the other hand, working in a larger group means that we also have an element of chaos, because diverse points of view always arise and we’re forced to come up with solutions quickly despite dozens of competing ideas.

Scholarly research has long suggested that smaller teams perform better than big ones.  In most cases, that’s because it’s easier to get everyone involved, smoother to incorporate everyone’s ideas, and everyone feels like they take part in the team’s mission. Similarly, with smaller teams it’s also easier for everyone to get more deeply involved and really provide a higher quality engagement. In fact research suggests that the ideal teams have less than ten people, and that the best leadership teams have five or less people.

Despite the research though, it is surprising how well our section of 100 people has worked together so far. From the outset we started orientation and competed section cheering competition. Despite having the biggest team, we won first place in the first event.  We’ve also worked efficiently together to take part in other events, and our section showcase seems to be coming along quite well too.

But despite our initial victory, it has become increasingly challenging as the week continues to move forward. People are starting to get tired. We’ve started getting reading and other assignments for our MORS class. Some people have other priorities outside of school they need to take care of. And as always, time is increasingly getting more limited, especially as we become busier with section activities throughout the week.

The experience in orientation so far has pushed our team beyond our comfort zone, at least for an orientation setting, but we’ve all worked well together and stepped up to each challenge.  Upon reflection, it’s clear that all of our success has been the result of keeping a focus on the element of teamwork and leveraging everyone to help out as much as possible. And that has not only allowed us to do well in some of the competitions but more importantly it has also allowed us to form bonds with our classmates and future colleagues. Over the next two years at kellogg, I look forward to taking part in more teamwork activities and meeting more of my classmates along the way.

Friday, September 3rd, 2010 Business School, Leadership 5 Comments

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.


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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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