Archive for June, 2011

Deadlines

One thing I’ve learned about business school is that there are a a lot of deadlines. Not only do you have to get a lot of things done but you also have to do them on a very specific schedule – two days to finish this, five days to finish that, three hours to finish something else. That concept also holds true in the business world. Especially for MBA-level jobs, where you’re given multiple workstreams, multiple emails, and multiple priorities, but just one job: to finish all of it on time.

I’ve written about how busy business school is before. In one of my favorite posts, I compared “business” school to “busy-ness” school (CLICK HERE) and how becoming too busy is actually bad for you. Well, in some ways that analogy also translates to the job you have. Not only do you feel just as busy as you are in class but you also put more pressure on yourself to do well because the stakes feel a little higher. You want to produce a quality work product. Make a good impression on your team. Ensure you do good work and your manager gives you a good review. And in the end get an offer, even if you don’t plan to accept the job.

But the real question then is at what cost? For some, they get it by doing exactly what they expected. But for others, that cost is running around scrambling to please everyone even if that’s not your personality type. For others, working more hours than you ever expected or wanted. Taking on more and more work from more and more people. And ultimately taking on more deliverables with quickly-approaching deadlines that would seem unreasonable to anyone not in business school.

Here’s the schedule. Follow it! Here’s the email documents for tomorrow. Read them all by 9am! I just sent you ten calendar invites. Accept them! And be on time!

And because you have multiple deadlines, everything becomes more important, so you speed up. Working like a machine, for a machine (boss), in a machine (company), with other machines (coworkers) who are all doing the same thing.

And eventually, the goal isn’t to produce a great work product. But instead to take on more workstreams than before, to work more efficiently than last time and to make better powerpoint slides and excel models. And once you finish that, then you can do more.

So in some ways, the MBA has become the new assembly line.  You move things forward as fast as you can. The  work becomes more specialized to help you speed up, so you only take part in a small part of the process. And things more automated.

Likewise, the work also never stops. Just like Toyota “never stops the line” a company’s project flow doesn’t stop either. They find more people to do more small parts. Buy new systems to increase their efficiency. And leverage operations technicues, such as optimal batch sizes, flexible resources, and critical path times, to keep the line moving as fast as possible.

But what if your company stopped the line on purpose tomorrow. And instead of figuring out more deadlines to give you, instead allowed you to spend all of tomorrow thinking about mind-blowing innovations for the company.  And what if your job wasn’t simply to hit twenty deadlines but instead to submit 20 game changing ideas that could change the company.

Not only would you be better off but I’m guessing the company would be better off. And if you had thousands of smart people doing this at the same time all over the world, then maybe the world would be better off too.

Just a thought. Maybe something to think more about when you become CEO of your company.

But until then, I need to go check my calendar to see what deadlines I have for work today.

Thursday, June 30th, 2011 Business School, Careers, Leadership No Comments

Reasons a JD-MBA Might Choose Law Over Business

The number of students interested in JD-MBA programs is increasing faster than ever before. Not only is the degree combination becoming more popular, but more and more schools are also offering programs increasing the overall number of students.  But despite that rise in popularity, JD-MBAs will always have to face one tricky dilemma – they will eventually have to choose whether to enter law or business upon graduation. For some the answer is obvious. But for most, choosing the right move is more difficult … like picking your next move in a game of chess. Not only do students have to determine what career is the best fit, but they also think about which pays the right salary, aligns most with their skill set, and sets them up to reach their career goals, not only in the short run but also in the long run.

The number of JD-MBAs that go into law versus business typically differs by school. That’s because some schools are located in regions where law firms are more centrally located, while other schools may have a better law school or business school in terms of ranking or recruiting. Further, the number also changes with the economic times, as the job opportunities ebb and flow in the respective industries.

Historically, many JD-MBAs have gone into business. That’s because in the long run, many JD-MBAs see business as a more lucrative path and think that a business career offers more work life balance. Likewise, many JD-MBAs also enjoy the MBA portion of the JD-MBA program because that portion is usually more social and less combative.

But not all JD-MBAs go into business. In fact, at Northwestern the split has historically been closer to 50/50, where about half go into law and the other half into business, and sometimes more than that the summer.  As such, I’ve decided to come up with a list of some of the possible reasons a JD-MBA student might make this decision.

Note that the list is not comprehensive.  Further, the bullets on the list also may not represent prevalent reasons that students choose. Instead it’s simply a list of some of the things that came to mind as I was writing the post.

  1. Law firms pay a higher average base pay out of graduate school
  2. You’re going to be an associate anyways and you prefer writing and reading to doing math
  3. Your background and/or skills are more aligned with the legal profession
  4. The law firms wined and dined you during recruiting and you couldn’t resist (this could apply to anyone)
  5. You know that you can always move to business fairly easily if you don’t like law
  6. You have an interest in government or politics and think law seems like a logical first step
  7. You want to learn deal-making but don’t want to be an investment banker or work in private equity
  8. You’re used to working long hours so you were up to that challenge
  9. You watched Law and Order growing up and always wanted to see what it felt like to be a lawyer
  10. You want to try it out for the summer and plan to recruit again next year if that doesn’t work out
  11. Many of your JD-MBA classmates decided to try out law so you didn’t want to miss out (FOMO)
  12. Your parents were lawyers so you want to be one too
  13. Law school recruiting happens first. So once you got an offer you decided to take it and stop recruiting.
  14. You have a good business network and could make a lot of money if they eventually became clients
  15. You go to a school that offers a lot of good business-law classes and want to see how it works in practice
  16. You are interested in business but want to distinguish yourself first

Feel free to comment if you have any additional reasons.

And good luck with whatever route you decide to take!

Saturday, June 25th, 2011 Business School, Careers, Law School 1 Comment

Reasons to Go Back to Business School

A lot of people think about going back to business school, but not all of them actually do. Some defer their admissions for a year.  Others wait until later years to apply. And some people never actually end up applying at all.   But no matter which category you fit in, many of you have still probably considered going back to school. And as such, I thought I’d brainstorm the reasons why some people consider going back

A couple of things to note. First, the list is not comprehensive. There are plenty of other reasons other people might rely on when making the decision. Second, some of the reasons might be more applicable to you than others. Likewise, some probably dont’ apply to many applicants at all. And finally, any combination of reasons could also be relevant to you. And in my case, a couple of the reasons came to mind when I was applying. Either way, I thought it’d be fun and entertaining to share that list here with you.

Without further ado, below is the list. Do any of these reasons apply to you?

  1. You want to increase your earning power and make more money when you graduate
  2. To increase your pedigree
  3. To improve your business profile if you have a non traditional business background
  4. Get a two year vacation, especially if you’re sponsored
  5. You have a lot of money and think business school will be a fun experience
  6. Other people that you admire went so you want to follow in their footsteps
  7. You spent so much time applying that you feel like you have to now
  8. Your company requires an MBA to advance at the company
  9. Because your significant other is going back to school too
  10. To hide from a recession
  11. You lost your job due to the economy so need a way to fill the time
  12. You lost your job due to performance but happen to have a good profile
  13. You want to switch careers and find it hard otherwise
  14. You don’t want to keep specializing at your job and can broaden your horizons at school again
  15. You want to learn the language of business and/or finance and school is the best way to do that
  16. To get ties to a new city or new region
  17. To reflect on your goals and aspirations and find a way to pursue them
  18. You want to build a network as a budding entrepreneur
  19. You  want time to work on your start-up as an entrepreneur
  20. You want to start a company and need resources
  21. Want to improve your education background
  22. You want to change the world
Friday, June 24th, 2011 Admissions, Business School 1 Comment

In Search of Questions from Readers

Regular readers know that in addition to discussing school, career, and leadership topics, I also spend lots of time answering questions on my site. Particularly questions about MBA admissions.  In fact, I recently looked at some of my most popular posts, and noticed that multiple posts in my top ten were those where I answered questions from my readers.  You can see examples of that HERE, HERE and HERE, among other places.

Well the good news is that I want to do more of the Q&A.  However, starting at some point over the next few weeks, I’ve decided to try a different approach to my Q&A posts. Instead of writing out all of my responses, I plan to leverage more audio and video here on my website. In this manner, I’ll be able to answer questions faster than usual. And I’ll also be able to answer more questions than ever before.

That said, please feel free to send in any questions you have regarding admissions, recruiting, or anything. Likewise, if you know someone who can benefit, I hope you’ll share the site with them. The MBA application process is about to get under way, so I’d love to hear what types of questions you have.

Best of luck everyone!

Monday, June 20th, 2011 Admissions, Business School 1 Comment

Wildly Important Goals

One thing I’ve learned in graduate school is that its important to have goals. Goals about what you want to accomplish, what industries you want to work in, which people you want to meet, and which classes you want to take. That’s because with goals, you have a clear sense of what’s important and you can make sure that you get a lot more of those things done. But sometimes, even having goals isn’t enough if you have too many of them. And so often times you need one goal that’s far more important than the rest.

One way I like to think about it is with the term WIG … otherwise known as Wildly Important Goals. I use the term WIG to describe those things that I’m most interested in pursuing.  The game changing ideas that you want to relentlessly work toward for as long as necessary. The ones that not only keep you up randomly until 3am when everyone else is sleeping but that also wake you up at 5am when the sun hasn’t risen yet. In business school, they’re the ones you skip the best party of the year to work on when everyone else is out.

Over the past two to three years, I’ve done my best to always have a WIG.  I had one coming into the JD-MBA program in law school my first year. I had one this year at Kellogg and pursued it even in spit of core classes and recruiting. And I have a new one now that I am working on for twelve to fifteen months.

In my view,  some things in life are worth spending the extra time on. Fine-tuning every detail for. Becoming an expert at. And giving it your all.

Because as you continue to progress in your career, the competition gets harder and the people get smarter. And as a result, it become much harder to achieve all your goals. Especially the worthwhile ones that the smartest people pursue.  So if you want to do well, sometimes you have to hone in. And if you want to hone in, then you have to make a point to pay special attention to it, especially in the midst of all the chaos surrounding you at school and at work. One way to do that is by identifying an important goal well ahead of time  and then working relentlessly to achieve it.

That’s what I mean by WIG.

So … what’s your WIG?

What woke you up today at 5am?  And will you be up at 5am tomorrow working on it again?  I’m sure your competition will be.

Saturday, June 18th, 2011 Business School, Law School 21 Comments

Summer is Finally Here

At long last, after nearly a full year taking classes at Kellogg, the summer is finally here. After months of taking core classes, fighting to stay at the top (or sometimes middle) of the curve, attending as many social events as possible, and battling through the recruiting season, we all finally finally made it to the summer and get to enjoy a break from all the hustle and bustle of business school.

For JD-MBAs, this summer is specifically exciting, as we didn’t get a traditional summer last year. With me being the exception, none of the JD-MBAs worked full time last summer but instead spent more time focusing on classes, both at the law school and at Kellogg. So this summer, it’s finally a chance to go out and make a difference in the workforce.

Likewise, my Kellogg classmates are also quite thrilled to be working. To have the chance to test there interests and see what new things they are actually interested in. And in some cases work on changing careers. It’s also a chance to make money again, probably more than many students made before coming here.

In general, a lot of classmates will be going into marketing and consulting. Others will be pulling long hours in the investment banking industry. And others will test their leadership skills in general management positions, start-ups and nonprofits.

Geographically speaking, Chicago is always a popular summer choice. The Facebook group that I administer currently has about 135 people in it, which is the highest of any geography for summers. As you might suspect, New York and the Bay are also very popular choices for summer internships for Kellogg students. Though as you might not expect, places like Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Boston are also fairly popular choices.

Personally, I am staying in Chicago, and I just started one of my summer jobs this past Monday 13th, which was a pretty popular start date for my classmates. Like many of them, I’ll also be working in the consulting industry, and fortunately I recently found out that I won’t be traveling all that much for the summer. For the second half of the summer, I’ll head back to the legal industry again, not only to get more legal experience but also as a way to keep both options on the table for next year.

But perhaps more important for me is the fact that I’ve got a few big picture things on my mind too.  As a 2012 McCormick Scholar, I have the opportunity to do a research project for both Kellogg and Medill. And the idea I have in mind is quite big. Furthermore, I also have an idea that I might undertake related to the JD-MBA program, so check back periodically to see how that idea play out.

Either way, it looks like for me, as well as for a lot of other Kellogg students, the work doesn’t end with finals week last week but instead continues throughout the summer. Stay tuned to hear how the summer turns out.

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011 Business School, Careers, Consulting No Comments

Top Kellogg Employers From 2000 – 2010

Just a few weeks ago I wrote a blog post that discussed where students from Kellogg went to work for the summer and upon graduation.  As a follow up to that analysis, I thought I’d also do a bigger one. This time measuring where alumni have gone not only for the past year but also for the past ten years. While some of the results might be surprising, on the whole most of them are probably things I could have anticipated.

I’ve always suspected that a lot of Kellogg grads go into consulting. But after running the numbers, it turns out that a great majority of alumni do. McKinsey, Bain, BCG, and Deloitte are at the top of that list.

It’s important to keep in mind that this analysis doesn’t take into account where alumni began after school. But instead it measure where they were as of the date of the survey, in 2010. Likewise, it also only captures data from those who provided responses to the survey from the career center. Understanding that sometimes we all get busy, there will certainly be a number of alum that were not able to fill out the survey.

With that said, below is the data collected on alum from the past ten years.

 

A few points of analysis:

1. First, one interesting observation is that the top ten employers account for 28% of all people that have graduated from Kellogg in the past ten years. That is to say, the biggest employers are hiring a lot of students.

2. Second, the consulting industry is far and away the largest hirer of Kellogg students over the past ten years. Of all the students that went to top ten employers, 81% of them went to consulting firms. Not that this comes as a surprise given Kellogg has long been known as one of the strongest schools for those that want to recruit for the consulting industry.

3. Third, of all those that went to consulting firms 73% went to the Big Three consulting firms – Bain, BCG and McKinsey. From an absolute standpoint, that means that about 17% of all the population went to big three consulting firms.  And of those, nearly double went to McKinsey versus the next closest firm, which was BCG.

4. Fourth, it is quite surprising that neither high-tech firms nor marketing firms played a large role in the top ten list, as only Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson represent those functions.  On the other hand, it’s probably likely that the next ten employers are dominated by marketing and tech.

5. Fifth, financial services firms, e.g. Investment Banks also didn’t play a very large role. Two banks made the top ten list – Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch – but combined they have less than 10% of those that went to top ten employers. Perhaps on the surface that’s not surprising because many people don’t consider Kellogg to be a “finance” school. But on the other hand, the finance major is the most popular major at Kellogg.

6. FINALLY – services firms generally, generally accounted for 90% of the top ten employment stats (81% consulting + 9% banking).  This is not a large a surprise.  Top MBAs have flocked toward these careers for year, as these firms not only pay more but they are also seen as being launching pads into other careers.

Sunday, June 12th, 2011 Business School, Careers, Consulting 2 Comments

Operations Management

How many people should be answering the phone at an American Express call center on Friday night? How many people should be working the Apple Genius Bar in downtown San Francisco on a Saturday afternoon in July?  And how many lines should be open at any given time in Whole Foods in Manhattan on Sunday night when everyone is grocery shopping for the week? All tough questions, right? Well, while I can’t tell you the actual answer to any of these questions, I can tell you that these are all things we thought about during my Kellogg Operations Management class this past quarter.

Just two days ago, I finished my last core course at Kellogg. While on one hand it was it a sigh of relief to be done with my core class, on the other hand it was also a bit sad, as many of the core courses (and professors) have also been good. This is definitely true of my Operations Management course taught by Professor Shin.

Now I know what you’re thinking! How can Operations be one of the most interesting classes? After all, at Kellogg, most people leave business school to work in Marketing, Finance, or Strategy; not operations. Further, if you had Professor Hennesey for Marketing, and Professor Mazzeo for Strategy you probably have a pretty high bar for the intro Operations class in the spring.

Fine. On the surface good question. But one thing I’ve learned at Kellogg is that there are a lot of great parts of the experience that you might not have thought about until you were exposed to them. For example, there are a lot of great jobs out there that many of us didn’t think about before getting more exposure to them at Kellogg. And likewise, there are also lots of great classes and professors that may not be at the top of the bid list.

Far too often at business school, we get caught up in the flare of certain things. Certain classes. Certain majors. People flock in large numbers to the strategy courses. They bid enormously high for to best marketing classes. And they organize their schedules to that they can fit many of the finances classes into their schedules.

But there are definitely concrete examples that perhaps this isn’t always the best strategy. That other functions, specifically operations, in some cases might be even more important to business success.

But don’t take it from me. Take it from some of the best companies on the planet that focus on having impeccable operations systems.

Apple maintains a world-class operations department to execute on its innovation strategy. For example the company’s introduction of iPhone and other new products show us why inventory management and quality management are important, especially during new product introductions.

Dell also spends a lot of resources managing its inventory. Dell was one of the first companies to keep its inventory at minimal levels and instead use the mass customization strategy to suit the needs of the mass market. That is, they pool as many resources together as they can, and then they wait to put your computer together until after you’ve order your model.

Walmart Mart maintains a world-class supply chain system. And so at every second of the day, the company knows exactly what its inventory levels are, not only inside thousands of different stores but also for thousands of different products inside those stores. Using this just-in-time distribution system, this ensures that the company has the right amount of inventory so that every customer can come and buy what they want.

Toyota is also known for its world-class production system and is often credited with having started the just in time production process.   And because of it, the company  has a great process that not only works faster than other companies, but also produces higher quality vehicles with less mistakes in the process.

Together these companies do things like managing their supply chain and inventory. The optimize throughput and flow time. They calculate things like reorder point (ROP) and service levels (SL). And they pay close attention not only to their specification limits (customer limits) but also to control limits (process limits).  And these are also some of the things we did in the class.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that everyone should work in operations. Likewise, I am also not suggesting that Operations will be everyone’s favorite class. Like any other course, it had its ups and downs. And it was also very much a math-heavy class, which surprised us all.

But in many ways Operations was also a really good class. It combined being interesting while also being useful. It was a mix of the qualitative and quantitative. We got to talk about many of the top companies in the world today. And in my case, I just so happened to have a professor that I liked a lot.

Hopefully I’ll be able to take a couple of interesting classes at Kellogg next year, once I head back down to the law school.

Saturday, June 11th, 2011 Business School, Careers No Comments

Entrepreneurial Finance

This quarter, I’ve probably had one of the most most interesting sets of classes that I’ll have in my JD-MBA career.  Not only are the classes interesting and useful but they’re also taught great professors and are a lot of fun. Among others, the classes include Leadership Coaching, Media and Interactive Marketing (i.e. Social Media), and Perspectives on Leading a Sports Entity among others. But perhaps the most interesting of all is Entrepreneurial Finance class, taught by Professor Steven Rogers.

Entrepreneurial Finance is exactly the kind of class I came to business school for.  First because I don’t necessarily now a lot about finance yet, so this class has been a solid way to learn more. Second, because I have a very strong interest in entrepreneurship, not only academically but also professionally.  And as I learned the first day of class, back in April, I wasn’t the only one here at Kellogg that felt this way.

In fact, I remember the first day of class quite clearly. I went to class a bit early to make sure I got a good seat.  And to my surprise dozens of others had already done the same thing. Upon entering the room, I noticed that the classroom was packed from side to side.  And right away you could tell that Professor Rogers thrived in that type of setting. He was lively, engaging, and energized. Definitely skilled at the art of running the classroom.

Fortunately, he’s brought his skill and experience to every class this quarter. Throughout the quarter we’ve answered questions like should I join this start-up? How much equity should I negotiate for? How would I finance this company? And last but not least, what is the value of this business? If nothing else, he’s pounded into us that valuation is a central theme for entrepreneurs.

Twenty five million said one student. Twelve million says another. And forty million was the number I had in my head. At times none of us were right. But at other times, we were all right. That’s because valuation is as much an art as it is a science. And often times there are no right answers. After going through that, he then asks us to evaluate the industry. Then the company. Then the acquirer to determine whether it is a good deal.

You could probably imagine a group of 104 people with different views about what’s valuable and what goes into a good decision. Likewise, each of us has our own level of preparation, both quantitatively and qualitatively. So our viewpoints are often pretty different.

And the professor loves all the different viewpoints. He has a natural enthusiasm for hearing what we all will bring to the case. The challenge of pushing a classroom to bring out more ideas and understand the case better and better.  In some cases, he’ll challenge your assumptions. He’ll ask you why or why not? He’ll force you to respond more clearly and more decisively. No matter what it is you believe.

Because ultimately we’re learning that there’s not always one right answer. That whatever criteria we use to buy a business can work well. And that whatever way we choose to value, can work too – whether using revenues, EBITDA, or Price to Earnings.

And in the end, we see that entrepreneurship is not about being right or wrong, but instead about figuring out how to spot opportunity, deal with uncertainty,  and create value.  And that it was also about how you can gather more information to make better decision and persuade others to believe in you and your idea.

Like I said, this is the kind of class I came to Kellogg for.  Only one problem. Our final exam for the class is due tomorrow. So back to studying and finishing up the case I have to write up.

Monday, June 6th, 2011 Business School 4 Comments

Overextended

Overextended is a word used regularly in the business world today. In the markets it means taking on too much financial risk. At work, it means taking on too many projects and not being effective enough at any of them. And in business school it means taking on more work, classes, and activities than you can actually handle. Despite this though, people in all those environment continue to overextend themselves. The question thus becomes, why?

The technical definition of the term by Webster’s is “to extend beyond reasonable limits or beyond one’s capacity to meet obligations or commitments.” By definition, this happens all the time in business. Companies get greedy and put their names in too many places. They sell too many products. They engage in too many commercials. And in the end,  people get confused by the brands.

Likewise, in business school you see the same thing happening with students. Many of us get involved in too many clubs, recruit for too many industries and sign up for too many social events. As a result, they don’t always have time to do their best work, and at times actually do pretty bad work.

This is especially important in recruiting because you lose track of your goals, don’t have precise answers for a company or industry, and you find it harder to persuade the masses of your ability to add value.

What’s interesting though is that many people know that they do this, but continue to do it, sometimes at their own peril.  From a logical standpoint, this suggests that people see benefit in overextending. And not only in the short term but that they also project a benefit in the long term. Whether the benefit is a larger network of friends, experience with more activities and positions, or simply enjoyment from partaking in more activities. All valid benefits.

On the other end of the spectrum is the notion of not extending yourself enough. Where you block off extra time in your calendar to ensure its not taken up. Or you take measures to ensure you’re not tired at the end of the day. And you don’t go to events in the evenings because you’re just too tired.

Here’s the thing: on paper neither of these options sound perfect. You either end up not working hard enough or don’t have enough time to do your best work. But on the other hand, business school still creates overextension. So what’s the reason.

From experience, one reason is that so it can push you to do more than you can do otherwise. Take on more activities. Get involved in more things. Find new ways to contribute. And  learn to do more in a shorter period of time.

But perhaps the trick is to learn to do that while maintaining quality and still producing a superior work product.  Easier said than done. Sure. But if an organization (or school) can provide a platform for people to push further and teach them to do more, while still maintaining quality, perhaps everyone will be better off for it.

In sum, if you overextend in a reasonable way, you’ll be able to accomplish more than you could when you began.

Sunday, June 5th, 2011 Business School 3 Comments

Merger Article: Reflecting on the 2010-2011 School Year at Kellogg

To the second year Kellogg students from the class of 2011 that will graduate in two weeks, congratulations! What a wonderful achievement! To the class of 2012 about to head off to your summer internships, congrats on finishing your first year, and best of luck for the summer. As a current MBA student, I can’t say enough about how unique the MBA experience is. For many it’s the long-awaited gateway to a new career. For others, it’s a way to learn more about not only about the world but also about yourself. And for some, it’s considered to be the most transformative two years of their lives. But no matter which camp you fit into, it’s important to reflect on the year. And just a few weeks ago, the Merger selected me to write the “Year in Review” article where I talked about just that.

In just two short days, the last version of the 2010-2011 Merger will become available. For the past year, I’ve written articles in each of the newspapers, andI had the great fortune of being asked to write one of the “year in reflection” articles for this edition. Not only was it a great chance to reflect on the past year, but also a chance to challenge the students and myself to do great things after Kellogg.

See below for the article.

———

 

YearReview

Title: Reflecting on the 2010-2011 School Year

Author: Jeremy C. Wilson

2010 was an interesting year. Most of us left high-paying banking and consulting jobs and finally decided to return to business school. And what timing! The financial crisis was finally starting to fade and the prospects of recovery left the business world enormously hopeful. At the same time, the nomination of Sally Blount as the first female Dean of Kellogg had just made business news history.  Many of us were excited to be back in the classroom during such interesting times, especially as we knew the markets were recovering just in time to land our dream jobs at business school.

But one thing we didn’t know is that many of us would also be scrambling in business school. Many of us had to scramble to learn accounting and finance since it was our first time ever taking the classes.  Others of us scrambled to stay awake in DECS and MECN, after spending the night before prepping for upcoming job interviews. And some of us scrambled all year trying to figure out exactly what our dream job was, or if that job even existed.

And so that leads me to the million-dollar question today. The one question that’s been on everyone’s mind since last August. What is the best opportunity to pursue at Kellogg? And what can I do to ensure that I maximize my success?

Having heard from a lot of successful alum over the past year, there’s a variety of things go into it.  Getting started early, laying the groundwork, putting yourself in the right position at the right time, knowing how to seize opportunities, and most of all having passion.

Because making it all the way to the top is hard; and the competition can be stiff. We all saw it in our core classes at Kellogg and during recruiting. Someone always knew more, someone always worked harder, and someone always practiced more cases. Every time. It was inevitable.

But business school is a piece of cake if you compare it to becoming world class at the professional level. Coming up with the idea for the next big internet start-up, becoming a Fortune 500 CEO, winning a seat in congress, or being part of the deal team that takes Facebook public.  In fact, statistically speaking, you have a better shot of becoming a professional athlete.

In a recent talk few weeks ago, Jonathan Reckford, CEO for Habitat for Humanity emphasized that same point. That it’s not just about going to the best school or getting the good grades.  But that made it to his position because he figured out his “professional purpose” and did everything he could to pursue it.

Jim Hendry, the General Manager of the Chicago Cubs agreed when he spoke in my Sports Leadership class. That it takes 1,000 little things to go right to make it to the top, so passion for your industry more than anything else makes the difference.  Because if you’re not ready to go all out, then you’re not taking the big risks, and you’re not making the sacrifices. He noted that he turned down a job that paid nearly three times as much, just before landing his GM role in Chicago.

There are plenty of MBAs from all the top schools that face this same dilemma. They get good grades and work at “top” firms but don’t have passion. So they never become the Managing Partner, can’t land a coveted CEO role, and can’t garner the support to fund their political campaign.

Don’t get me wrong.  The majority of Kellogg alumni go on to lead highly successful lives by almost every possible measure. Good jobs. High incomes. Happy families. And I have no doubt that all of us will achieve the same upon graduation. But for just for one minute, I’m talking about something a little more. Like creating the social network that becomes Silicon Valley’s most admired company. Being the first female to Dean at two top business schools. Or best of all, figuring out a strategy to capture the world’s most wanted criminal after eight years.

So for just one moment, what’s more important than heading off top firms for the summer is that we all take a moment to reflect on all the lessons we’ve learned in our first year at Kellogg.  Furthermore, we should also understand that to achieve our utmost success, it’s imperative that we spend next year uncovering our deepest passions and doing everything we can to relentlessly pursue them. Only then will we be able to put all of our talents to their best use and unlock our greatest potential for change.

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Please let me know what you think. I welcome all comments and all feedback.

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 Business School, Careers, Law School 15 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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