Tag Archives: mba

The Second Coming of My Life

Watching my hands shake violently as I attempt to calm myself down  without anyone noticing, I realized that I really desperately need to make a massive change in my life. There is nothing in the world that will make this the right career fit for me, and I have the choice to either continue falling straight on my sword each time I fail to produce results, or doing a 180 and running in a completely new direction. I’m ready to run.

I’m 33. That’s not old but it isn’t young either. It’s old enough to know better to jump into the same old situation yet again. I’ve created a conundrum for myself, in which I’m too senior to qualify for junior roles where I can learn how to do my job better, but too inexperienced to be truly qualified for the senior roles. An old business acquaintance not too familiar with my professional contributions outside of my public resume this week asked me if I’ve be interested in a very senior level marketing role in his organization, where he is on the executive team. He assumed I had the appropriate experience to take on this role but I don’t. And I’m so tired of this whole “fake it to you make it” because I’m horrible at faking it. I can’t even get my head around how to do a good job.

Today, I’m again fantasizing about grad school. I go back and forth over whether I should pursue an MBA or a design degree. The MBA would definitely make me better suited for my current role in its more senior incarnations, but the design degree would set me up for a job that I have a chance to actually love – thus, the design degree is probably the better choice. Either way, I need to take a standardized test and apply within the next month or so, which is a lot to do for someone who hasn’t prepared at all yet other than to categorize all the elements of math that I’d need to learn in the next 30 days. I can always wait another year, but I feel like it’s now or never at this point.

The best situation would be to stay in my current role and do the best I can for the next 8-9 months and leave for grad school in the fall. I’m sure I’ll be the oldest in my class by far which will be disheartening but maybe I’m finally mature enough to get a lot out of school (which I definitely wasn’t in undergrad) and I’d learn a ton and be employable for roles that I’d actually want once I finish. I’m less concerned about finances at this point – I’m still worried about retirement and such, but being as right now I’m not unable to afford a house and miserable in my career choice, I might as well be unable to afford a house and happy. Right?

I’m keeping the grad application thing secret as I probably won’t get in anyway and I’m trying to learn how to be self motivated to study for the tests. I really would like to just focus on the standardized test at a separate goal which, if I complete that and do well enough, I can move on to the next part of the journey which is actually applying to the schools. The problem with that is all the apps are due between Jan 1 and Jan 15… it doesn’t give me nearly enough time to pull together my portfolio and such. The MBA programs are a bit more flexible as I can apply to later rounds, so I might go the MBA route anyway and find a school where I can take a few design classes. Either way, I think the educational route will help me break out of this decade-long funk. I’ve learned a lot, but I need a massive shift right now, or this will be the rest of my life, and I can’t handle not knowing what I’m doing and falling apart on a daily basis.


She Quit Her Job to Become a Porn Star…

Before you get all excited, I’m not talking about me – though that would make an excellent storyline for this blog. I’m talking about Veronica Vain, who decided to leave her blossoming cushy career as a Wall Street intern to instead, well, be cushed. Repeatedly. On camera. Over and over again. She’s competing in a new reality tv series hosted by the “one and only” Duke porn star. Apparently, “Veronica’s” rational for leaving Wall Street and getting into the Adulty Industry was that if she’s going to get screwed for the next decade she might as well get into the hall of fame for it. Fair enough.

While not everyone is going to leave a stable career for one so fickle and disrespected, and mostly not everyone has a desire to become a porn star, there is something to be said about following your dreams and going after what you, deep down, feel most natural doing. Of course, for a job like that, it’s the rare few who get to stardom levels where their salary would be comparable or better to that of a financial analyst. Even with 15 minutes of fame, the longevity of a porn career is short in most cases. What next? That said, if she’s smart enough to be a financial analyst she’ll be fine, if not permanently sexually harassed at jobs filled with lots of nerds.

For everyone else out there, what would it take to leave what you’re doing to today to do what you love most? Do you know what that is? I think I’m actually very close in a lot of ways. I love creating, and being a leader in a young company teaches me a lot about entrepreneurship and business. That said, I think my long-term goal would be to come up with a product idea that can be pitched on a show like Shark Tank. Something that could be useful but also innovative. I want to be an entrepreneur, but I’m not cut out to the a tech entrepreneur. Tech requires too much up-front capital and it takes too long to build something really useful that by the time you have a product the market needs, it’s a few years too late. That’s just the nature of the tech industry. And it’s on marketing and sales’ shoulders to convince everyone what you have today is what they actually need. That’s the case in 99% of tech businesses.

As I think more about myself and what I really like about my job/career/industry, there is a lot of good there. I just realize that while I fell into technology and feel so fortunate for my time in the industry, as well as in learning more about business by being part of companies selling to other businesses, I don’t feel quite comfortable here, and I never will. I do enjoy being in Silicon Valley — finding myself feeling the epic rush of being smack dab in the middle of the innovation world is something I’ll never, ever regret. But I still wonder if this is sustainable, and if this is where I can add the most value.

I’ve been thinking a lot about getting an MBA, then reading lots of blogs that say do not get an MBA. Most suggest that if you want to change careers, though, an MBA can be useful. I would want to have a very solid goal before enrolling in any such program. I’d also have to be accepted to a top 10 school – which on its own is unlikely due to my schizophrenic undergrad transcripts and my test-taking challenged mind. That said, I don’t need an MBA to be a real entrepreneur.  I need some chutzpah and an affinity for risk that was zapped from my psyche by an actuarial father whose entire life’s work was to reduce any uncessary risk.

But I have realized that money doesn’t drive me. I mean, I like money, and I like having money, and building my networth. And I spend money reasonable well. So I guess it does drive me. And this month when the stock market sharply shot down and I lost a good $3000 in networth, that was mitigated by earning and not spending enough so my networth stayed flat. I would like to get to $500k in networth because while it’s not enough to pay for the rest of life,  it is enough cushion to move somewhere with a much lower cost of living and, I don’t know, focus on building a life that is a bit less stressful.

Maybe these women who leave their stable jobs and lives for a short-term, financially lucrative career in pornography have it all right. I’d never do that for a multitude of reasons, but perhaps there is still time to change careers, at some point, and find something I’m more naturally equipped to do – whatever that is.

Unemployment Week Three Begins

This morning I’ve applied to four jobs. Four jobs that I’m confident I won’t get. I’m in this very odd place in my career, one that consistently shoots me in the foot. My experience doesn’t exactly match my the title gracing my resume. What am I actually good at? Well, the answer is little bits and pieces of job descriptions, but never the meat of the job description. I am starting to feel, if not hopeless, then convinced I need an MBA or a professional master’s degree in order to go anywhere in my career, up, down or sideways.

This is not to say that I’ve been awful at all of my past jobs. In fact, my LinkedIn profile is filled with recommendations from former colleagues and managers who liked my work. The problem is that the majority of reason they liked my work was due to factors that I largely didn’t control. For example – securing press articles for a business is much easier when the business is in an area the press want to write about. It’s also easier when you work for a company that supports and encourages stretching the truth a bit to make the news a bit sexier. Sure, I used my creative abilities to come up with different ways to tell the story that resonated with different news audiences, but put me in another role in another industry where the area is just not exciting to journalists and I promise you I won’t be able to produce the same result. Oh, and hire me?

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How many people learn their jobs by doing vs training?

Reading job ads I find myself laughing and crying all at the same time. The hard, sad truth is that I managed to skip around the foundational years of my career in my current industry. While I have built up my experience in junior-level positions, they were not in the typical junior-level position held by someone that is in the type of position that I’m actually getting recruited for. So I always end up either having to pretend to have all of this knowledge (some of which I do, some of which I don’t) or I have no chance of getting hired.

Why don’t you just go to a more junior-level position, you ask? Well, no one takes someone with a director title on their resume and nearly 10 years of experience seriously when they apply for lower level roles (unless they are a clear career switcher and even then it’s tough.) It’s also hard to go from making over $120,000 per year to making $40k-$50k. Staffing managers and companies know that most people who are further along in their career are used to sizable salaries and they would rather hire someone more junior (but still with some experience) to do these roles that allow for little autonomy and more mundane, repetitive albeit important work.

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The 30-Something and the Maybe MBA

Since graduating from college nearly a decade ago (holy hell), my career trajectory has been anything but expected or planned. I’ve been very fortunate in being able to continually move up the ladder despite some setbacks, and one can say that fortune comes with tenacity, grit, and the irony of lack of belief in oneself to forge ahead without any sense of entitlement getting in the way.

At 30, I look at the last ten years of my career and think, wow, there’s a true story there, one which wasn’t at all expected. There’s logic to the journey – basically, despite initially enrolling in school for theatrical design I quickly found my talent for the written word far surpassed my ability to sew in a straight line. Four rough years of college later, in a bit of a clinical depression funk, I realized that I was not meant to do entry-level work. My bosses realized that as well, and at first, not in the happy smiley everything worked out sort of way. But as I got my footing I also managed to have this crazy career in marketing. I found out that many college graduates, even those who could whip up fancy spreadsheets like no one’s business, had no idea how to write a damn sentence that someone else would want to read. My writing became my M.O.

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Do they teach this in business school? I wouldn’t know. I’ve learned it all from startups.

Everyone who joins a startup, in the back of their mind, in that tiny little crevasse all the way tucked behind all the cortices and lobes, dreams of their bank account flooded with cash after an acquisition or IPO (and, of course, many years of hard work.)

But we all know most startups fail. Starting a company is hard work. Creating sustainable growth is nearly impossible. A lot of it is market timing. You can have a great product and fail. You can have a shitty product and get pretty far. There are so many variables no matter what company you join, no matter what stage, it’s a risk, and far from a surefire path to riches. If you want to fill your coffers there are more efficient and less risky ways.

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Obama’s Student Loan Debt Repayment Program

According to the Washington Post, total outstanding student debt has passed $1 trillion, more than the nation’s credit card debt, and average indebtedness for students is rising. While I’ve often written about whether college is beneficial in modern society (where some of the most successful and wealthiest entrepreneurs are college drop outs), for many there is proven long-term fiscal value of a degree. But not everyone can afford to pay outright for skyrocketing tuition costs.

  • Public four-year colleges charge, on average, $7,605 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students. The average surcharge for full-time out-of-state students at these institutions is $11,990.
  • Private nonprofit four-year colleges charge, on average, $27,293 per year in tuition and fees.
  • Public two-year colleges charge, on average, $2,713 per year in tuition and fees.

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Interviewing Mr. and Ms. Ivy League

It’s a little ironic that just one year ago I was staring at an Algebra textbook, attempting to (re?)master polynomials in order to ace my planned upcoming GMAT, and then that dream was replaced with a respectable, exciting role at a startup. That’s not the ironic piece, though. At the time, my quantitative skills that had escaped my mind sometime back in high school were not coming back to me all that easily… and my dreams of a Stanford GSB MBA or Berkeley Haas MBA were admittedly laughable.

It hurt knowing that I’d never be a competitive enough candidate to get into those programs — though the reason I wanted to go to the programs (to offer myself more flexibility and open doors in my career) was still not clearly worth the $200k price tag of an MBA, even from a school that would give me the golden resume pedigree my undergrad couldn’t offer.

Fast forward a year, and I’m literally in charge of hiring MBA students from these top tier schools for their summer internships. Yes, the same woman who would be an unlikely candidate for a seat at the student mock boardroom is sitting behind the interview desk, reviewing resumes of people who are often just about my age and much more “impressive” than I ever will be. And by “impressive,” I mean their resumes all blur together with impressiveness.

Often these candidates are whip smart, so there is truth behind the value in hiring them, but that’s not always the case. Not everyone who is able to “shape themselves” into the person that can get into a top MBA program is the same person who can think outside the box and solve problems that are far from textbook.

Regardless, my biggest bit of perplexity in this whole process, came yesterday when reviewing the very impressive resume of one of these applicants from one of these top tier programs with an extremely solid employment history, albeit outside of tech. I immediately went to email this person to invite them for an interview, based on the email on their resume, and a few minutes later it bounced.

I thought perhaps I had spelled something wrong — surely an MBA student from an Ivy League school would know better than to spell his own email address wrong on his resume. But lo and behold, a typo. His school name was spelled incorrectly. Ultimately, this guy will surely go on to great things, but I can’t understand how someone can spend $200k on an MBA, get a 780 on the GMAT, and not spell check his email address on his resume. Thank goodness the “impressives” aren’t perfect. Otherwise I’d never stand a fighting chance.

Graduate School… Costs a Fortune Before You Get In

Forget the cost of tuition, room and board, the cost of applying to graduate school is fiercely staring at my quivering piggy bank like an angry honey badger ready to pounce on an unsuspecting snake long before I’ve even scribbled a sentence of my application essay.

To get into a top masters program — MBA or otherwise — you need to stand out for more than just your GPA. When your GPA makes you stand out for the wrong reasons, you’re far behind the curve. It isn’t clear if it’s possible to run really fast and hard to make it over that hump (ie pay expert consultants a lot of money to teach you the right speed to run and how your feet should hit the ground every step of the way) but the consultants surely will tell you that without them, you’ll be sitting down where you started, exhausted, looking up at a giant insurmountable lump of your future.

The cost for a live or online GMAT study program is somewhere around $1000 – $1400. There are cheaper programs, of course, and plenty of ways to get some books and study on your own, but many advise to take one of the classes if you’re the kind of person to underachieve on standardized tests. But for the candidates who really want to do well, you can pour hundreds or thousands of dollars more into private tutoring… just so you’ll break 700 or 750.

Consulting by admissions experts for the top programs is even more painful. One program I was examining the other night cost $3500 for a full package of help and edits to apply to just one school. Plenty may argue that putting $5000 – $10,000 into preparing yourself to apply for a top ranked program is worth it because on the other side of the hill… long after the field trips and late nights getting intimate with statistics… there’s a miraculous salary increase that will improve your overall lifetime earnings by, well, something around a lot of money, give or take a decimal point. But that’s IF you get in. All the coaching and test-taking advice in the world may never be enough. It’s a gamble either way. And if you can do it on your own (obviously there are plenty of people who have got into top MBA programs without draining their savings on outside help) then why seek out an expert?

Looking at my semi-healthy bank account, I can’t fathom draining my cash or stocks for this kind of coaching. And maybe that’s why I’ll never be an MBA student or even masters student. I figure, if it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. And, meanwhile, am somewhat jealous of the people in the world that can afford such coaching, and their Harvard / Stanford / Wharton / Kellogg / Haas / Ross pedigree.

Graduate School: Still an Option, But is it Worth It?

I’m not an academic. Since I was young, I couldn’t focus in class, I rarely completed my homework, and while I supposedly had a lot of potential and was at once point dubbed “gifted” by the public school system, academia was never my forte.

So why, now that I’ve earned a college degree and made a career for myself, still long to return to the Ivy Tower? And what would I return for?

I’m still torn between options, including whether to apply at all. On a pure rational front, I’d be best off getting an MBA if I could manage to score high on the GMATs. At this point I think my experience has a shot at canceling out my less-than-exceptional undergraduate transcripts, but the GMAT would be a toughie.

But does an MBA even make sense for me? I’ve worked with many people who have MBAs, and many who don’t. I’ve been managed by MBAs and I’ve been managed by engineers-turned-marketers and artists-turned-non-profit-owners-turned-business-women. I’ve been managed by people who get it and people who don’t, people who succeed by pure luck and others by pure talent, and others who fail for all the wrong reasons. So why get an MBA?

Partially, I want to do it for myself to prove I can. It would look great on my resume (if I go to a top 10 school which, again, is not exactly an easy feat given my overall credentials.) I’d spend two years focused on learning about business — and maybe I’d even learn something practical to apply in the real world. Mostly, I’d feel more confident in my experience as a marketer with an MBA under my belt. I don’t need one, but to really move up the ladder I either need to start my own company or get an advanced degree. Or have friends in high places.

The other option, still, is to go to graduate school for interaction design. I’d enjoy this more, but I worry it’s too focused in an area that has limited value if you don’t know how to program well. I could learn a bit of programming on my own or in school, but I’ll never be the programmer who moved into design. I’ll also never be the programmer who moved into business management. It seems I’m already in trouble, not being a programmer and all.

I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I need to make a decision on this. I’m 26 now, and I’m not getting any younger. I’ve had a solid 5 years of work experience in non-profit, start-up, and large international corporate environments. I’m still not sure where I fit into the work world. I feel awkward in marketing, as I’m not super creative, nor am I brilliant with numbers, and I’m also shy in a field run by the outgoing. Most of all, I dislike “marketing” as a field where you must produce lies to sell a product that isn’t as good as it could be, if the business was managed better and the consumers were actually listened to. Which leads me to thinking I really ought to run my own company. And I don’t really need an MBA for that. I need an MBA if I want to be middle management. And I don’t see myself as middle management. I know middle managers. They are great people, but a different breed of people. They are willing to do whatever it takes to reach their business targets. That’s what capitalism is all about. A little lie, here and there. Make everyone want what you’re selling, no matter how much it’s “worth.”

Is that where an MBA would lead me? I don’t know if I have the stamina to lead, though I know in the long run I’ll never have the heart to follow.

What do you think I should do?