Posts Tagged ‘recruiting’

This time one year ago, a June weekend might have looked like this:  I probably woke up late on a Saturday, grabbed a New Yorker or a Gourmet magazine, and whiled the morning away over a huge coffee and a spinach, egg and cheese muffin at the bakery down the street.  Then I wandered into town for an afternoon of Swedish modernist home decor shopping, or for another giant coffee with a friend, or for a walk along the esplanade.  In the evening, I probably hosted a dinner, met friends in town, let one of the guys I’ve dumped (but insisted in keeping on as friends for reasons of flattery – wasn’t that fun, Danny?  I thought so…) make me dinner or went to the theater or the Symphony (often by myself).  On Sunday morning I read the NYTimes from cover to cover (okay, just the arts and style sections), spent some time torturing the piano, and thought about cleaning the apartment.   Or I hosted a fabulous brunch that involved strawberries and Chantilly or deep-fried poached eggs.  Then I dragged a group of friends to the beach for lobster, or to a clam shack out of town, or to climb a mountain.  This led my boss to point out that I seem to be having a lot more fun on the weekends than during the week in the office.  Yeah, no kidding.

This year’s June weekends look like this:  this morning I got up and checked facebook to see what I missed by not going out the night before.  There was a BBQ that looked like fun, but also described by my neighbor as, “just like every BBQ you’ve been to this year.”  Saw more pictures posted of the Monty Ball – was tempted to go just to get a picture of myself being decadent and wearing an 18th century wig, but decided to sleep instead.  Lame, I know.  Then I cranked on a scenario planning exercise for International Political Analysis, calculated some multiples for a Mergers and Acquisitions case, trying hard to force myself to care about the wave of acquisitions in the fine chemicals industry, and read three cases for my (really awesome) Enviro Management class.  Then I wrote an e-mail to my condo tenants back in the States to assure them that their A/C would get fixed just as soon as I could get the delinquent building manager to respond to my phone calls.   Then I checked the exchange rate for the 10th time this week – damn, no shopping therapy for me this year.  Then I wrote another angry e-mail to the idiots (mis)handling my visa.  Then I came to school for group work.  Had an unexpected, but really quality heart-to-heart with one of my groupmates.  It’s nice when you feel like you’ve gotten past the fronting and the keeping-it-together with someone – that they’ll still like you if you’re in a bad mood, if you’re stressed out, homesick, cranky.  Seriously, when is the last time you talked about what’s important to you?  Felt really inspired?  Admitted to someone that you’re worried that the thing you say you want to do with your life is not truly the thing that you want to do with your life?  It’s been a while.

But this is starting to sound like one of Vantan’s insufferable posts.  I’m not entirely sure what I’m trying to say with this comparison.  I don’t wish that I was still back in my condo, reading my Gourmet and showing up to the office on Monday to while away the week before I had another inspiring fulfilling weekend.  But I do miss some of the comforts of that life: trips to Whole Foods, finding time to read, $10 lobster, an income, friends I’ve known for 10 years living down the street, having one of the world’s top symphony orchestras a 30 minute walk from my house, not feeling like I’m missing out if I don’t make it to every social gathering, being an hour’s flight from my parents.  Essayist André Aciman describes mnemonic arbitrage as the act of thinking about yourself in the future remembering the moment that you are experiencing.  The meta-ness of this concept is a bit dizzying, but it’s exactly what I’m doing these days: looking at my world from the point of view of my future self.  Whether it’s the future self that is experiencing the moment while composing a blog post about that moment in my head, or the future self that looks back on this experience years from now and wonders if she did it right, made the right choices, made the most of her time.            

A couple of things threw me for a loop this week.  Part of the funk is due to some self-inflicted “matters of the heart.” But also, I went to a talk earlier this week.  One of the guys giving the talk worked for a direct competitor of my old firm.  The other guy had recently joined my dream firm – the company I’ve been stalking for months before finally applying for an internship and getting rejected by HR with a generic ‘we’ll keep your resume on file’ e-mail.  

– But… but… but… we were made for each other!  Wait, don’t leave!  

They also rejected a friend of mine that I thought was a shoo-in for the job.  So, like the men at INSEAD (okay, women too), they just don’t know what they want.  

The topic of the talk was precisely in the intersection of the two firms’ activities that are interesting to me.  Two things happened:  [one] It made me really miss my old job and [two] It made me realize that dream company does some really boring stuff.  While they think about interesting stuff, their main product appears to be slick-looking reports.  Snoooozzzz. 

– So, there, I wasn’t interested anyways!

Yes, my capacity for self-justification is amazing:  I can convince myself that every outcome that transpires is my getting my way/a blessing in disguise/a thing happening for a reason.  

I best go summon those powers of self-justification to try to feel less homesick.


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P1 ended with exams that (with the exception of Accounting) certainly did not insult anyone’s intelligence, and probably did a fine job of separating the men from the boys.  While everyone pretended not to care how they did, most people stuck around afterwards discussing the exam questions.  I had a dream about one of the finance questions some 2 days later – I think I had to do that question in an interview.  WTF?

Post exam, it was curious to see the nationalities all grouping together, and debating Question 3 of finance in Italian, Greek, Arabic, etc.  Immediately after UDJ, everyone got properly drunk at the bar, and eventually headed off to get more drunk and very sunburnt in Chamonix.  

Being antisocial, I did my own thing and got yelled at by some INSEAD alumni friends of the boy who said that we both should have gone on the Chamonix trip.  

Now I’m officially a P2.  I so didn’t want to be back on campus today.  I wanted to be somewhere in a real city, with real shops, and real restaurants, and real chamber music.  Where you can walk 8 miles in a single day, feel exhausted and barely cover a part of the city.  Where they have kebabs and curries that are to die for.  Where jeans still cost an arm and a leg despite the recession.  Okay, that last part I’m not so keen on.  And then at the end of the day, instead of leafing through your 6 binders of course readings and wondering how you’re going to read 4 cases and still be up by 7AM, you can watch episodes of Lost and 30 Rock, or read a novel about that really cool city you’re visiting.  Yeah, a novel.  With fictional characters that you can relate to.  And a plot.  Remember those?

But after the first session of Strategy, things started looking up.  P2 is going to be far more interesting than P1, if the first case of Process Operations Management (deliciously abbreviated to POM) is any indication.  P2 is also when the on-campus recruiting starts out in earnest.  I’m really torn about whether or not to put on a monkey suit and go make nice with the consulting firms.  

On one hand, consulting would be a great way to pay off those loans early.  On the other hand, I might be too precious to work 90 hour weeks.  Consulting is the easy answer to the question of what to do with yourself.  This is of course my being presumptuous that these jobs are mine for the taking.      

During my extensive soul-searching (read: unemployment) prior to INSEAD, I thought a lot about what motivates me.  One of those things is ownership.  I’m very possessive.  I need to be responsible for whatever I’m doing.  Owning “strategy recommendations” or a pretty PowerPoint deck at the end of a project just doesn’t seem right.  

But I suppose taking hors d’oeuvres from McKinsey can’t hurt.

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On the plus side

If I’ve been overly harsh on INSEAD lately, it is because of my own anxiety about starting the school year in less than a month. I keep having a dream where I am lost somewhere (though it usually turns out to be the Mexico City metro) with 2 huge, unwieldy suitcases and unable to communicate to find my way around. I wake up nearly hysterical, with a pounding headache.

Instead of stressing about the school year or the recruiting season, I’m chosing to focus on the more immediate and tangible stresses. Should I buy a hairdryer or three ring binders here or in Fonty? Should I purchase a cellphone online now or wait until I get there?

So I’m going to stop the ranting, and do some rambling about what’s going well.

1. Despite being intimidated by the idea of living in France, I’m also anticipating the excitement of trips to the hardware store. What I mean is that everyday life in a foreign language feels so extraordinary. When living abroad and learning Spanish, I found that buying elotes on the zócalo or having a short chat with a papeleria owner when buying a pack of pens was the most rewarding part of my day. That challenge of daily life was a huge motivator for choosing INSEAD in the first place.

2. I’m spending NYE in Paris with the boy! I can’t freaking wait!

3. Another pleasant surprise is that I’m finding the Micro pre-reading much more engaging than I expected. Yeah, I’m being a nerd and doing the pre-reading. (You are being a bigger nerd and spending 1500 EUR to attend business foundations. So please…) I’m finding myself better equipped to understand Marketplace reports on NPR than I was two weeks ago. It’s rewarding to be able to make sense of my world from first principles, rather than nodding along with James Surowiecki because he writes so logically.

4. I’m also starting to discover the power of the network. Today, I had a wonderful chat with an alum about his sector, the recruiting process at INSEAD, and pulling off a career change – someone I found through one of these very blogs! He had some insightful comments. I wanted to share a mix of these insights and my own interpretations:

– Don’t get seduced by JP Morgan and McKinsey unless you’re really interested in banking or consulting. Recruiting for those roles can take up the majority of your time, leaving you with no time to consider alternatives.

– Set a goal for networking: talk to X number of people per week. Always follow up.

– Get together with people interested in your sector and share your contacts.

– Have a crystal clear idea of what you can offer a company. Be able to pitch it in 30 seconds.

– Join a club in your area of interest and take the reins; don’t wait for someone to plan the events that interest you.

– Prioritize. You’ll only be able to do a small fraction of what INSEAD offers – you’ll have to choose between parties, studying, recruiting, traveling, clubs, sleep.

Phew. That was way too positive. Hope I didn’t bore you to tears.

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I’ve been spending my last month before school in a semi-productive manner.  While my classmates are scuba diving in Bali and hiking the Inca Trail in Peru, I’m taking Career Leader profile tests.

Choose a statement: “The position allows ample time to pursue other important aspects of my lifestyle” OR “The position provides excellent opportunity for exceptional financial reward”  

Um… both?

Among my motivators, “Intellectual Challenge” and “Lifestyle” are high.  As is my need for “Influence and Power.”  

In one section, you have to compare yourself with your peers.  What ends up happening in this type of a survey is a Lake Woebegone effect – everyone is above average!

So I tried to imagine my future class of overachievers, and rated my Time Management, Work Ethic and Self-Control at the bottom barrel.  I guess you could say that I’ve gotten where I am by being smart, not by working hard.  (I know the pitfalls, and I’m currently reconsidering this strategy.)

AJ Jacobs tells a hilarious story during one of the Moth Storyslams.  An editor at Esquire, he was one of the first people in the US to hire a business assistant in India to handle his administrative work.  This went so well that he then outsourced his personal life to another assistant.  She did his online shopping, booked his reservations, and even resolved an argument with his wife.   The bit is hilarious – totally worth a listen!  

So rather than investing in improving my time-management skills, I’m wondering if this is the kind of outside-of-the-box thinking that I should be employing.  Does anyone in India want to write my resume?  Take my exams?  Conference in for my case interviews?

$300/month.  Anyone?

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My best friend – let’s call her Tina – works for one of the top consulting firms.  She’s constantly jetsetting between Rome, Mumbai, London, and Johannesburg (or Jo-burg, in her parlance) for the different projects she’s not allowed to talk about.  She joined the firm almost 3 years ago after finishing her MS, and has been talking about quitting in 6 months for the last 2.  But every 6 months there’s a new project that she’s crazy excited about, and so she puts off leaving the firm.  One of the reasons she wants to quit is because she doesn’t have enough personal time, and wants to be able to start a normal relationship.   

We don’t usually talk about work, but last weekend I got an interesting glimpse into her career when I sat in on an information interview she gave to a first year MBA from Stern who was looking to get into consulting.  

The thing that struck me is her firm’s focus on professional development – the constant striving for improvement through continuous feedback, the availability of training sessions around the world, the career coaching and mentorship.     

It was also revealing to learn just how little Tina is motivated by impact.  She actually said, “It doesn’t matter to me that these two pharma companies merge, or that a deal I’m analyzing goes through, or that a company successfully starts an office in India.”  What matters is that she can be in London when Darcy Bussell dances in Balanchine’s Jewels or in New York when Karita Matilla gets naked in Salome.   

I’ve been torn about whether or not this is something I’d want for myself.  As much as I’m attracted by lifestyle, the prestige, the brand name of being at McConsulting & Co, I don’t know that I could hack it.  I could probably be good at it, but I’m not sure I would love it.  Following this weekend’s discussion, Tina sent me a book called “Now, Discover Your Strengths”.  One of those self-help books for the overachiever set.  I’ll keep you posted on what its brilliant insights bring.  

The thing that made me crazy about my own small firm design consulting experience was that I never felt like I owned anything that I did.  We would design a product for a client, or create a strategy for a new product direction, or recommend a branding strategy – but after 4 months, or 6 months, or a year we would walk away.  

So, years down the road when one of those products became a top seller for Proctor&Gamble, we could look back and talk about why that product was successful and why we were responsible for that succes.  For the other 85% of projects, we were happy to collect our fee, and were free to blame the client’s execution, or their entrenched way of doing things, or inability to understand our brilliant direction if things didn’t pan out.

Mostly, what bothered me was the nagging feeling that we were often working on the wrong project. The project that Business Development sold to the client wasn’t the project that was going to make any impact – or wasn’t the right application of the technology the client was developing.  

Working for a top-tier consultancy can certainly be a spring-board to an amazing career in arts administration, or private equity.  You could potentially gain the skills needed to run a start-up or a pharma giant. 

But at what cost?  At this cost: Tina mentioned that the thing she liked least about McConsulting is that 20% of the people she worked with were “hard-driving assholes.”


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