Will B-School Help Me Find My Path in Life?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

My cousin Billie is applying to business school. In fact, as I write this, she is sitting across from me, studying a GMAT textbook industriously. So it seemed fitting that for my last blog post, I write about what is on her mind, rather than my own. As I am about to go off into the world and begin (arguably restart) my professional life, her thoughts on the experience seem a whole lot more relevant to this blog than my own. 

When I asked Billie what her most pressing concern about business school was, her answer surprised me…even though it was something I struggled with immensely during my own application process.  

Billie’s question was this: Will I figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life before I graduate business school?

This is something I think many people struggle with. Admissions applications frequently ask what you want to do in your life professionally. While some people know, many others do not and are attending business school to figure it out. 

In fact, looking back, I remember sitting at a bar staring at a blank page in a desperate effort to find the inspiration to explain why exactly I wanted to go to business school. I knew b-school was a logical step for me, and one that would bring me closer to my ultimate goals, but to be honest, I didn’t know what those goals would be.

Lots of people don’t. Don’t let that stop you. Getting something down on paper is the first step…even if you don’t entirely know what direction you want things to go in. Do some soul searching and ask yourself what is truly important to you: is it making a difference? Is it providing for your family? Is it having a sexy career? 

The answer will be different for everyone. But once you know the end goal, ask yourself how you reasonably get to that point. For me, I knew I wanted to own my own business and make a difference in the world around me.  Though I didn’t know exactly what that would look like, I had some ideas. So, as a thought exercise, I built out a mini business plan for a social venture. And then I backtracked even further: what would I need to make this business possible? I would need some technical skills like accounting…and if things went well, some finance skills as well. I would need to know about marketing and I would probably need some industry experience.  Which meant before I could think about getting my own business off the ground, I would need to work at a company that aligned with my particular industry of interest. 

Just the act of writing down a rough outline of what I wanted to do with my life was a critical step in moving forward. It gave me talking points when people asked about my future, undoubtedly helped me articulate more practical reasons for why I wanted to attend business school and gave me a sense of purpose moving forward. 

And though it sounds odd to say, articulating a plan going forward actually gave me more room to explore once I actually got to business school. I felt less panicked about the future and felt capable of eliminating things I knew didn’t interest me.  And with so many interesting offerings on the table, simply being able to recognize that there were a few things I didn’t want to do, made picking the things I did want to do all the better. 

And now, as I prepare to go off into the world, I do know exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life and how I plan to get there. 

So in short, my answer is yes. If you don’t know exactly what you want to do with the rest of your life, you will most likely figure it out in business school. Lots of people do. And if you don’t, I am pretty confident that simply going to b-school will bring you one step closer. Being around driven, creative, bright people tends to have that effect. And if it doesn’t, you can blame me. There’s always law school.