Best Foot Forward...

August 31, 2008

So amidst the organized chaos that is Orientation, I found myself sitting in the Hall of Mirrors the afternoon of Wednesday, August 20th, making the best use of some free time by uploading Microsoft Office onto my laptop and organizing my habitually cluttered desktop icons. A few friends walked by at one point and stopped to talk. It went like this. Shapiro: Guillermo, aren't you supposed to be somewhere right now? G-Mo: No, I've got a free afternoon, I went to the IT session earlier so I'm just hanging out until I meet with my learning group. By the way, our name is Deep Fried Awesome. We even have a motto: 'Like awesome, but more delicious.' Shapiro: Yeah, that sounds great. So don't you think it's weird that you're the only one here though? G-Mo: Nah, I'm Green cohort. It's cool, man. You can suspect where I'm going with this story, but the long and short of it is that I conspicuously and sheepishly managed to forget to go to the Career Development Office session. You know, the really important one where you identify your skill sets? Yeah, that one. So I got to be 'that' guy who e-mails the CDO and explains that even though he missed his session, that he still wants to get caught up, put his best foot forward, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Fortunately, Barbara Koll graciously agreed to give me a one-on-one sit-down in her office in the CDO so that I could get caught up. This past Tuesday I was the fortunate recipient of a personalized slide-show presentation and skill set analysis. Very awesome- I'm looking forward to my continuing work with the whole staff up there. And on top of that, I got a chance to ask the question that has been plaguing me ever since I sent in my deposit four months ago. The question that I imagine plagues every bright-eyed, bushy-tailed MBA candidate with a non-profit background... If I want to become the best non-profiteer I can be, change organizations, affect lives, and better the world...do I have to go into the private sector and fine tune my organizational skills in a more competitive working environment? Or do I stay the course and go back into non-profits immediately after graduating? Barbara said the same thing that Kristen Beyers had told me when I asked her this outside of the Acumen Fund on New York Day- that there were some professors that would argue one way, and say "Yes, you have to get hard skills in consulting," and others that would say, "No, it's possible to stick with non-profits and still become that great non-profit leader you seek to be." The perennial question. And one I wish someone would just tell me the answer to...but there is no straight answer. Barbara asked me what my article would be about if she read about me in BusinessWeek in 20 years. I personally come from an existence where I took a lot of risks and sacrificed a lot of comfort in order to make sure I felt like what I did on a day to day basis was meaningful and fulfilling. To be an MBA candidate now represents growth for me in terms of the way I frame those ideas of meaning and fulfillment. I think it is more important than ever for myself and every one of my classmates to think in those terms, the long term. Once you imagine what that article would be about, then it's a little easier to take steps backward from that goal and figure out the smaller steps you would take in order to get there and be that man or woman in that role you envision for yourself. After an hour and a half, I thanked Barbara for her time and walked out of her office. I'm more confused than ever as to what direction I will go, and I know that these years will go by faster than I can imagine. But I am thinking hard about that article and what it might be about. And also hoping that regular synchronization of my Outlook Calendar will help prevent future blatant absences (I mean, I was sitting in the Hall of Mirrors right outside of the session. Come on, man.) G-Mo

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Guillermo Olivos