A first semester in business school is probably best summed up through some sort of interpretive dance.Refusing to be confined to words only, I am supplementing this entry with music."My B-school Playlist" (downloadable here) is a song collection recapping my first semester.
1) Jordin Sparks, Battlefield
Business school is the most intense thing I have done—and that includes fleeing a war-torn country. The pace of classes is brutal and the amount of learning intense. As a career-switcher, I've had to add researching companies and pursuing informational interviews to my plate. The cumulative effect has left me feeling like a medieval soldier fighting an endless battle, fatigued by my heavy sword, but knowing my only option is to stand ground with the rest of my colleagues in arms. Jordin's instructions to "go ahead and get your armor, get your armor" made her my No. 1 choice to get psyched up before trekking to the battlefield—er, school.
2) Bonnie Tyler, Total Eclipse of the Heart
In the month of November, every now and then I fell apart. Georgetown's (McDonough Full-Time MBA Profile) module system left me exhausted by finals in October and panicked at the start of a totally new class session in November. Career research picked up. I attended industry days and conferences, which, while incredible networking opportunities, severely cut into study time. The cold that my roommates and I passed to each other on a rotating schedule made me cranky, tired, and a cough away from losing my grip on class material. Through a tearful phone call, I told my American family I would not be coming for Thanksgiving, needing instead to sleep and be stationary. Getting enough rest engineered a major breakthrough with class material—suddenly, I understood finance. Slowing down was the only way to overcome my eclipse of the heart.
3) Lady Gaga, Just Dance
Because of my insane work ethic, I cut back on most forms of socializing, bringing about Bonnie Tyler above. My friend Bill keeps asking what happened to the Rusmir he knows, as I explain how business school erased the concept of weekends. Mind you, not everyone reads the marketing book cover to cover, but the immigrant in me feels like I have to prove myself. I try to let my hair down during Thursday happy hours, which are an opportunity for business students to drink away their hard week and network with each other. It's been fun watching how our collective belief that you can "just dance and everything will be O.K." has already generated strong friendships, not to mention lots of de-tagging of Facebook pictures. What seems different about Georgetown is that we genuinely want to spend time with each other. Even during breaks, Facebook posts continue popping up inviting the group to some local hangout.
4) The Cast of Glee, Don't Stop Believin'
Few things can cause a content sigh of relief as much as watching a song-and-dance number with your besties from school. Besides being a fun show, Glee was an excuse to stop studying and attempt to find better balance. I came to Georgetown because here we don't compete with each other as much as we compete with ourselves. My work ethic might be on the extreme side, but our Glee hangout is one of the ways I looked for balance. More important than finishing one more finance problem was realizing what would make me happy and boost my energy. In the end, grades don't matter: Few employers will ask for them while the curve ensures most of the class hovers around a B+. As long as I'm happy with my own learning and I am supporting my small group, I'll consider it a successful experience. The work gets done, eventually. Processing your week with school friends is more important. What trumps it all is going to bed with a smile.
5) Madonna, Ray of Light
The best wisdom this semester came from Jeffrey Hollender, founder of Seventh Generation: "Figure out what the world needs now and what you can do about it." This song's energy and lyrics evoke my excitement from realizing my answer was "renewable energy." I've pursued this interest through the newly formed Georgetown CleanTech & Energy Club, of which I am vice-president of events. The clubs are essentially the heart of the school, especially one with a general management curriculum. Linking theory and practice, the clubs become your true "major." Even though we're brand-new, CleanTech has brought in speakers and helped secure internship opportunities. Being in D.C. gives us unique access to national organizations, so we approached the American Council on Renewable Energy and will now be executing special projects for their Renewable Energy Technology Conference in February. The lesson I've learned is that creative thinking combined with the guts to approach a contact or an organization can lead to fantastic opportunities.
6) John Mayer, Waiting for the World to Change
Business school greatly accelerates the process of ascension to leadership positions: Elections take place around Thanksgiving so that in January my class will effectively take over, despite just a semester of experience. MBA students certainly don't wait for the world to change. A month ago I couldn't imagine how any of us would be prepared for this responsibility, but now I feel ready—something about this pace just produces breakthroughs. I reflected how I would balance career pursuits with my need to give back and make a difference in the school. Sometimes I feel like I am reaching too far: vice-president of events for CleanTech, president of the Gay & Lesbian Assn., Student Government vice-president of career management—it's an ambitious list. But I know this is where I will create invaluable networks and supplement my academic learning.
7) Dolly Parton, Nine to Five
The situation in Dolly's song is exactly what every business student wants to escape; however, it takes work to get to that better world about which you dream. Use the summer to network and research—I lacked the discipline to do so. The internship search for renewable energy won't start until the spring, but folks in marketing and finance have been going full steam since day one. It does help to be around other people laser-focused on the same goal, but the intensity of the career search can be overwhelming, even now before the pace has even picked up. I've used LinkedIn and second-year students for informational interviews. You simply have to get over any reservations around networking: Professionals will answer you if you send a nicely worded letter. At conferences, approach panelists before they start speaking and ask for their contact information, then follow up. I have learned tremendous information and uncovered great leads through networking. One contact advised me to supplement my résumé with club activities and to seek out nonprofits or startups that could use a part-time intern. Through NetImpact, I've joined Board Fellows, which paired me with the Sustainable Business Network of Washington, D.C., where I now observe and contribute to the board of trustees. With a couple of strategic experiences, I am radically altering my résumé to show not only an interest but a commitment to the renewables industry. I will use all this information for an application process in the spring.
8) Puff Daddy & The Family, It's All About the Benjamins
Well, it turns out business school is not all about the Benjamins. I would argue it is actually the most liberal-arts of disciplines: You will use history to understand a company's rise and fall, psychology to analyze organizational behavior, anthropology in market research, mathematics in finance, and even biology and chemistry to propose a new line of detergents. Yes, we talk about profit, but there's a much bigger picture to keep track of. Even in the busiest of times, I loved my classes and felt challenged in ways that expanded my horizons tremendously. I've been blessed with a supportive group of colleagues who I know will be my network for life.
Below are some other songs that I couldn't fully expand on, but that complete the playlist:
The Police, Message in a Bottle—that's what it feels like when four people get to write a two-page paper.
The Cast of Wicked, Defying Gravity—besides the obvious parallel of rising above challenges, listen for the sacrifices Elfaba makes and the benefits she receives with her new powers.
Lady Gaga, Bad Romance—just because my household was obsessed with this song.
Beyoncé, Single Ladies—for all those smart people who solidified their partners' commitment in marriage before they realized how crazy business students get.