Leaving My Heart in San Francisco

After a couple of months of not-so typical California weather (read: cold), this "Cal Bear" has come out of hibernation to give you the latest from his last semester at Haas School of Business (Haas Full-Time MBA Profile).

What I most enjoy about writing these MBA Journals is that they have allowed me to keep a diary of two years of my life that I otherwise wouldn't have bothered to document. While school has been an unbelievable experience, it has also overlapped with a life-changing one: meeting my fiancèe and embarking on a long-distance relationship that would last almost one-and-a-half years. I am pleased (and relieved) to say that she has finally moved here from Australia. Naturally, my priorities have changed, as have my career goals in life.

While most people on the finance track are focusing their eyes toward Wall Street, I recognize that moving to a new city, finding a new group of friends, and enduring colder weather are not quite the ingredients for a successful and happy relationship. While some might say I am compromising my career for love, I argue that to be successful in life, you need to have your priorities in order. I believe my potential holds no bounds when I have love and support at home, and to reach the levels to which I aspire, I need a strong foundation in marriage.

That said, with my singular focus toward either Sydney or San Francisco, turning my back on New York has thus far proven fruitless. The main issue in Sydney is that Australia—my home country—doesn't value MBAs nearly as much as the U.S. does. This means that recent graduates aren't as actively recruited by Australian companies as they are in other countries. Moreover, Australian companies that do recruit MBAs aren't currently looking for any.

"senioritis:" not my problem

In contrast, San Francisco companies do recruit MBAs. Thus far in 2010, however, finance opportunities have been few and far between. The lack of options in the U.S. poses a real challenge for many international students such as me because we are limited by the amount of time we can spend in the country after graduation—typically about a month. If my job search in San Francisco doesn't work out, I'll be sad to bid the Bay Area adieu, as the U.S. has been my home for so long.

With my career focus taking up a lot of my time and with graduation on the horizon, it's not surprising that the classroom is no longer my priority. In the past, "senioritis" referred to the common condition at school by which students slacked off during their final semester. While I am happy to report that some of my peers are indeed spending more time skiing in Tahoe than tackling books at school, most of us are still out there looking for a job.

While this semester does feel easier in some ways, it is a lot harder in others. From the perspective of study, it's a lot easier than the last one because back then I was also studying for my CFA Level 1. (I am happy to report that I passed.) This semester, I may not be studying for my CFA but I am also looking for a job. Now that my fiancèe is here, classes inevitably take a back seat from time to time. While I am definitely happier that she is here in the flesh, I have a newfound appreciation for those students who have all along been balancing school, career search, and time with their significant others.

As this is probably the last time I will write an MBA Journal as an MBA student, I thought it might be interesting to reflect on my first article. Many months ago, I said that the secret of success was "to work hard, work smart, and work it." While I still believe this to be true, business school has reminded me of the need for friendship in achieving your success. Make sure you identify like-minded people at school early so that you can develop deep and meaningful relationships over the two years. I preferred to be close with 10 people than to have 100 acquaintances. You will meet some amazing people at school, so it should be easy to associate with those whose lives and outlooks you admire. After all, you are who your friends are.