Finding the Right Fit

Photograph by Justin Lewis/Getty Images

A guest post from Rose Martinelli, the former longtime admissions director at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, where she wrote a popular admissions blog, The Rose Report.

In my last post, I counseled MBA applicants to “know thyself,” to take an inventory of their strengths and weaknesses, their passions, and the challenges they faced in their lives. Now that you’ve assembled your inventory, it’s time to “make sense” from what you’ve observed and learned. There are a number of ways to organize your list, but let’s use the following categories:

Technical & Knowledge-based Skills: Do you feel confident in the skills you have currently developed to move forward in your career? If not, what skills do you need? What company resources do you have to develop new skills? Do you understand the business principles underlying the work you do?

Personal Qualities: What do you enjoy doing both in and outside of work? Are you a people person, or do you prefer more individual work and pursuits? What do you do for fun? How do you recharge? What causes or activities are you committed to pursuing?

Behavioral Traits: Are you easy to work with? How do you handle setbacks? Do you thrive under pressure? Do you seek feedback? What do people think about you? Do your colleagues and friends come to you for counsel or advice? Do you prefer to lead or follow?

Industry Fit: It’s important to understand the career pathways within the industry where you’re currently working. Does it afford you with the opportunities and lifestyle you’d like to pursue? What are the requirements for advancement? Is education a must?

Functional Fit: Within every industry there are many different roles or functions. Do you enjoy what you’re doing functionally? Is it a good match for your skills and interests? Have you explored different options?

Company Fit: It’s often hard to determine the difference between a poor industry/function match and a poor company/culture match, so spend extra time trying to distinguish between the two. The choice will lead to different pathways as you navigate the next steps.

Once you’ve completed this sorting, it’s important to share your discoveries with your “trusted circle.” If you haven’t developed your circle, I would encourage you to seek out 3 to 5 people in different areas of your life—a friend, a colleague, a mentor, someone above you in your company who sees you on a regular basis, and perhaps a family member. This circle will be extremely important in this process. Share with them what you’ve learned and ask for their frank feedback. Do they agree, disagree? What else can they add that you have not captured? Will they support you as you enter this time of transition?

The direction to take next will become clear as you move through this process, whether that means pursuing educational opportunities, changing your industry and/or function, or moving to a different company. Remember, all the work you are doing through these exercises will be useful for interviews, school-based applications, and determining the type of academic program that best suits your needs. Let’s meet again in two weeks to figure out how to translate all this into next steps.

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