How am I a weird bschool applicant? Let me count the ways…

500px-Numbers.svg 1. My nonprofit professional background.

After I graduated from college, I only wanted to do nonprofit work, and that’s all I have been done so far. I hear that there is growing interest from folks in the nonprofit sector to get MBAs, but it’s still nowhere near common. And on top of that, my nonprofit experience is not in education. It seems like the majority of MBA candidates who are from the NP sector are in education…either in administration or people who want to start their own charter schools (or something like that). I didn’t even know that whole phenomenon existed until I went to a Forte Forum and saw that Teach for America was one of its main sponsors. I was pretty confused by that, to be honest. But by now I’ve heard everything about how running a charter school is like running a business, which is interesting, but not what I am looking for.

2. My career goals.

I’m really afraid of coming off like some kind of PETA-ish militant or a softie “omggggg that puppy is sooooo cuuuuuuuuuute,” but I am so not. I eat meat! I’m brains over heart! I’m really pragmatic! I just really think we need to treat animals with decency and not be jerks about it.

3. I am old.

Not that old, but definitely old when compared with the average ages/years of work experience of most bschool student bodies. I never think about this (who’s old??? not ME!), but now that I’m filling out apps and calculating the number of months/years of work experience I’ll have by fall 2014, the numbers looks staggering. I’ll have 96 months of work experience by then. Ninety-six. Yale’s latest class profile has an average of 68 months of experience. Stanford’s average years of work experience for their 2014 class is 4.2. I’m going to have eight. I’ll be 31 years old when most everyone around me will be 27. In my mind, this is all not a big deal since I don’t think my age should be counted against me. And four years ago, I was not ready for business school, so it’s not even like I have something to regret. But I guess all that really matters is what the schools think, and they seem to not like older people.

4. I lean creative and have little to no quantitative work on my applications.

I actually *do* have a lot of quant experience–I lived and breathed math and science from ages 0-18, but the second I got to college and was free of those shackles I dove straight into creative work. I’ve published poetry and have done a lot of visual art. But I also can’t escape my super practical and numbers-focused childhood. Even when I’m writing a poem, I have this nagging question in the back of my head: “What is the purpose of this?? How does this help anyone??” I’m no free spirit.

5. I don’t want money. 

OK–I’m not being literal here. Of course I both want and need money. But wanting  money is definitely NOT one of the reasons why I’m applying for bschool. What I do want, though, is more power. (And although money = power for some people, it doesn’t for me.) I want the power to do the following things:

  • Come up with BIG IDEAS that WILL BE IMPLEMENTED. That kind of reminds me of a recent Dilbert comic strip. I swear I won’t be that bad, though. I actually enjoy implementing a project just as much as coming up with the vision beforehand. I just want the power to make things actually happen. 
  • Be able to provide opportunities to other people. I really like mentoring. The thing is…I barely have anything to offer right now. I rarely hire people. I barely manage one other person as it is. I ‘m basically at the bottom of the ladder, and that doesn’t really lend itself to being able to give chances to other people.
  • I want to work for a well known brand/organization with a wide audience so I can really, truly make a worldwide impact.

I’m sure there are lots more ways that I’m weird than these five reasons, and I’m not saying they are detriments to my applications. Well, of course, I personally don’t believe they are detriments at all…but I guess that’s up to the admissions committees.

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I want to save animals, so I need an MBA. right?

E.O. Wilson

E.O. Wilson

The ultimate thing I want to get out of going to business school is possibly getting the chance to finally combine my personal and professional interests into one awesome, challenging job (I’ll say it: Dream Job). I’ve certainly believed in the various causes of the nonprofits I have worked for (and their missions certainly made the work much more meaningful), but none have hit the issues that are near and dear to my heart. I have a few pet causes, but right now I’m focusing on one: Animal welfare.

In another culture, another country and another completely different existence, I may have become something like a naturalist by the time I hit 30. In this parallel life, I’d simply observe natural behavior, ponder it, discover amazing things and write about it (a version of E.O. Wilson, maybe?). I’ve always been drawn to animals and nature, despite the fact that I had little to no exposure to them. A 100% upper-middle-class suburban upbringing doesn’t allow for the nostalgic Americana childhood of catching frogs in ponds and collecting butterflies in jars.

Through various means, I got the idea that caring about animals was unimportant and frivolous. Why save animals when people were suffering and dying all over the world? When I was in college, I told a friend that I had donated money to the World Wildlife Fund. He was horrified that I had chosen to put my resources toward animals when I could have given to so many human-centered charities. In some ways, it was nice to finally hear someone say it out loud. He later became a doctor, by the way, in case you wanted to feel really unsurprised.

So basically, I kind of felt like I had this secret, unworthy passion that was almost…shameful? A lot of this has to do with Asian culture and the immigrant mindset (I’m 2nd gen). When you have a survivalist mentality (like a lot of immigrants do), spending time and money on animals is so far at the bottom of the list that it’s basically not there at all.

It took me around 25 years to Get Over It, at which point I really started to reflect on my life and started wondering how I could possibly wedge this cause into my work. I started poking around on job boards and looking into the kinds of positions were out there that would be possible for me. I also started thinking about the importance of branding when it comes to donations and charity work. Best Friends Animal Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have very different brands, don’t you think? A person might give to one and not the other. And–tada!–I found the area that overlapped all my interests and skills into one. Still not clear? I’m not 100% clear, either, but I think I’m on the right track. To be continued…