The Value of Running My Own Race

The Value of Running My Own Race

Back in undergrad, I was the Head Strategist of the University of Michigan Solar Car Team (hang in there with me, I promise it’ll make sense in a bit). In short, my job was to tell the driver to drive as fast as (safely) possible during the 3.5 day, 1,800 mile race across the Australian Outback without running out of power. While we had some very real competition on the road with us, at the end of the day, there was an optimal speed for our car and our best chance of winning was to stick to that speed regardless of what the others did – they were running their race and we were running ours. As random as it may seem, I see parallels between solar car racing and navigating a choice-rich environment like Booth.

As I was working through recruiting, I was easily distracted and enticed by options my peers were pursuing (a problem many of my fellow classmates would echo). I quickly became unfocused – I was looking at roles in VC, tech, consulting and marketing. Looking back, investment banking was probably the only traditional MBA role I did not seriously consider for a time, but that’s only because I-Banking recruiting starts so early and I missed the boat! I had come to school with a plan and a passion to pivot into the healthcare field from financial services, but I lost sight of both function and industry and started looking at generalist consulting, big tech product management and consumer product brand manager roles. Luckily, I realized early on that I was losing sight of my goals and, after determining they hadn’t changed, I needed to regroup.

To refocus, I took three steps:

Step one: I separated the internship search from the full time job search. By doing this, I made trying something new as an internship more approachable because it became a three-month decision instead of a multi-year decision. For example, I came from a corporation and was considering a professional services firm like consulting. The idea that I could try out the day-to-day of consulting for a 3-month period before deciding to pivot was relieving. Similarly, I planned to pivot industries from financial services to healthcare. An internship would help me see what that looked like in practice.

Step two: I created four priorities that aligned with my personal goals and forced myself to rank them in order of importance. These four goals (ranked from most important to least important) were:

  1. Try a new function as a “trial version” in order to confidently accept a full-time offer. For me this became consulting. (The reason behind that choice could take up another entire blog post; so, I’ll leave it at that for now.)
  2. Hone in on Healthcare as an industry. After all, it was my primary goal to pivot into healthcare.
  3. Intern somewhere where I had an opportunity to convert to full time. While I didn’t NEED to go back to where I interned, I wanted the option in order to take the stress of finding a job off my shoulders, which would in turn allow me to really just focus on my internship experience and what I was learning, liking and leaving behind.
  4. Stay located in Chicago. My wife had just moved from professional services to “in house” and both of our families are here. As my fourth priority, location wasn’t a deal-breaker, but finding something that checked all the above AND had a Chicago office was the perfect combo.

Step three: I ranked all of the opportunities I was considering by how well each aligned with my personal goals. For example, as interesting as a product management role at a big tech firm sounded, I had already been a product manager at a bank and I wanted to try something new for my internship. I figured that those roles would still exist as full-time roles, and I was already well qualified for them from my pre-Booth experience.

In taking these three steps, I was able to distill my list of 50 (yes, oops) companies down to a targeted 10. I told myself I could apply to additional companies beyond the 10, but any events or interviews for the 10 would come ahead of anything else. Once I was focused, I could work hard on my target list. I ultimately accepted an awesome opportunity with a boutique management consulting firm, The Chartis Group, which ranked the highest in all four of those priorities (I’m headed there full-time, too!).

Using this recruiting framework really helped keep me focused on “running my own race” the same way my team and car simulator helped me when I was on the Solar Car team. Recruiting is just one of many facets of the Booth experience where I’ve been presented with an abundance of choice. Taking the time to step back and remember my personal goals has helped me continue to spend less time “spinning my wheels” while I try to make decisions and more time enjoying the MBA experience.