Thursday, January 19, 2012

And that's how you Pay It Forward

These days, it's quite easy to distinguish a first year from a second year MBA student in the Darden hallways. A slow, sure, somewhat bored gait is definitely that of a second year's--possibly sporting a tan from his/her winter break vacation in the Caribbean islands. But spot a suit and tie or pencil skirt-clad student, nervously pacing outside the interview rooms, there's your first year. He/She is clutching the Darden leather folder and anxiously reviewing his/her notes for the upcoming internship interview. These are common sights in the Darden hallway. But behind the scenes are quite different.

The Sunday before classes for second years started, I went to school to hold a mock interview with a first year. I had gotten an email asking for interview preparation help and I was happy to help. I was surprised to get to school at around 10am and see most of the learning team rooms occupied with first years and a number of second years helping the first years prep. This brings me back to a year ago when I myself was a nervous first year who was looking up at second years and eagerly absorbing their advice on something as measly as what to wear during interviews.

In between classes, you see the piano room and cafeteria filled with first and second year students chatting over coffee about interview preparations and sharing notes about companies. I've heard my first year friends tell me how helpful the seniors are, moving and shuffling their own schedules to accommodate meetings with them. You even see second years doing three or more mock interviews with first years in one day, on top of regular classes and club activities. This may not sound like a big deal, but you have to realize how valuable a second year's time is. That second year student also went through hell of a time during his/her first year--with the very rigorous curriculum, resume/cover letter drops, interview preparations, and almost quarter-long internship where he/she was under a very scrutinizing microscope. So, that second year was very much looking forward to his/her final year in grad school--the one that his past seniors promised would be filled with tons of tee and ski time, camping trips, wine tastings, and catching up with whatever things he/she had to give up during the first year including sleeping and exercising.

This reminds me of the reason why I chose Darden for my MBA. There was that promise of a close-knit community where students lived next to each other, watched college games together, dog-sat for each other, and just really helped each other. Well, the fact that Darden is in the college town of Charlottesville and the next city and big bar is some 70 miles away is probably a factor. But hey, we could have chosen to nauseate ourselves crazy visiting all 200+ vineyards in the Virginia area but we're not exactly doing (just) that.

So to my fellow second years, kudos for paying it forward. The Darden community salutes you for your effort, sacrifice, and strong commitment to helping your fellow Dardenites be a little closer to achieving their ambitions. Cherish that warm feeling you get when the first years you coached get the job offers they wanted. It's like winning the bet on that right horse. Or just kinda.

To the first years who already have summer internship job offers, a hearty congratulations! Give yourselves a pat in the back and do try to enjoy the rest of your first year without studying too much. You will eventually rummage through your DA notes for when you use Crystal Ball during your summer internship.

To those still searching for a job, hang in there. It may be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel now, but believe us when we say that it will all work out.

To all first years, thank the second years who took time out to help you be a little more prepared, walk a tad more confidently, and talk like you know the real reasons behind the Eurozone crisis. And remember, PAY IT FORWARD. Remind the first years of the class of 2014 why they chose Darden as their MBA school--and that goes beyond the extra rigorous academic training, $5 wine tastings, TNDC (Thursday Night Drinking Club), and the oh-so-beautiful grounds. Those are just the bonuses, of course.

No specific reason for this particular photo. Just that I wanted to share how beautiful this view was walking back to my apartment. Perhaps that's another Darden bonus.