Waiting it out…

Saying that this post is overdue would be an understatement. A lot has happened in the past few weeks.

My team wont the all Ontario finals of the MLSE Case Competition, where we crushed all the other schools. It was a shame that nobody from the winning team went on to work at MLSE.  Shame for MLSE.

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But they did end up treating us to a free raptors game from the box with great food n drink on call, so one of those things that make a rejection that follows so much easier to live with. Oh well.

It’s been a period of narrow misses. On the one hand, I keep getting interview calls, on the other, I keep going till the end only to miss out. The last mile problem. A classic case of so-close-yet-so-far. Over and over again. Like how it took Ted Mosby from HIMYM 7 seasons for it to work out, perhaps it’ll take me a few more interviews before I land the right job.

It’s an interesting place to be in because you have one set of peers who tell you how lucky you are to get so many interview calls, but on the other hand I know that’s nothing more than a consolation. If anything, I’m investing so much time and effort in each of these processes that end up being for nothing that I wonder if I’ll ever be able to focus on academics.

Case Prep. Behavioural Interview Prep. Culture fit and logical reasoning tests. Recorded interviews. Skype Interviews. In-person ones. With P&G, MLSE, Johnson & Johnson, ABInBev, Ford. It’s draining. Physically, mentally. Rejections don’t make you stronger. But having said that, I’ve come a fair way since my P&G rant, because I’ve come to realize that there are people who have it worse. Those pursuing Investment Banking and Consulting who, in addition to interview prep also had to slog all term for that elusive 4.0 GPA. My journey’s been far too easy in comparison. Especially when you know you’re better than everyone but lose out because you’re unable to articulate that in an interview. Luckily, I’ve been able to articulate that, so I guess I need to start counting more of my blessings. And hopefully it’s just a matter of time.

I guess you also need to realize that interviews are like the Playoffs. Great job if you’ve made it till there, but from there on, it’s probably a lottery. And there’s the age old rationalization that if the company thought you weren’t a good fit, maybe they did you a favor and you wouldn’t have liked it anyway. Recruiting processes aren’t total and absolute meritocracies and they exist in their current state more due to the lack of a better/more efficient way to select candidates. So I guess you take the highs with the lows.

And perhaps that’s why they ask you during your admissions interview that crucial question about a failure you’ve handled. Because it matters. Because once you’re in, there’s a very real chance you’ll face more failures in your first couple of terms than you would have in your entire life combined (oh and I’ve had my fair share of failures) And the feeling is accentuated because you’re putting in so much effort in every tiny thing you do that when you miss out, it hurts a lot more. The harder you work, the harder it is to let go. But what it also does is teaches you to bounce back from failures so quickly that you’d wonder if that last failure even counted as one. Is that healthy? Sure it is. Is there any benefit from lingering on things that didn’t work out and not moving on? Closure is overrated. And success when you eventually get it, will taste a lot sweeter. (I fully expect to have an emotional breakdown ala Will Smith in the closing scenes of Pursuit of Happiness when I eventually land my internship)

We’re all learning to swim here. One thing you notice at the start of the winter term is that everyone applies for everything, because most of the good jobs are already taken or gone. And there’s panic before people calm down again and realize their efforts are better spent cleverly.

Academics don’t get any easier. GPAs stop mattering. Operations and Statistics make Finance and Accounting seem like a breeze in comparison. The mood of the class was aptly encapsulated the other day when the Professor stopped to clarify if everybody understood and someone’s Siri went off with “I don’t understand what you’re saying”. GOLD.

One setback was General Mills’ weird recruiting policy of shortening a list of over 100 applications to an interview list of just 4. It was shocking because it made me wonder what criteria a company could use for such a drastic filtering. Anyway, onwards and upwards it is.

I received a shot in the arm through a win in the Eli Lilly case competition last week. It was one of those rare occasions when we felt really happy because of the total team effort. We knew how indispensable every single person in the team was, and that even the lack of contribution from one member would have been the difference between the first and second place. It was also our first oversized cheque, which we were pretty excited about. #LateBloomerProblems

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Case competitions have been the elixir of my business school journey, giving me that much needed fillip every time I’ve needed one, every time I’ve been down. The journey is engaging, intellectually challenging, and most of all, rewarding. I know I’m good at creative problem solving. And I guess I relate to businesses better than I do to assignments and case studies, so this is me playing to my strengths. It’s not a crime.

I’m just lucky and thanking my stars on a daily basis that, in a world where grades matter, I’m in a place where they don’t matter as much.

I mean I’m not saying I’m against it all. I’d love to do school work, but I just can’t afford to. Throw me in a deep ocean and ask me if I want to survive or learn finance, I’d say survive. An internship being the key to survival here.

But honestly, I’m just glad I won’t be one of those guys who’re forty and regret not focusing more on the better things in life, like meeting new people, making new friends, enjoying the final few moments of college life, falling in love (with companies, job postings, career paths, only to snap out of it). Because I know for a fact that I won’t regret not having studied more for an exam.

To end with yet another convenient rationalization in the form of a Mark Twain quote “I’ve never let my schooling interfere with my education”. And with the mother of all case competitions – The Rotman Design Challenge coming up, it doesn’t look like that pattern’s gonna change. And I guess that’s fine. Why? Because your MBA experience is what you make of it.

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