I applied to MBA programs because I wanted to change careers. I went from spending six years at one company to trying out a number of industries and function areas in two years. During that time I learned two important things:
1. Maybe we never finish the career change process. Maybe we’re supposed to keep “trying on” different jobs and companies for the rest of our careers.
2. Making a career change isn’t just a one-step choice that you make. Rather, a career change is a series of trying different things “on for size” in hopes of getting one step closer to a gig you love.
My First Job: Deloitte in New York
I never picked a major in college. I took the first one off the alphabetical list – accounting. I took the gig as an auditor at Deloitte in New York because “Sex and the City” was popular around that time, and New York looked like a lot of fun. I had no expectation of staying at Deloitte for six years.
It was great. I learned a lot. But I started to wonder if it was what I wanted to do all of my life. I got to thinking - when I’m on my deathbed, would I be disappointed in myself for spending so much time spread-sheeting and digging through corporate file cabinets??
So I applied to business schools and was lucky enough to be admitted to HBS. I tried out things I never would have done had I stayed in auditing.
HBS FIELD 2 at Dafiti.com in Sao Paulo
Academic immersion experience during first year
Every January first years travel to other countries and do a ten day consulting project for a company in an emerging market. My team worked for Dafiti.com, the second largest e-commerce retailer in Brazil. I was impressed by how rapidly e-commerce companies could create jobs and started looking for internships in e-commerce.
Etsy.com in Brooklyn
Summer associate in International Strategy
The company culture was everything it was hyped up to be. Quilts for curtains. Employee-led classes on how to watercolor greeting cards.
But I missed having an impact on a company, the feeling I had when when I was at Deloitte. At tech companies, engineers have a lot of influence in the company, but as a strategy person, I didn’t feel like I’d have a big impact on Etsy.
NastyGal.com in Los Angeles
Winter internship during second year in International Strategy
I got the gig at NastyGal by cold-emailing the CEO Sophia Amoruso. She is all the bada$$ she is hyped up to be, and Nasty Gal was a hip brand in downtown LA. It felt quite the opposite of my Deloitte days.
I liked the work and culture, but wanted a faster pace of work. I wanted to have a lot of clients who would push me and be breathing down my neck. So I started to think about going back into professional services.
OmniCom Group in New York
After graduation I signed up for a year-long rotational program with Omnicom Group, which is a holding company for hundreds of advertising, PR, media, and branding agencies.
As part of the Omnicom Fellowship I spent four months at each of the following agencies:
1. OMD (media strategy)
2. Annalect (marketing analytics and marketing tech)
3. TBWA (advertising agency)
There were times where I felt like my career was soaring (the chairman of the company was my mentor and would meet with me monthly, I participated in a hackathon and presented the work to 300+ people). There were times where I felt like my career had taken three steps back (people referred to me as an intern, I felt like I was accounting again - counting “clicks” and “likes” and so on).
Nearly 18 months out of business school and I have ended up in a place and position where I am excited to walk into work every day. It was definitely worth all of the stress and uncertainty over the past few years. Career change is hard. It’s a never-ending process.
So, is an MBA the trick to changing careers? Well, it’s certainly a starting place. It takes more than just an MBA to change careers. It takes patience, humility, perseverance, and asking for help. But having friends and professors at HBS give you advice, having the alumni network to tap into and alumni events to attend…they all help out during the many steps of your career change.