The first thing most people think of when they hear “Harvard Business School” is most certainly not “arts” or “music”. I mean, that’s what music school is for, right? To be honest, when I decided to apply to business school, continuing to develop my musicianship was definitely not in my top of mind. Nevertheless, already a year in the MBA program, I now realize that an MBA means lots of different things to different people and that it is my responsibility to make sure I tailor my experience to my own goals and passions.
For the past nineteen years I have called myself a musician. Regardless of what I was doing at the time, either high school, college, or working, music has always been a core part of who I am and not just what I do. On that note, I have also spent nineteen years trying to figure out how to fit music in my long-term plans. What does being a musician really mean? Am I supposed to not have a day job? Should I actively avoid having a stable income and the safety of working for a large company? Coming from Perú, where the music industry is still in a very incipient stage, I grew up under the influence of these stereotypes and decided to start a “traditional” career and continue to have music as a “hobby”.
One of the first things we did on our first week at HBS was to reflect on our expectations on the whole MBA experience and make promises to ourselves that would ensure we stay true to what we want to get out of these two years. After four years of working in Perú’s largest private bank, as I explored my own musicianship by trying a wide variety of different activities (from opera lessons, to a cappella and jazz, or even a brief experience in Peru’s Got Talent), I thought I had found my balance: “Business during the day, music at night and weekends”. Hence, my promise to myself was to actively maintain music as a core part of my life, as I was afraid the “MBA life” would be too time consuming to be able to do any music.
Although I did continue to sing, I am a little embarrassed to admit that I forgot about my promise shortly after that. At the beginning, I did not really look for any further opportunities to do any new projects in music, or connect with people in the industry. I got sucked into the mainstream trend of recruiting for more “traditional” companies. I figured, “it’s what makes sense with my banking background, and everyone does it… it can’t be the wrong choice”. So I found myself going to massive interviews, where you could actually see all your fellow classmates, who are competing for the same job, get in their interview rooms at the same time, like a huge candidate factory. Calling it overwhelming is an understatement. Deep down, I felt that “success” was somehow associated with my ability to get an offer from one of those “hot” recruiters. To get what everybody seems to want. But the truth is that not everybody wants what you want.
Turns out I did not get an offer in my first round of recruiting. Not even one. Not only had I already spent four months looking for a job, but also most companies that were remotely related to my background were done with recruiting by then. I found myself still unemployed in February (and I realized I was not the only one in that position) and realized I had to be flexible. I then remembered that I had once said that I wanted to use these two years to make a stop and reformulate my professional goals, to find out what motivates me and to explore different alternatives, things that I had never tried before. I redefined my search and reached out to companies that I was passionate about. I applied to non-profits, startups, social innovators, arts foundations, theatre producers, music labels, entertainment conglomerates, among others. I am now halfway through my internship in one of the biggest music labels in the world, and I am beyond excited. The projects I have seen so far are amazing (and incredibly fun), the team is great, and I am working in an industry that I love. I still don’t know what I want to do for the rest of my life or how to find the perfect balance between my musicianship and my professional career. Nonetheless, to me, this process is about discovery and I think I am in the right track to soon figure it out (or at least temporarily feel like I have).
What this whole thing has made me reflect on is that when it comes to recruiting, you are most likely going to find a good support system with great resources at lots of schools. However, the elements that I found most valuable were the encouragement to explore beyond my comfort zone and try new things, the network to connect with professionals in almost every industry in the world and the emotional support to endure such a long (and sometimes frustrating) journey.