Sunday, September 5, 2010

That last year in school: 18th grade

We've all experienced the ups and downs of "back-to-school" moments in our lives. The fun of catching up with friends that we haven't seen all summer, the curiosity of figuring out what our new classes and professors will be like, and the sinking reality of daily homework.

In all likelihood, I have just finished the last back-to-school week of my life, and doing so at Harvard Business School is not a bad place to finish things out. I found out I made first year honors, I got my official full time offer from the summer, and got to catch up with people who have been doing and continue to do incredibly impressive things with their lives.

A common conversation people are having, besides how fantastic the weather is right now, is who is signing for full time positions and returning to their summer employer and who is not. Many summer employers are offering nice signing bonuses, and in the face of increasing student loans, most offers are very attractive. The feeling of being able to sign onto a job, have some cash in one's pocket, a guaranteed income stream to pay off loans, and perhaps best of all, the peace of mind of not having to go through recruiting the second year, are some extremely compelling reasons to take a full time position early. An even better reason is if you have found the ideal employer for post-HBS. Regardless of the motivation, the question of "have you signed" and "are you going back to XYZ" is as common of a question as "what did you do before business school" was a year ago. It seems that some people have found a great employment fit, some people just don't want to deal with recruiting again, and of course, many others are in between.

While I have some great potential employment options, I've decided I'm going to explore the job market a little further. I am constantly viewing things with two schools of thought:
  • Take a position which has incredibly career enhancing potential, brand reputation, and great compensation, but is not necessarily something I would be extremely excited to do.
  • Take a position which I would love much more, but has ill-defined career progression, possibly much lower pay, and more questionable long term benefit.
The idea with the first option of course is that you buy optionality, gain skill sets and credibility, and can later catapult to what you "really want to do." The idea of the second option is that although it doesn't have as much of a defined career progression, prestige, or compensation, if you always do what you love doing, you will be more successful and opportunities will just work themselves out. Ideally, one's passions are aligned between both tracks, but that is certainly a rarity.

Many people have emailed asking how my summer went, and there is a ton I could write about my experience at Goldman Sachs and BCG. Both are great firms, both provide opportunities for amazing careers, and both are a great fit for the right person. They may or may not be the right fit for you, and they may or may not be the right fit for me. The latter is a question that I have decided to take some time to continue to reflect on.

For the time being, I am comfortable dealing with the uncertainty, and taking more time to reflect on career choices. It means a little more stress my second year, but not a bad dilemma to have all things considered.