Tag Archives: advice

Career Crossroads

Life is full of decisions. In fact, every hour and every minute is composed of miniature ones that we subconsciously make. While some are intuitive, others require long and serious analysis to guide the next course of action. It is these critical decision points that give us pause and rightfully so. As recruiting season for full-time opportunities reaches its denouement, the next phase of decision-making starts. This is where everything comes together.

To choose one opportunity over others is tough. It is not easy considering all the factors that come into play. I find it interesting that in this kind of soul-searching process, money, though relevant, is not the main driver of my decision. It sure helps, but more important than that is the question of future opportunities, ambitions, and caliber of experience.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

For lack of a better illustration, I think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and place special emphasis on the top three tiers: Self-actualization, Self-esteem, and Belongingness. In order to make sense of this big decision, I find myself asking the following ten questions (in no particular order): 1) Where do I see myself in 5, 10, or 15 years? 2) Where do I want to live? 3) What are the benefits like? 4) What kind of corporate culture would I like to be in? 5) Does the firm share the same values I have? 6) Did I like the people I visited and those I have met? 7) What kind of training will I receive? 8) Are there opportunities to travel? 9) How can this experience help me get to the next level? 10) How does the position fit in to my story?

It is important to look far enough down the road that the immediate role in front of me matters, but not too far that I can’t see how this decision can lead to what I envision.

What I realize in this exercise is that as much as I have devoted time in getting to know several companies, I am also learning more about myself, my interests, and personal goals. It is interesting how it comes full circle. Through this process, I have had to revise some of my plans and reassess earlier assumptions. So far, I have visited quite a few firms and I am really glad for these opportunities. Though it won’t be an easy one, I’m looking forward to making a decision in the next few weeks and use exactly this framework I’ve laid out. Choosing the next step after graduate school is certainly my next crossroads.

Recruiting and Finding One’s Match

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match
Find me a find, catch me a catch 
It’s all about the fit.

It is hard not to be reminded of this classic song as recruiting season heats up. Though Fiddler on the Roof was referring to a marital arrangement, I think the analogy still holds true with recruiting. At the end of the day, it is about how a candidate fits with the firm culture and whether a relationship can blossom. This is one thing that I have noticed employers emphasize more and more during interviews. The main question is whether our values and personality align with theirs.

I like to think about this exercise as a search for our perfect match. If only there was a Match.com or E-harmony website we can use to help us in this quest, recruiting can be much easier. One only has to look at the number of personality matches and boom we have a match and a 90% chance that the relationship would end up in a lifelong state of happiness. But, there is none.

What I am finding out is that as much as I am learning about future employers, I’m also realizing things about myself, my career goals, the kinds of people I want to work with, and my passion. Just like any serious relationships, I am looking for folks I like and whose company I enjoy. In short, I am looking for my perfect match.

I am reminded of an advice I heard in a career panel once. The question many students ask in deciding which firms to apply to is how the first few years are going to look like. The representative commented on how myopic this perspective is and how much better of a question it is to ask how one sees himself/herself in the firm in 5, 10, 15, 20 years. His point is that finding the right fit, the right people, and the right match to our values can make us happier in our careers in the long run. Putting all factors aside, the crux of the matter is whether chemistry exists between us and the firms or not.

What a relief it is to realize this! Passing an opportunity becomes not so much because of inadequacies but simply a difference in nature and there’s nothing wrong with that. Ultimately, we’re looking for the firm that complements us. This takes the stress of recruiting away and encourages us to simply be at ease with who we are. After all, our personality is our greatest asset and the best matchmaker we have. Now, that is something we can definitely sing about.

Finding the Ideal Study Playlist

Wonder what Beethoven would have had on his iPod?

It’s the time again…first round of midterms is coming up! There are many different views on what makes the perfect study playlist so I thought I’d explore those today.

1. Brain-stimulating/calming music: Everyone has heard rumors/stories of psychology studies that prove classical music has a brain stimulating effect. I haven’t done enough research to know if this is actually true, but I know from experience that a calming playlist full of classical pieces is one of my favorites to study to. In this category, besides the classics, I often find myself listening to artists like Fleet Foxes or Mumford and Sons. These artists’ folk/rock sound has such a calming effect on me and they aren’t too distracting when you are trying to focus.

2. Familiar music: I think it is important to make sure that you aren’t listening to music that is going to cause your mind to wander away from the task you are trying to complete. I read a few years ago in a NYTimes article that listening to music can actually increase productivity. The author says that, “In biological terms, melodious sounds help encourage the release of dopamine in the reward area of the brain.” And if you are in a more pleasant mood, your productivity will increase. For this category I would suggest the 90’s pop Pandora station. These songs have a tendency to increase my mood, but at the same time, I do not feel the need to focus completely on the song and divert from the studying I am trying to accomplish.

3. “Pump-up” music: I know I have talked about Beyonce before (can’t help it!) but sometimes you just need a good pump-up song before an exam. I am a firm believer in my “pre-test playlist” which is full of embarrassing, yet confidence-boosting tunes to inspire me before I take an exam. Listen to Katy Perry’s Roar right before your next exam and tell me that it doesn’t inspire you. A little cheesy confidence never hurts.

4. No music: This is a view by many that the best study music is actually no music at all. In my experience, when I am trying to analyze a problem or memorize a list, no music is the right way to go.

Of course, most people, like myself, probably utilize all 4 of these during the course of exam studying. Good luck on exams, everyone! And an extra bit of luck to the MPAs taking CPA exams this semester!

Melissa Takes Boston: Part 2 (Lessons from Beyonce)

Did everyone have a happy Super Bowl weekend? (Or happy Beyonce weekend to those of you whose interests align more with mine.) Beyonce has been very popular in entertainment news recently with the lip syncing controversy and as headliner for the Super Bowl halftime show. I thought I would take some time to share some of my favorite (and applicable) lessons we, as MPA students, can learn from Beyonce.

1. No one can tell you that you can’t succeed. One of my favorite quotes is, “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Van Gogh. I think this quote can be extended as a solution to any voice you hear that tells you that you cannot succeed. As students at the University of Texas, members of the MPA program, and even interns in the field, there will always been someone who does not believe we can succeed. (Even if it is ourselves.) Looking at the Beyonce lip-syncing controversy, when she was criticized for her inaugural performance, she retaliated by singing the National Anthem at the start of the Super Bowl Press Conference. As you go through school and our internships, you have to remember that no one can tell you that you can’t succeed. And when they do, because they will, then prove them wrong.

2. “You know it costs to be the boss. One day you’ll run the town.” I have always found this lyric of Beyonce’s to be particularly interesting but I find it more applicable as I get further into my education. Classes can be overwhelming sometimes and I know I am not the only one who has dramatically questioned if it is all worth it. As we go through intense classes and now a busy-season internship, we must keep in mind that these are all steps towards our goals. We may have some struggles along the way, but one day we’ll run the town. (and according to B, us girls will run the world.)

3. Image is important. Before I became a business student, I didn’t own a suit, and I had maybe one or two business casual outfits. Throughout recruiting and now during my internship, I am learning how important it is to ‘dress to impress.’ How you dress is often the first impression that others have about you. Although it is key to act professionally, you will not be taken seriously if you are not also dressed with professionalism. (Beyonce certainly always dresses to impress.)

Beyonce’s driven personality and inspiring songs are great sources for inspiration as we continue along our educational paths and soon into our careers.  Who do you look to for life lessons and what lessons have stuck with you?

Click here to read Part 3 of Melissa Takes Boston!

Melissa Takes Boston: Part 1

Hello Everyone!

I am 3 weeks into my auditing internship here at a Ernst & Young in Boston, MA. It has been crazy, a bit overwhelming, and already it feels like I have been working forever. I am learning so much everyday and I want to share what I have learned with those of you who are currently in MPA and thinking of participating in this awesome program.

My first internship lesson actually had nothing to do with accounting at all.

It was my first day at the client and my start time was 8:30 AM. The commute was about an hour, so naturally I left at 6 AM. (This might seem crazy but those of you who know me know that it is actually very predictable.) All was going well and I was on track to be not-so-fashionably early for my first day. All of a sudden, the “low tire pressure” alert began sounding in the car. As I pulled off at the next exit, I heard my tire completely blowout. I frantically called the rental car company, and then the towing company, and then a team member on my client to explain what was going on.

As all of this was happening, there were so many thoughts going through my head. The first, of course, being that I was going to late my first day of work because of a flat tire. That’s almost as cliche as forgetting your homework and saying your dog ate it.

In the end, I was late, but I learned a valuable lesson. As cheesy as it is, I learned that these things happen and no one is going to hold it against you. As adolescents we often resort to one of two reactions when these kinds of things happen. We either blame everyone except ourselves or we completely internalize the situation and worry about what everyone will think of us. As new interns we really hope to impress, not only because we want to secure that 5-star performance review that Jamal alluded to in his last post, but also because we are representing the University of Texas as we intern.

As you begin your internship, nerves and anxiety are okay, but my as my dad always tells me, the difference between excitement and nervousness is confidence.  It’s important to remember that no one is expecting you to be perfect, they only expect you to be the best you can be. Don’t be nervous because McCombs more than prepares us for the actual accounting part of the internship.  If something happens on your first day, just remember that things happen, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Click here to read Part 2 of Melissa Takes Boston!