Before the global recession and housing bubble burst, I used to enjoy watching a programme called “Flip that House”. The premise of the show was to follow people through the purchase, renovation and subsequent resale of properties, hopefully at outrageous profits. My strongest impression in this show was that most projects went way over their budgets.
At this point in the semester, that’s how I feel with my time. Something that I anticipated costing me 2 or 3 productivity hours is actually costing 5 or 6, multiplied exponentially as I have over committed and over extended to the nth degree. I am running around like a chicken with its head cut off – or as they more succinctly say here in Ireland, like a headless chicken – between Strategic Negotiations with one group, required courses and another group, Portuguese classes in preparation of our Emerging Markets trip, fundraising for Rugby Club, and the list goes on…
‘How did I convince myself I would have time for this? I wonder in my constant scattered distraction from one million things racing through my head at a time. I didn’t think it would take this long is the real answer. I am way over budget on time. Just as in “Flip That House”, though, going over budget often is what made the house really impressive. It’s hard to say if I will make use of everything and return on my investment, but I’m glad I went for the marble countertop and parquet flooring equivalent for the brain.
Now I guess what it all comes down to, just as in the real estate market, is ‘location, location, location’. Having been based in developing markets for years, I had decided that a change for more developed markets would do me some good and an MBA from one of the top global programmes would be just the platform from which to make that change. Now that I’m here in the over-saturated job market, it seems that the flexibility and language skills that brought me to live in some of the remotest corners of the planet in the past may remain my competitive advantage as companies look for flexible employees whom they can send wherever they are needed. Luckily enough for me, unlike in the real estate market, I can pick up my investments and move them to a neighborhood where people value quality craftsmanship if need be.
We have now made it over the hump of the midpoint in the first semester. We have completed a course and started a few more. We are all hitting our strides, and just on time. Now is when the scrambled feeling is really starting to hit home. I spoke to a friend of mine the other day who asked me what I am doing this weekend. My knee-jerk reaction was “What weekend?” There really isn’t much time to breathe around here lately, and in looking around the room, I can see the pressure building up on all of my cohorts as well.
In a HBR article we read for Business and Society recently entitled “What’s Business for?” Handy makes the point that our business practices toward human capital are not sustainable. He says we are burning out our executives in the corporate world, requiring long hours and non-stop work weeks. We are training for that marathon of endless work now in the MBA programme. More than a marathon it feels like a circus: a balancing act between school work, sleep and an excuse for a social life; juggling a critical analysis of the theories of ethical business behaviour and an in-depth look into a case study on whether or not to invest in new technologies; three ring performances in the form of role plays and presentations and MBA room interactions.
When I take a personal inventory of what I have learned in the past couple of months, I am amazed. I did my undergrad in business and worked in diverse and interesting fields before coming here. This has been a wake-up call on just how far I was from knowing it all. It’s only appropriate that I would start to feel like breakfast – served up fried.
Networking is one of those words that started out sounding interesting and catchy and came to mean the soulless pursuit of people you can manipulate into thinking you like them and use to achieve your own objectives. Nowadays, only people with fangs and razor-sharp claws participate in ‘networking’. Even in an MBA programme that is ranked in the Financial Times as one of the world’s best, networking started as a bad word, whispered only in dark corners of hidden corridors.
A wise man (my dad) once told me that he thought that out of all of his clients built up over his more than 20 year career, the ones that ended up staying with him were the ones that, had he just met them in the street, would have ended up being his friends anyway. After spending several years in marketing, sales and PR, that’s how I see networking. It’s just meeting as many people as you can to find out with which you might share a connection. You meet a person, you like them, you might even become friends, and then they are in your network. It’s easy. It’s fun. If you do it right, it will make your life better and happier. Why then, does the term ‘networking’ get such bad reactions? Continue reading The Networking Controversy