Recruiting, Ravens, and Exams

February 25, 2008

Please note that this is a historical post moved over from my old site. This was originally posted December 8th, 2007.

The first semester classes have drawn to a close at Darden, and now we’re only left with the spector of exams next week. Classes ended really ended with a whimper, not so much of a bang. This makes sense… at some point in November, most students minds are so saturated with so many new concepts that our ability to process more is severely compromised.

And then there is the recruiting push. Unfortunately, business school is not a place to go to find yourself. It’s pretty much assumed that you’ve done that already when you arrive. If not, it’s not a big deal, you have a least… 2 weeks to figure it out after the beginning of classes. Fortunately, Darden does a good job of helping students with resources such as Career Next Step , Bristol Meyers Brigg scores, and multiple other personality and aspiration tools. In the end, for most of us, the process doesn’t break tremendous new ground, but actually acts to, in a very deliberate manner, validate what we already thought. So, now I know I want to start out in strategy consulting. That’s what I thought. But the process is valuable insomuch as it is deliberate, and it requires a measure of self-awareness that is healthy. So it’s good to know why strategy consulting makes sense for me.

So, I attended every consulting firm’s briefing at Darden. Most of the major firms recruit here, and they offer office hours frequently so that students can try to obtain answers to their more in-depth questions about the firms in a low-risk setting. Additionally, it’s generally a good idea to learn more about the firm by reaching out to Darden alumns that are working in these firms. I personally liked to find Darden alumni at the firms that have a military background, since I knew that they had a unique insight into the transition that I’m undergoing now… and it’s always better to leverage someone else’s experience, and not reinvent the wheel every time.

But it came to a head last week. All the major firms and most companies had a deadline of December 7th for submission and consideration of resumes and cover letters for summer 2008 internships. Now, I completed a very solid resume after much hacking, revising, and pasting way back in October. But now it was necessary to write individual cover letters for each firm, validating my interest and effectively proving that I had completed my due diligence… that I did my research, knew what the firms’ individual aspects were, and that I gave it some thought before I decided to apply. The temptation early was to generate a “boiler plate” cover letter and do a “find and replace”, adjusting only the administrative information on the cover letter to match that of the target firm. But this is a mistake… contrary to popular belief, I think firms actually read cover letters. Thus, you’re missing an opportunity to market yourself if you don’t take the cover letter seriously… it’s an opportunity to address the “fit” with that company or firm, and that “fit” isn’t something that is usually explicit in the resume. So I sucked it up and wrote the letters on an individual basis. The resulting letters were just better that way… more personal. In one case, I sat down to write the letter and realized I knew little about the firm. I think I made the healthy conclusion not to apply… it wouldn’t be fair to the firm in question, and it would only make my life more difficult if I were offered an interview.

So, trying to finish cover letters, fill out online applications, finish up our final cases, and prepare for final exams… yeah, it was a busy week.

Not busy enough for me, apparently, though, since I decided to take my first absences of the semester and head to Baltimore on Monday night to catch the Ravens/Patriots game. As the miles between me and Charlottesville increased, I felt some of the associated stress slip away. My friend Jim and I went to the game and sat in the south endzone, only a few rows back from the action. The Ravens were coming in at 4-7… clearly not a playoff season. However, this was Monday Night Football… national television audience, and this was the New England Patriots. They were undefeated, and 20 point favorites over the Ravens.

The game was phenomenal. The Ravens gave the Patriots fits, and led in the final minute. A series of outlandish plays and penalties, including one on the fans for hitting Randy Moss with a plastic bottle and another on Samari Roule for tossing a flag into the raucous group of fans sitting in front of me, resulted in the Patriots sustaining their final drive through two fourth down conversions and finally into the endzone. A last second heave by Kyle Boller landed in the Ravens’ hands three yards from the endzone… but no further. The Ravens lost in a tight, exciting game. They played well enough to cast a pleasant light on this week’s Sunday Night Game against the Colts… maybe we can beat them.

I returned to Charlottesville on Tuesday morning, aware that my voice had left me sometime in the third quarter the night before. I reflected in the reduced stress level associated with the distance I put between myself and Darden the night before. The next day I bought my plane ticket for Spring Break 2008. Costa Rica, here I come.

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