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Monday, October 18, 2004

Looking back, looking forward 

A year ago I was in California. I'd spent a week in San Francisco, done a quick trip to Yosemite, and was fulfilling an ambition to see Sea Otters in the wild with a few days in Monterey. All the while, I was mulling over my recent decision to seriously look at doing a full-time MBA and to investigate doing it in the US. In the twelve months since then, the MBA application process has dominated my life. GMAT, school research, essay writing, form filling - they've taken hundreds of hours and a vast emotional investment. Now the applications are in, and unless something goes wrong with the outstanding recommendations, I'm just three months away from knowing where all that work has got me. I think three-months of waiting is going to be much harder than twelve months of doing.

In these last few days, since I clicked submit for Stanford, I've been reflecting on what I've gained from the application process. Like most applicants, I suspect, I'd read much about how writing an application was very introspective and a learning process. I think that it's once of those experiences that you really need to go through though before you realise just how true the statements are.

I've learnt a lot about where I've come from, careerwise. I've always had a good stock of what I think of as 'dinner party stories'. I can tell you about why you should never take a mixed drink from a certain bishop, my experience f dealing with an 'A-list' actor's stalker, and numerous occasions on which 've spilled coffee alll over myself at inopportune moments. The nature of my jobs has also meant that I've done lots of things which seem to be considered 'interesting', even if they didn't seem that way to me at the time. During the application process though, I've realised that there are alot of things thatI've done or been involved with that really are significant, even if only in a very small way. Things that have made a difference that matters. And I've realised how all the bits fit together into a career path. On the days when I quesiton what I'm doing, when I don't seem to be getting anywhere, when I wonder what the point is, it's good to remember those things.

I've also learnt a great deal about where I want to go. A year ago, I'd have said I had a pretty clear idea of my future career direction, but I know that it's a whole lot more sharply focussed now. I'm much better able to articulate to myself what it is I enjoy doing, and what I'd be glad never to do again. I know where I'm aiming for and why it is that I want to get there. I know the routes I can take, and the sacrifices I'll probably have to make on the way. So when the next job move comes, whether it's in four months time or a couple of years from now, I'm sure I'm goingto be making a better decision than I would have done this time last year.

Finally, I've started to understand more about who I am. The elements of 'me' that I've highlighted in my applications are ones which are really important to me, and writing the essays has helped me to remember their importance and understand the parts that they've played in my life. Looking at the topics that I've really struggled with has taught me just as much. Recently I've been going through a bit of a family situation and have been increasingly experiencing the feeling that I was dancing a dance that I'd danced several times before. While I was writing Stanford Essay 1 something clicked, and I realised that in fact I'd been dancing that dance nearly all my life, and for the frst time I recognised the reasons behind it. I'm still t sure what to do with that insight, but I'm glad I've had it.

So now it's three months of waiting. Come January 18th I might well be sitting here having just received my third ding. Of course, I'd much rather be receiving my third acceptance, but even if it's the former scenario I know that I will have gained an awful lot from the experience and I'll be grateful that I chose to put myself through it.

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