Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Flying the flag 

One of the things I noticed after I was accepted to Wharton and decided to attend was the way in which being associated with the Wharton name changed the way some people reacted to me. I remember talking to a new trustee of the organisation I worked for and the subject of my palns came up. When he heard 'Wharton' there was a shift, slight but noticeable, in his attitude. Suddenly it seemed like I was someone to be taken a bit more seriously, to be listened to a bit more carefully.

In the year and a bit since I acquired the Wharton 'flag' I've struggled with how high to fly it and how vigorously to wave it. I'm aware that some people, whether because of bad experiences in the past or their own preconceptions, hear "I'm doing an MBA at Wharton" as bragging or arrogance, however non-bragging, non-arrogant, statement-of-fact tone its said in. It also gets a bit trying being told that "you'll be able to earn a huge salary and get any job you want" when you're not actually interested in earning mega bucks and have just rceived yet another internship rejection. As a result, in casual conversations where what I do is irrlevant or I think I might get a bad reaction, I've tended to open with "I'm at grad school at Penn" and only mention "Wharton" and "MBA" later if they ask for more detail or it becomes relevant.

My internship, and talking to others about their internship experiences, has brought this issue back into focus. I'm very aware that what I do while I'm in the office shapes people's perceptions of Wharton and Wharton students. In the odd moments when I think "I'm only here for a few weeks and I'm not looking for a permanent job with them, what does it matter what they think of me?" I'm aware that it does matter very much what they think of Wharton students. Which raises the question, that I've discussed with others in simialr situations, how do you comunicate the sentiment "I'm half way through an MBA at one of the world's top business schools, is the most useful thing I can do for you really the filing/photocopying/diary coordination?" without sounding like an arrogant bitch thrusting a flag into someone's face?

Happy Independence Day to everyone celebrating throwing off the oppression of the British flag.


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