2012 is shaping up to be a historic year. Not only are hundreds of incoming students leaving high paying jobs to come to Kellogg, but they’re doing so in record number. Likewise, the class of 2012 can’t wait to take what they have learned here and start working again. And what perfect timing! The financial crisis feels like an event of the past. Facebook’s recent IPO had the highest valuation in history. And the prospects of making it big loom again.
Meanwhile, Dean Sally Blount continues to raise millions of dollars for our new building, where she has been featured in Forbes, Fortune and several other magazines for her fundraising efforts. And Barack Obama is about to run for a historic second term right here in own back yard in Chicago. As the momentum continues to build, many of us cannot wait to see what the future has in store not just for us here in Evanston, but for the country as a whole. But the one thing we must keep in mind is just how much Kellogg matters in all of this.
Think about all the great lessons we have learned at Kellogg – things you just cannot learn anywhere else. We’ve learned the value of teamwork – even though at times we may have hated it as much as we liked it. We’ve learned the importance of not always discussing careers and salaries during KWEST – throwing our pre-conceived notions out the door. We’ve learned what it feels like when our most prized establishment temporarily shuts down (e.g. mandatory KEG reference). We’ve learned and experienced the ups and downs of recruiting – and we’ve made it through with flying colors. And finally, we’ve learned the value that Kellogg places on thinking bravely – whether you like the motto or not.
See, the question is NOT whether we will do well after Kellogg (or during summer internships for 1st years) – Kellogg students always do. The question is what we will do with our great education. Whether we’ll step up to the plate and try something new. And if we’ll work to come up with game-changing, innovative solutions rather than just work for that paycheck. Because with our Kellogg education, we will have that opportunity within our grasp more than ever before.
The problem is that many organizations may teach us to do the opposite. They will “do things by the book.” They will prioritize consistency over change. And they are organized to put your head down and say, “that is not my job.”
The reason for this is that, oftentimes, bravery in the typical work environment is often punished, not rewarded. Most places today are organized around avoiding risks and instead doing what they can to keep their “sustainable revenues.” That’s why nearly every top business school turns out management consultants in far greater numbers than it develops successful entrepreneurs. And why law schools produce lawyers who are phenomenal at giving options but not so great at providing real “here’s what I would do” recommendations. Think about it — how often do we hear stories from those who have changed the world, telling us that they learned how to become brave and did something new because of work, rather than despite work? Not many.
And that is precisely why a Kellogg education matters. During times of change, the great leaders are those that want, actually need, to change things. And that only happens when an organization encourages individuals to take brave steps forward. When they are compelled to do things differently. And when they have a great education to help them take that first step. And that is exactly what Kellogg promotes.
In a recent talk I had a few weeks ago, Carter Cast, Kellogg advisor and former CEO of Walmart.com, said the same thing. That “it is important to understand your purpose…to use your time at school to learn what your true north is and be sure to working towards it, even when you’re asked to change the business model.” He ended by saying, “Who cares if some people don’t believe in your idea? Do it anyways.”
Megan Kashner, founder of Benelovent.com in Chicago, reiterated the same thing on her panel at the Social Impact Conference. She shared how she worked in nonprofit from a young age and went straight into the industry after getting an MBA. And unlike the advice of her fellow panelists, she said, “You don’t have to wait. You can go work at a nonprofit right away after business school.” In short, be brave.
And it is no coincidence that both pieces of advice come from Kellogg alumni. Why – because Kellogg opens up new possibilities. Possibilities that only a great education could make available.
Don’t get me wrong. Many Kellogg students will also lead highly successful lives at traditional jobs, and that is fantastic. The world needs us to think bravely in those roles as well. We need CEOs to lead their companies where they have never gone before. We need socially-minded bankers to work on deals that could change the landscape of the industry. And we need investors to take risks on the next big company that will also provide social value. And Kellogg gives them the tools to think of new models, create new types of teams and come up with new ways to solve problems.
On the other hand, Kellogg’s new campaign gives us a platform to also be brave with our career choices. Whether it is starting a business, joining a nonprofit, or running for office, it teaches us to remember that even though making your mark on the world is hard, that with patience, commitment and courage we can take what we learn to do really big things.
So to the graduating class of 2012 – let’s embrace the idea of how much a Kellogg Education Matters. And as we graduate, let’s reach back, convince another budding MBA to come to Kellogg too. And if you have leveraged your degree in areas where we need more MBAs — like social enterprise, entrepreneurship and government— reach back and persuade another student to do the same. If you are going into industries where we need more Kellogg alumni, reach back, hire someone from Kellogg and be a mentor for them.
Now more than ever, the world needs Kellogg students to help bridge the gap between what business is today and what business could and should be. America needs Kellogg MBAs to reach higher and dream more. And if we all agree to set a better example, not only will we succeed, but that, through Kellogg, our businesses will all become a beacon of light to business people in every corner of the globe.
So as the year ends, let’s be sure to remember how much #KelloggMatters and let’s be sure to show the world just how much #EducationMatters. That today, it gives us the privilege and opportunity to take on leading roles in society. So we should treat it as such. We should use it as a platform. A way to give back to those that helped us. And a way to improve access in our communities. For every one of us that got into school, there are tens of thousands of people across the world who would love that same chance – the chance to take that exam we complained about. The chance to have a conversation with a fellow classmate. The chance to have a seat in a classroom as a proud Kellogg student. So let’s show the world we were the right people for those seats.
For those interested, you can learn more about the Education Matters national campaign here: www.educationmattersproject.org