What’s Really Going to Get Me Through

by on August 17th, 2012

In the last month I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with many of the people I adore. That happens when you attend your b-school reunion. And when you get married.

We’ll get to the wedding part later. First, the reunion.

The Darden one-year business school reunion was a homecoming. Walking on campus felt comfortable and familiar, like my old pair of Rainbows, and I felt refreshed just being there. I think every place has an emotional memory, a feeling that returns whenever you think of it or visit it. For me, Darden will always be tied to inspiration and possibility.

And most MBAs, one year out of school, need few things more than inspiration.

For those of you who are graduating, interning or entering business school, I’ll confirm it for you – the first year out is rough. You go from thinking big thoughts and discussing big ideas from your vantage point as CEO of Imaginary Company to building timelines, forecasting sales and writing meeting agendas. Cool things happen too, but you also have to deal with a fair bit of in-the-weeds work. And many of us are doing it at large companies where everyone is focused on how to get promoted.

It’s a long way from big ideas.

Many of my classmates are doing interesting things. Many of those same classmates are also doing things that make them roll their eyes. We’re all learning ridiculous corporate jargon that is surprisingly specific to each company. We don’t ask for “some steer” at my company when we need direction; and my friend’s consulting firm doesn’t “have heart” for things they support, the way my company does. It’s a weird corporate world.

Most of us are working long hours, some unhealthily long. Many of us are traveling. Few of us are doing almost exactly what we want. It’s a pretty typical MBA experience.

What was less typical – and more exciting – was the excitement I saw in most people’s personal lives.

There were new boyfriends and girlfriends and new engagements, many of them between classmates. Something like 10 engaged or newly married couples met in our class at Darden. There were weddings. There were new babies and babies on the way. There were people in love with their new cities and people happy to be back where they called home.

It was wonderful to see that the joy at our reunion that had nothing to do with jobs.

It’s something I need to remember as I move on in my career. The job may rock. The job may suck. But what’s really going to get me through is what else I have in my life.

I wrote this yesterday. It ended up being surprisingly timely, considering the news I got today.

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