A couple weeks ago I attended my first year business school reunion on our beloved Stanford GSB campus. Now, being one year out of school, it was an experience that helped me gain some perspective on my time “on the farm” (that’s how students refer to their time at Stanford). In particular, five thoughts I took away from the trip.
One of the very first things I realized in the months after my graduation was that I really wasn’t that happy during my time at Stanford. I never really felt I fit in, but was just swimming along without orientation. Sure, there were things I pursued with a lot of determination (like f.ex. I knew all along that I didn’t want a standard job offer), but particularly socially, I felt lost throughout my entire MBA experience (I made many friends, but never felt I belonged). In many ways I graduated with a strong desire to escape my dissatisfaction. That desire is what allowed me to take a big career risk and change geographies. If it wasn’t for that dissatisfaction, I would have not dared to plunge into such a risky and challenging new chapter in my life.
The second thing is something I realized the moment I set foot on campus. The thought that was on top of mind during those three days was that “this is for life.” It was just a two year experience, but that affiliation to Stanford, the pedigree, the class of 2017 which is the class I will belong to – even beyond my physical time on earth – is for life. It’s for life and no one can ever take it away from me. And as challenging and dissatisfying my Stanford experience was at times, it’s all being compensated by always having a home in the form of the friendships I was able to form, the amazing faculty and staff that is always one email away, and the institution Stanford that I am now affiliated with which continues to push the boundaries of research and innovation.
During those nine or so months that I was admitted but had not started school yet (this is December 2014 to September 2015), I remember how may alums would tell me: “I am so jealous, you are going to have the two best years of your life”. Literally every single alum said that to me. Now that I am one year out of the experience, when admits or other people ask me about my experience, I tell them honestly that it was a good experience, but that I didn’t love it. My time before business school was definitely better, and during my time after graduation I have certainly felt more aligned than during those two years. Folks react surprised, but appreciate my honest take on it. I fundamentally believe that I will take much more value and “joy” out of this investment in the years following it (from graduation to my death), than I during those two years. It was like an upfront capital investment, whose returns I now get to reap.
In the many conversations I had with my classmates, I realized that many people had either quite their job or were thinking of doing so – some voluntarily, others forced. I think there was a good 15-20% of people who were in that bucket. I knew already that about 60% or so of MBA graduates change their jobs within the first two years, so it should have not surprised me, but it was refreshing to see how many people had the courage (or were given the opportunity) to make “course corrections” to their careers early on. It was a great reminder of how fluid our careers will be going forward. How we will move from one thing to the next, and how our degree has become a very high safety net that allows us explore freely.
The last realization from my reunion is how close I feel to the people with whom I got to live together during those two years. My first year I got to spend with Benji and Sud, my second year with Chris and Bryce. It’s two circle of friends that I have felt very connected to ever since graduation. And I think that this phenomenon isn’t just limited to me and my experience, but something I have seen happen with other people too. It’s the people with whom you talk in the evenings and share all the highs and lows that you experience – so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Yet it’s funny to think of how randomly I ended up with each of these circles (Benji/Sud I had never met; Chris/Bryce I was never close to before we decided to share a house).
Despite all my ups and downs during those two years, I am eternally grateful for the experience and excited about all the ways how Stanford will change my life going forward. And I know it will, because it has ever since the day I left campus.