Today is my birthday. Although I do have dinner plans with friends this evening to celebrate, thus far I've spent most of the day in Chicago's O'hare airport. Why am I not on a beach on this gorgeous sunny day that commemorates my entrance to the world? Because I am returning home after spending three days in Chicago at the MBA Jumpstart Diversity Forum for Financial Services and Consulting. What is MBA Jumpstart? JumpStart MBA Diversity Forum is an intensive two and a half day program that educates participants on both the financial services and consulting industries. "But Cheet, why would you attend Jumpstart when you're not interested in either financial services or consulting?" you ask. I asked myself the same question several times over the last couple of days, but I did have my reasons.
First, FOMO reared its ugly head. When all of the announcements about pre MBA conferences, forums, info sessions, etc. came out in the spring I got the overwhelming feeling that I should do something because it seemed that everyone else was. I didn't want to miss out even though none of the programs directly related to my interests. Second, I saw JP Morgan would be attending. I've been salivating over their Corporate Social Responsibility programs for several months and although their reps were present to discuss opportunities in leadership development programs and investment banking, I thought the forum would offer an opportunity for me to engage with the company and let people know my interests. I also realized that even though I don't want to DO financial services if I want to work for JP Morgan in any capacity I should at least understand the industry (which I did not).
I'm not going to lie. It was difficult sitting through two and half days of panels, panels, and more panels talking at me about careers I have no intention to pursue. I found some of the content to be very repetitive and often wished some reps would give the 5000 feet view of their industry and companies before diving into the jargon about what they do for a living. I was lost at the word securities. However, I did accomplish my goals of learning more about the financial services industry and forming contacts at JP Morgan. When a recruiter asked me what area of financial services interested me I only hesitated for a moment before telling the truth: my interests lay elsewhere. Although people were often surprised to learn about my post MBA goals given the setting we were in, they were also very interested to hear more. Additionally, I found myself quite engaged during case interview and investment workshops. I doubt that you will see me recruiting for these career paths (except for maybe the 1st session so I can indulge in the free appetizers), but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the exercises.
I'm not sure if I got enough out of the forum to justify the time and money spent to attend, but I'm glad I went. I got a glimpse of how powerful the herd mentality can be at bschool. There are so many opportunities and companies and even when you don't show an interest in them that doesn't stop them from showing an interest in you. It feels really good to be wanted. From what I hear the two years at business school go by really fast and there isn't time to explore everything. JumpStart wasn't the right forum for me given my interests, but it did allow me to confirm what I don't want to do early so I don't spend time doing it during the school year. Honestly, the best thing I got out of JumpStart was meeting other members of the Class of 2014 across other top schools (especially my fellow Boothies). Calling my peers impressive would be an understatement. They have done some pretty incredible things in their lives and are smart as hell. Most of all they are hilarious and fun. Now that I think of it, I guess it's worth spending the first half of my birthday in an airport because I got to spend two and half days hanging out with some really incredible people.