The Misadventures of a Fun-Employed MBA!
I’ve Given Up the Search for a Corporate Gig… & I Couldn’t be Happier!

It’s been a bit (ok, a very long while!) since I’ve posted anything and I just wanted to to say that it’s for a reason.  But I’m not quite ready to blast it to the interwebs yet, other than to say I’m working on something that I think has the potential to be really fun, really awesome, and, in the end, really useful!  Yes, it’s a startup, though it’s more in the media space than high-tech.  And as far as my co-founder and I can tell, nothing has been done in this manner yet.  As one of my friends who understands the markets and the consumer space said, “You have a green market.  If you do this the right way and execute it well, it will be huge!”  Let’s hope so, as I’ve given up the search for a corporate gig to focus on this…  & I couldn’t be happier!

Doing Good While Funemployed (Shameless Plug)

Today I plan to share what I have been doing with my time, now that it’s been just over a year since graduation (EEK!).  Yes, it’s also a shameless plug, but it’s for a good cause.

During my second year, a good friend from Harvard asked me if I would help him with a new non-profit he wanted to start.  In the beginning it was merely an idea - he had been working with a non-profit that gave resources to orphanages in Baja, Mexico, but he saw that it was merely throwing money at the problem instead of actually trying to make a systemic change.  Working together, we developed an idea that gave birth to what is now World Child Project.  In the beginning it was just us two working when we had free time; I was in my second year at Booth and he teaches full time while working towards his PhD at UCLA, so it was slow but determined effort.  (I would skip going out with friends so I could stay home and work on WCP because I loved the idea and was having fun doing it!)  We’ve grown over time, brought on some amazing people, and are currently working on the long-term strategy.

Fortunately, since I’m unemployed right now, I’ve been able to keep working on it (definitely more than if I had a FT job), which has provided both something for me to fill my time with and allowed me to use some of what I learned in business school for a good cause. We’re essentially building it to be a social venture, where we make targeted investments in projects that become sustainable over time (think VC but with social instead of financial returns)!  We’re still in our infancy, but have already made some investments, and are working on one that we hope will help an orphanage make some earned income via a sustainable, organic farming operation - pretty neat, eh?!

Although I’m currently only working on an advisory level, I do plan to join officially as a founding board member because I really do believe in what we’re doing.  (Here’s the shameless plug part!)  As with any non-profit, we can only help those in need through you.  If you’re in the LA or San Diego area, we take regular trips down to the orphanages to hang out with the kiddoes (they LOVE visitors and you end up feeling like a million bucks knowing with a mere smile, you’ve made these kids day) and check on the progress of projects.  There’s one coming up in July, if you’re interested.  It’s one thing to donate money (which if you would like to, email me at kshackel@gmail.com and I’ll let you know how), but it’s an entirely different thing to see those dollars hard at work.  (Seriously, check out some of our photos from past trips here - how could you not have a great time with those kids?!)

How Do You Define Success?

I spent some time with the person who is my “bff” this past weekend, and it was interesting talking to him about where he is in life and where he wants to be.  Out of my circle of friends, I consider him to be one of my most (if not, in fact, the most) successful friends.  Yet, he is still trying to achieve a few goals, which he briefly mentioned this weekend:

The two goals I’m focusing on right now are getting rich and finding a good wife.

Well, I will keep my comments on his dating life to myself, but I was surprised to hear that he was seeking riches beyond what he had now.  In terms of that, I’m pretty sure he’s the most “successful” friend I have. He is working at a job he absolutely loves (and for all you entrepreneurs who think you can only love your job if you’re working for yourself, you’re absolutely wrong), he lives in the city of his choice, and he makes a shitload of money doing it (and doesn’t work anywhere near a banker’s hours).  For him, dropping $400 to hire a car to take us to a concert one night took almost no thought.  And yet, there he was, telling me he wanted more.  I know he’ll do it, but I found it interesting that he said that before “finding a good wife” (now, I have no idea which takes #1 priority, just pointing it out).  What I should’ve asked next, and didn’t, was: “Do you consider yourself a success now, or do you want to reach those goals before you do?” I didn’t think of that until now, and it’s because I think that’s what I’m trying to do for myself in seeking the right position for me.

Why?  Simply put, I would consider myself a failure if I did a job just to have something, instead of holding out for a position I want.  Like I said in a previous post, I’ve been through some bad shit in my life, things where I have failed and fortunately prevailed in the end.  I don’t want that to happen with my career. No, actually, I refuse to let that happen.  Call me stubborn (I’m a Latina, it’s in my blood), but I actually consider it to be that I’m focused on achieving professional success.  In my opinion, personal and professional success go hand in hand.  Right now my focus is on the professional side.  And again, for me, that is finding something that I want to do and that when I wake up every morning, I feel lucky to be where I am.  

Now, my life has taken some twists and turns that have led to my current state of unemployment.  It’s funny, when I look back and see the path I’ve taken, it was never the easy or obvious one.  Harvard wasn’t on my radar when looking at colleges - I was deadset on going to Georgetown or Johns Hopkins (got rejected from both).  But when they recruited me and I got in, it was impossible to turn down.  Due to circumstances beyond my control, I didn’t start at my post-college job until 6 months after I graduated - but I loved it and was glad I held out (again, instead of just taking something or doing the typical Harvard econ path of working at an investment bank or management consultant).  Chicago wasn’t on my b-school app list, and the only reason I applied was because the aforementioned bff had started a job in the city, and said “hey you should apply to Chicago - it’d be great if you lived here too!” It was round 3 (= very few people get in, I think there were 10 or so who did in my class) and I had 3 days to fill out my application.  When the results came in, I was accepted with scholarship money to boot!  Call it destiny, the hand of God, fate, whatever, but in my life (and maybe yours), there have been doors slammed in my face, which only led to the right one opening, and what I consider both personal and professional success. See why I’m willing to hold out for the right position?  See why by finding the right position I will consider myself successful?  I’ve had a few final rounds recently, which I got “we enjoyed talking to you but…” calls about last week. I was devastated at first, but then I realized, you know what, those were not meant for me (just as Georgetown & Johns Hopkins weren’t and HBS, my #1 b-school choice, also wasn’t).  I know the right one will come along, and only then will I consider myself continuing down the right path toward professional success.  And perhaps then I’ll start to think about what I want in order to achieve personal success.

So now I ask you, dear reader, and I really would appreciate some comments:

How do you define success?

Faking It

(NOTE: Throughout my blog I will be referring to job-hunting, recruiting, and interviewing experiences.  In order to preserve those relationships I have made with people I have had interactions with along the way, I will never use their real names, companies, and sometimes even industries, unless I have their permission beforehand or unless I don’t think it could harm the relationship.  Networking is the name-of-the-game in the business world and I don’t want to sever any ties that I might need in my future endeavors!)

I went through a recruiting/interviewing experience that left me devastated.  After 6 loooong months of a process with Company X who invested in Industry Y, where I was sure I would get the offer, they called to say they “weren’t sure what they wanted, but they thought they wanted someone with more experience than me.” Really? It took you six months, several interviews (and I do mean several), and now, 6 months later, you decide you want someone more experience. ARE YOU F’ING KIDDING ME?! That was my initial reaction.  Upon reflection, I see it as a blessing in disguise. Here’s why:

I was faking it.  There were bits and pieces of the job and industry that interested me, but in the long run, I would’ve worked there for a few years, realized how bored and miserable I was, and potentially be back where I am now (looking for something bigger and better). We’ve all been there.  Swept up in the moment, wowed by the experience of the team, the “partner-track” in the job description, the promises of lots of responsibility, travel, the salary, whatever… You start to think “wow, this sounds great. I could totally do this… no, I want this.” This is my story of how I faked it.

Through an alumni connection, I learned Company X was looking for someone like me. Smart, motivated, a woman, a minority, and, oh yeah, an interest in Industry Y. Me, me, me, me, not really me.  Actually, not at all me. But, I was about a month from graduation, had zero other prospects, so I thought, why not meet with Mr. X.  I met with him and instantly liked the guy.  He was nice, friendly, and he seemed interested in me. He is also Latino and wanted to diversify the face of the investing industry - something that is important to me.  He asked me if I was interested in Industry Y. No. ”Yes”. And down the rabbit hole I went.

This was when I began flirting with the idea of working at Company X in Industry Y.  Or, more specifically, I began to research Industry Y with hopes of learning to like it. I didn’t.  To me, it’s dry, uninteresting, and the way to make money isn’t rocket science. And yet I continued because it was all I had going for me in terms of recruiting. Also, enjoying the people you work with, especially in a small company, is extremely important, and I liked the guy.  So he and I continued calling & emailing, we would meet when he was in Chicago, and finally he wanted to fly me out to his company offices to meet with the team. Of course I said yes.

Met with the partners, other senior members of the team, and every single time they asked me if I was interested in Industry Y, I could feel my subconscious screaming out to me Nooooo! What are you doing? You know you’ll get bored and won’t last and they want someone who wants to be a lifer and and and….  But I continued saying “Yes, I learned about it and think it’s great blah blah blah”.  Essentially I was letting my brain win out over my heart.  I’m a very logical person (or I try to be) and I had basically convinced myself that this was where I wanted to be, where I should be, and what I wanted to do with my life.  

Somehow, my heart (or subconscious) won out in the end.  I was continuing an interview over lunch with the person who would be my boss, and he asked me the simplest of questions: “What’s an ideal work day for you?”  This should be a simple question if you’re interviewing for a job you really want in an industry you’re interested in.  But I drew a blank. I couldn’t think of anything to say because I was NOT interviewing for my ideal job.  So I blurted out a bunch of verbal vomit that had nothing to do with the question, and I think it was my heart finally getting its say.  I had stopped faking it and gotten real.  My interviewer was really nice, and we ended lunch and he had a few more questions for me, but I’m pretty sure he saw right through me. He knew I was faking it.  

In the end, I know this was the best path for me, and I’ve learned going forward that if I’m really not interested in a job or industry, I’m not going to go for it. I’ve seen and heard of jobs that I am well-qualified for and if I tried hard enough (faking it along the way) I could probably get it.

After this experience I’ve really only focused on what I want.  And lately, it’s actually worked out for me.  But more on that later…

How the hell did I end up here?!

A good friend and mentor recently emailed me the following:

With all the qualifications and experience you have, the fact that you haven’t been showered in $ and snapped up ages ago is a fair reflection of how tough a market it is out there.

A total ego-boost, yes, but I know him well enough to know he’s not just saying it to make me feel better about where I am today.

If you had asked me when I started business school back in ‘07 where I thought I’d be in three years, it wouldn’t be here.  Unemployed.  In the worst economy of my life (and that of my parents and maybe even my grandparents).  With no apparent end in sight.  

One positive appears to be that the Euro is depreciating and now is a great time to visit Europe! Except my brother (who lived in Italy from ‘06 until last year) is now in Korea.  Well, there goes that idea of trekking around Europe using Italy as a central hub.  (Just kidding. With the undergrad and now grad student debt burden, I probably won’t be taking any large trips any time soon!)

So where am I now?  Living at home being supported by my wonderful parents.  I’m not gonna lie, it’s not easy admitting that to the world at large (or perhaps the two friends who will read my blog).  Luckily I have few expenses (thank you loan deferment and forbearance!), and they have been successful in their careers, so it’s not a huge burden for them, but still, it’s awkward.  And I know I’m not the only one out there, but it does have a certain feeling of “how the hell did I end up here?!” I’ve been through worse shit in my life, but on a good-bad scale, this ranks up there on the “bad” side.

Anyway, I got the idea to start this blog after receiving the above message and talking to a girlfriend who forwarded me something from a journalist looking for someone like me to interview.  I thought instead of merely sharing my story with the journalist, I would share it here.  Who knows how many people will actually read it, but if what I have to share gives at least one person an idea or encouragement or anything (ok with the exception of something negative), then I will be happy.

Oh yeah, what I want to do.  Well, if you ask any of my really close friends, I’ve gone back and forth many times (plan A, plan B, etc.).  I already have some of my next blog posts based on my decision to focus on what I am now written in my head and will share them soon.  So until then, know this: personal happiness is very important to me and is partially driven by the work I do.  I’m sure if I wanted to find something by now I could have - I have the credentials (yes, that’s conceited, but true). But if it wasn’t something that made me wake up everyday and say to myself “wow! I’m so glad I held out for what I wanted to do in an industry that I really love”, I would be miserable… and a miserable Katie is no fun to be around.

RT @peHUB: Day of Reckoning at CalPERS http://dlvr.it/q395