Reposting from a long time ago because, well, this stuff is still true at schools like these. Premium content starts here… If you’re reading this in email, click through to get the full ‘Snark! ———– ———– Premium content ends. …
We’ve been dealing with heavy topics this week.
Let’s pick up the applying-to-bschool thread again more directly, yet in a way that still maintains that thread and overall theme of values.
Whether you’ve already gotten in and are getting used to the idea of packing up your things and moving to a new city in order to start classes this Fall, or you’re at the very beginning of the process of applying and still learning all that’s involved, an important (yet often overlooked!) question to be asking is:
WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?
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Recently we were talking about the death of yet another Black man.
Today let’s bring this back into the business world.
The business schools promote “fit” tremendously in their marketing efforts. EssaySnark is certainly guilty of this, even going so far — very recently — of saying that it could be the most important factor at all in deciding which school to attend.
But this article about Facebook and hiring practices shed a very different light on the subject.
The tl;dr is that hiring managers at Facebook turned away many applicants of color saying that they weren’t a good “cultural fit.”
However, please don’t be satisfied with our tl;dr note. Please go check out that article. It’s worth reading, for folks who care about equality and are looking for ways to make changes in this world, or at the very least are trying to become more culturally aware and sensitive. (Or, if you’re a Black person or a non-Black person of color, maybe you’ll see yourself in that article, which could be enraging, or maybe validating. Hopefully, the fact that it’s been covered in a mainstream newspaper means that things might actually change.)
“School fit” with the schools may be subject to the exact-same bias. It’s something we’re going to start looking at, asking questions about, getting curious on. Understanding “school fit” has long been a critical success factor in getting in to a top MBA program.
But maybe that’s perpetuating bias and white dominance.
It’s something we’re going to investigate, and see what we may come up with.
For now, we’re still touting the importance of “school fit” in the advice that we offer to applicants. But this, like every other element of the status quo, is worth questioning.
We’ll report back once we have more to say on this.
Thank you for coming around to the blahg and being curious with us on this and all the other things we toss out there to think about each day. We appreciate that you are doing that, and being part of it too.
After all the protests,
All the social media posts,
All the banners emblazoned across the big-corp websites claiming that Black Lives Matter.
All the hand-wringing and proclamations and statements of solidarity.
Nothing has changed.
Daunte Wright lost his life the same exact way that Oscar Grant did way back in 2009: It was a gun, not a taser.
But who cares? That part doesn’t even matter. More important is, why did a cop need to be tasering him?
Why did they even pull him over?
It was only 10 miles from the courthouse where another white police officer is on trial — a trial that in all likelihood is going to end in him getting away with murder. Literally.
That’s how it has always turned out for these cops before. Should we really expect it to be different this time?
And what the hell happened with the Army Lieutenant in his brand-new SUV who got pepper-sprayed over the weekend?
Why is all of this still happening?
You may be sitting here going, “EssaySnark, dude. Why are you b!tching at ME about this? I’m not a cop. I’m not pulling people over and pulling my gun. I came here to find out how I can get into Harvard. I’m not into these downer posts about stuff I can’t change.”
But here’s the deal: If we don’t keep talking about this, in contexts and in settings where normally it wouldn’t be talked about, then it’s never going to be talked about.
If we all get used to the status quo again, if we are all so excited about the prospects of going out to the bar and maybe booking our summer vacation because finally the pandemic may be ending and life will go back to normal…
If we all pretend that “normal” is fine and dandy, when “normal” means that Black men and women cannot safely drive a car down the street without fearing for their lives, then we’re all complicit.
This shit needs to CHANGE.
“Okay fine then EssaySnark, but what are YOU doing about it??”
Here’s what we’re doing: We’re attending city council meetings. We’re writing letters. We’re researching the realities behind governmental budgetary policies and who is in the DA’s office and why suburban police departments have military-grade armored Humvees as part of their tactical forces.
And we’re talking about it again here, even though we’re supposed to be helping you get ready for your MBA application strategies, or preparing for your Round 3 interview invites.
We’re not letting this go.
We hope that you also are willing to continue this conversation, and not let the idea of true social transformation die just because it’s so last year, and c’mon, we’re tired.
Yes we’re tired.
The type of change needed in America is going to require all of us looking in the mirror and looking deep inside and looking at what’s fair and right. The color of your skin should not dictate your odds of survival, but actually, right now, it totally does.
Different work environments, and individual managerial styles from different managers, totally impact the experience of receiving feedback.
The other determinant of the experience is how you are able to handle the very difficult experience of being told you’ve messed something up.
Obviously there’s all sorts of levels and qualities of “feedback” from the innocuous “Attaboy! You did great!” type comments that often comes after delivering a presentation to a group of people, to the “Mike? Can you come to my office for a minute? I have something I need to talk about” type feedback that sends chills up the spine and gets the heart racing.
If you’re taking our advice from last week seriously and already sweating bullets about the very idea of it, we’ve got some hints and tips to consider as you embark on this significant and possibly kinda scary endeavor.
Not all of these tips will be relevant for each person or every situation. It’s a starting point. This is all in that category of knowing yourself and understanding how you react to things, and then planning accordingly.
If you’re working with a mental health counselor, this can be a great topic to bring up with them, to explore your own individual makeup and wiring and what might be contributing into your exact personality structure and how you deal with stressful things like this.
Because in many cases, it is seriously stressful!!!
That’s because you’re putting yourself out there. You’re making yourself vulnerable.
Or, if your boss pings you unexpectedly, then that’s a different story. Unexpected feedback — which is coming in the form of a critique or your actions or calling attention to some part of your performance that’s not up to snuff in your manager’s eyes — this is tough stuff.
If you’re trying to lean into a project of self-improvement, then one way to be a better feedback-receiver is to try and architect the situation wherein which you will be receiving the feedback.
If you’re in a job where you’re seeing people in person again, or if your company is having people come into the office for meetings already (few are doing so but we’ve heard of a handful; our opinion is that it’s still too soon but whatever), then some people may prefer doing this in person.
However, for other people, this type of session done on Zoom actually can feel a tad safer. You’ve got a screen between you. It maybe is less intimidating.
Which environment would work better for you?
If you have complete control over it, because you initiated the whole process, then even doing it outside, on the patio of your local Starbucks or sitting on a bench in that park across from the office — a neutral zone. Where you’re not sitting in your boss’s office, and not in the fishbowl conference room where everyone walking down the hall can see you there shaking in your booties.
Make sure to give your manager enough time to prepare too. You’ll be much more likely to get fair, actionable feedback if you don’t spring the request on them. In addition, you can come into it with a list of areas you already know you need to improve, and be ready to talk about efforts you’re already making. (Just make sure you don’t get defensive: Don’t use it as a shield or make excuses with your “But I’m already doing that” list. The trick to receiving feedback is to actually receive it. Rather than deflecting or arguing.)
Another very important perspective to take is that your boss is giving you their opinion. Just because they say it does not mean it’s 100% true. In the moment, when you’re hearing the feedback, you’ll want to fight the urge to defend yourself. In the moment, staying quiet may be best. You could even take a few notes, so you can get down some of the exact words and phrases they use. The best response is to ask for an example, if all they’ve given is a blanket statement of something you don’t do well enough.
This is likely to trigger all sorts of feelings of discomfort, so we’ll offer this handy diagram:
When we feel criticized, for most of us, we either go into an activation state of “fight or flight” or we shut down and disengage in the “freeze” state. These are physiological processes that take us over and prevent us from thinking straight. They are defenses that the body uses to protect us, but we’re not at our best in terms of how we show up for others. You may feel like the room is closing in, with tunnel vision, or you have trouble forming clear sentences. The best antidote to this in the moment is to BREATHE. Focus on the here-and-now. Breathing can get you more grounded, and help you to regulate these biological processes that can interfere with clear thinking.
If you’ve got your pen and paper, then this is where you want to try taking down those notes. It may be hard to remember later on what was said if you get activated.
If you’re getting feedback in writing, like your performance evaluation sent to you in email, then please, do not act right away! Do not whip out an email reply for at least 24 hours. (Same thing with getting feedback on essays from EssaySnark, by the way!!! You’re likely to be in your feelings too much initially, and not quite able to hear what’s being offered!)
Some people are so tightly wound that this experience is always really difficult.
Even for those who are trying to work at the highest levels in self-reflection and personal improvement will still likely have challenges with feedback.
It all depends on the context — and on the relationship with the feedback giver.
If your boss is an a##hole then it’s not likely you’re going to volunteer for this with them.
Or if your boss is so conflict-adverse that they cannot tell you to your face where you need to improve, then it may not be a very useful exercise for you from a practical perspective of gathering useful self-intel.
It’s pretty darned rare that people actively seek out this type of information on themselves.
If you’re serious about the journey of improving yourself as a leader and want to be better in all aspects of life, then this type of (admittedly grueling) project can pay off tremendously.
Not for the faint of heart though. It needs to be done with a trusted source, and you need to go into it from a position of inner stability or you risk letting it derail you or making you feel unhelpfully unmoored.
Perhaps the hardest tasks of all in living a good life involve self-mastery and being willing to deal with emotional experiences as they come.
If that’s something you’re interested in, your life won’t necessarily be easy, but you’re likely to have an uncommonly fine life in the end.
WE’RE REBLAHGGING THIS FROM 2016 BECAUSE IT’S THAT GOOD. THANKS ONCE AGAIN TO THE BSER WHO SUGGESTED IT ORIGINALLY! Yeah that’s the longest title that has ever been written for a post on this blahg. Several years back, in the throes of Round 2 essays, we wrote a post about Darden’s essay…
Right about this time last year, there was an incident in Central Park in New York City. A white woman was out with her dog, in a part of the park that’s specifically designated as a bird watching zone. She was letting her dog run around off leash when they came upon a man who was there to watch the birds. The man asked her to put the dog on leash, because, you know, dog running around ≠ birds hanging out.
The woman apparently got offended by this request, and instead of being cool about it and leashing the dog, escalated the situation pretty quickly — to the point where she threatened to call the cops on the man.
Threatening a Black man with the cops is a big deal.
It was only a few weeks after that that George Floyd was murdered by police.
Juxtapose that story with this, which arrived in The ‘Snark’s inbox recently and presumably in some of yours, too:
This may seem like an unfair comparison. These are two TOTALLY different contexts.
However, we would be willing to bet that the person who wrote that marketing email from Tuck Admissions was white.
A large number of Black people? They do not want to meet with an “Officer” about anything. They wouldn’t volunteer to step up and have a conversation or ask questions of an “Officer.”
We wouldn’t be making such a big deal about this except that it’s so easily avoided. Even saying “Ask an Admissions Officer” would have been better. Or even easier is to avoid the issue completely. There’s no baggage with the term “Admissions Director” (as far as we know!).
EssaySnark will point to this as backup to this assertion about people of color not being that keen on speaking with “officers” since we are not ‘Snarks of color:
This may seem like an unfair, or even petty, criticism, but hey, it’s something that jumped out and it seems worth mentioning. When the schools say they want to be equitable in their admissions and they are focused on increasing diversity and having a student body that’s representative of the broader culture, then paying attention to language is important.
The same goes for any of you seeking to be good managers and future leaders. Cultivating sensitivity to such issues, especially around language, is important.
With all the talk of waitlisters recently, we’ve neglected to mention one important point:
Please be kind and decline.
If you’ve been accepted to one or more MBA programs that you already know you won’t be attending, please formally decline those offers as soon as you possibly can.
There are hoardes of other BSers out there in limbo. Every single admitted candidate who turns down a spot in one MBA program can potentially be affecting the lives of more than one other person.
Well, it’s pretty obvious if you decline your spot at a school. That means that there could be a spot opening up.
We say “could be” because every school admits more candidates than they actually have seats for, in order to make sure they get enough offer acceptances to fill all seats. It’s kind of like airlines with selling tickets on a flight: They intentionally oversell, where they have more sold tickets than the plane can hold, because people’s plans change. They never want to fly a plane with empty seats if they can avoid it.
But assume that the seat you’re holding for the Class of 2019 is the last available one in the entering class. If you turn that school down, then the adcom will need to find someone else to sit in it.
They’ll go to their waitlist. They’ll extend an offer of admission to some poor excited soul who’ll have his or her own moment of jumping up and down with joy and losing an entire afternoon’s worth of productivity because they’re so excited that they got in.
Remember that day?
Remember your experience when you found out you were admitted?
You’ll be giving some other BSer that gift. Simply by declining the school’s offer.
But wait! There’s more!
What if you’ve been admitted to Harvard, Stanford and Wharton. (It happens!)
Most people are going to automatically cross Wharton off that list. They may be debating between HBS and the GSB but they know they don’t want to go to Philadelphia.
If you know you’re not going to take Wharton’s offer, then it would be the kind and generous thing to do to let them know right away.
Because here’s the deal: Wharton is going to go to its waitlist (probably) and find someone else who fits a similar profile to yours (probably) and extend an offer to them.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Anyone who was loitering on the Wharton waitlist is almost definitely also admitted to at least one other school. Maybe they got into, say, Booth and Tuck, with outright admits, but they also got slapped with the waitlist from Wharton, and so they were trying to figure out what to do. They are now celebrating their Wharton win, because compared to those other schools, most would agree that it’s almost a no-brainer to choose Wharton (EssaySnark actually does NOT agree with that assessment but you know how we feel about going for brand and prestige alone. Admittedly we seem to be in a small minority with this mindset.)
So anyway. You tell Wharton, “Thanks but no thanks” and Wharton admits this other gal off the waitlist, and she celebrates, and then if she’s also a kind and generous type, she immediately tells Booth and Tuck that she’s not going to attend.
And then GUESS WHAT? Now that process repeats itself.
Booth and Tuck get a spot opened up. They are both able to go to their waitlists as well. There are now potentially two more candidates who get news that they’re in out of the cold, that the waitlist worked out, and they now have new options opened up.
And so on.
Lookie there, you just changed the lives of THREE people and counting.
This may not be in the category of “paying it forward” (the definition of which may be open to interpretation) but it’s still the right thing to do.
Sure, someone who’s admitted off the waitlist this week based on you declining your spot is likely to eventually be admitted off the waitlist in the future based on some other person declining theirs. But you could accelerate that for them. Being on the waitlist SUCKS. Helping to limit the amount of time that any BSer lingers in that purgatory might accrue you one small merit of good karma.
When you know you ain’t going to a school: Please be kind and decline.
Last year around this time, something totally unusual happened: A few schools started opening the door to the possibility of granting deferrals.
What about now?
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Lots of important decisions involved, and some of them are really not easy! Let us know if possibly we can help you with navigating the choices you’re facing right now!
You may also be interested in:
- How to ask an MBA admissions officer for a deferral (March 2017)
One of the hardest conversations to have is to tell your boss that actually, no, you won’t be resigning your position in a few months, because you didn’t make it in. 🙁
Telling other people that your applications were rejected is a tough thing indeed. It involves so many emotions, most notably shame. The mere fact that your app is rejected is a bad-enough blow, but then you have to announce it to other people who you respect and admire? (Or who maybe you don’t respect that much, and you were hoping to escape from because you would soon be flipping them the mental bird as you submitted your resignation letter to go gallivanting off to your MBA.)
When you tell your mom you didn’t make it in, you’re likely to get sympathy and kind words. When you tell your friends, they’ll be like, “Aw damn, I thought you were gonna make it!”
When you tell your boss — the person who spent a lot of time and effort writing recommendations for you — it’s embarrassing. You’re admitting you weren’t good enough in some way.
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Given the emotional turmoil that comes from getting rejected, we don’t expect you to be thinking through all of these scenarios very clearly. All of us require a period of processing and the passage of time to give us distance from the hurt and new perspective on what happened, before we’ll be able to take action in a way that makes sense and is most productive. Don’t rush into anything right now if you can help it.
Some people will know that you got the news, and will ask, and those conversations can be tough. Awkward. Painful.
It might even be an experience where talking to a mental health professional can help. If you aren’t seeing a counselor right now, then maybe your company employee benefits package includes one of those services where you can call up and speak to someone for half an hour. Those one-off support services can be surprisingly helpful.
For most everyone reading this blahg, regardless of what part of the application process you’re in — haven’t yet started, still working on apps, waiting on final outcomes, nursing the pain of rejection, or sitting with a few options in hand and figuring out next steps — you’re in a long-term planning cycle. Whether you knew it or not. There is some part of your future that you’re putting seeds in the ground for right now.
For most of you, it’s fine to feel overwhelmed or blah or depressed and put all of those plans to the side for the moment. We’ll be here, coaxing and cajoling you to think through some options, and are doing our best to offer posts targeted to each category of applicant who’s coming around right now. If you’re brand new, don’t worry, we will soon be going hot and heavy on “how to apply this year!” posts.
For now, there’s still some nurturing needed for those who are working through the final phase of the admissions cycle that’s slowly coming to a close.