Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cultivating Our Inner Voice: Year 1

Fall is fast approaching. With the arrival of August comes not only a return to course work, but the chance to greet new students and old friends, the excitement of reviewing course loads and meeting new professors.

This still-quiet moment between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next is a good time to take stock of all that happened in my first year of my MBA program. As returning student, with 15 years of senior management in the work force, I was nervous about making the transition back to school. I found Mills to be a great place to contribute, no matter your background. I was thrilled that my professors were so welcoming, eager to make use of my knowledge base, and that my cohorts were truly appreciative of my real world experience and know-how.

In the whirlwind of those first few months, the most valuable 3 things I did were:
a) immediately connect with our Career Services Group to plan my summer internship and future job goals
b) set aside 30 minutes at the BEGINNING of every day to assess, plan, prioritize
c) set aside ANOTHER 30 minutes a day, after lunch, to sit quietly and simply process my thoughts and feelings, without judgment.

There is so much input in the first few months of an MBA program. With all the new intellectual, professional and social demands, it’s important to develop a practice of listening to our individual inner voice, as we adjust to the intensity of business school. Most of us are high achievers, which creates intense stress. And, in this economy, there is a lot of turmoil, drama, fear in the market, as well as incredible opportunity. Given all this, it’s crucial to cultivate our private, inner voice. I came to rely on my private time, reflecting each day, to adjust my course when needed. When others around me became overloaded with stress, I knew that I had an oasis of calm that I could rely on, as I achieved my own A’s, wrote papers and responded to team project demands.

Cultivating our inner voice, and responding to it, is an important part of achieving success, no matter our situation, but in business school, it’s especially vital.

I also read a couple of great books last semester.

"Workforce 2020" by Judy Richard and Carol D’Amico opened my eyes to the future state of workers, and "Changing the Game" by David Edery, Ethan Mollick. My industry is feature film and these two books contained new ideas for me. I also hooked into the TED broadcasts and was thrilled with Kevin Slavin: How algorithms shape our world and Josette Sheeran: Ending hunger now. We have a strong Net Impact chapter at Mills and this year I’m VP of Community Partnerships.

I want to be even more engaged this semester.

Business school passes in a flash. Make the most of your time. Invest and engage deeply.

But don’t forget to spend a little time privately each day, quietly and without judgment, listening to and cultivating your uniquely personal, valuable and independent point of view. By cultivating your inner voice, you strengthen your capacity to respond with flexibility and wisdom to the changing world, and to the challenges of your new adventure in business school.

Julie McDonald, Forte Fellow
Mills College
Class of 2012

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