Have you ever felt that you were driving down the road, and you knew exactly where the destination was and where to go for the next few kilometres, but after that you have absolutely no clue what lays ahead?
There is a feeling of knowing exactly what you want to do on short-term (next few months) and long-term (7-8 years down the line) but connecting the two bubbles seems impossible. This past month, I felt this way more than a dozen times. Last year this time, it was a battle against choosing Chemical Engineering and X (the X being Management Science and Engineering). This year, the battle still persists, only the players have changed.
In this article, I wanted to talk about few things where most of my time was spent the last month.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), my subjects were spread over three weeks. Hence it was three weeks of continuous preparation, practice and patience. In hindsight, I can easily say I studied much more than what I did in undergrad. And I thoroughly enjoyed studying two out of the three subjects (third being Probability, which is NOT in my interest area).
For anyone considering the Management Science course at Columbia, your most challenging and demanding course would be Operations Consulting. You are put in a multi-cultural team and made to work with 3 clients from companies in New York for a year. As you start navigating the problem statements, developing team dynamics and having client meetings, slowly you’ll develop certain habits of a consultant.
What’s interesting about a midterm is the integrity that students uphold while giving the exam. Even when you get the question paper 10 minutes before the exam begins, you should stay true to your ethical values.
- Networking. And never stop Networking:
I did not consider this to be top priority my first month. I kept thinking, ‘Let me focus on my academics and honing my skill-set this semester, internship search can wait’. Apparently not. Many companies have a deadline by the end of fall, hence it’s important to stay ahead of the game. Initially I thought of allocating a few hours every week to focus on this – but as the weeks went by the number of hours increased and it became a routine now.
What the hell is Networking though? People keep using this term ubiquitously. In my view, it is to do the following:
1. Constantly finding new people who add value to your previous cache of knowledge – you could find them via LinkedIn, at a professional event or even at a deli.
2. Following up with those who you have established a network with already. In the US, what never fails to surprise me is the benevolence of people when you reach out (hopefully if they see the message/email). As someone who constantly forgets to things on time, I definitely needed an organized way of keeping track. I created an excel sheet 3 months back, adding a few people who I knew in the US. Thankfully, I have been following up so far, constantly updating it every few days and always keeping it open on my laptop, so I get reminded every day. Google’s Keep and RemindMe apps have also been my best friend.
3. Researching on your own about the various roles at a-z companies. When you are trying to get into company X, it is important that you know more about the firm that what the first para in Wikipedia shows you. You need to know if they were in the news recently, what their latest product/projects are and what employees feel about working there.
I remember a day when I had 5 calls with people from all of these amazing companies, and I ended up feeling absolutely overwhelmed. The work does not get over with that call; it begins with it.
- Settling in and feeling like home:
When you move to a new city, especially one such as NYC, you might not feel at home right away. But now after spending almost 3 months here, I finally feel like I have begun to adapt.
One of the less-interesting and more-responsible works during your grad studies would be paying bills – phone bill, WiFi bill, electricity and gas bill… so on. It is crazy how many mails you get every week. As you start spending money every day, you start keeping track of all accounts. And as you do that, you become more conscious of how much you spend (at least in my case). This subconsciously helps in shifting from being a student into an independent person working on his/her own.
- There’s nobody but yourself who can do it:
People outside USA keep hearing all the time, ‘Getting a job in the US is not going to be easy’. I did too, but I never took it seriously. Now having been here for some time, observing the trend and going through the process myself, I can say that it is mind-numbingly exhausting.
Most of the times here, I feel extremely positive about where I am, what I am doing and how much I’m learning. However, there are times when I wish it was a little easier. If someone tells you Graduate School is hard, believe them. It is. There is a funny saying that goes like,
“Getting a job is a job itself”
And while doing this job, you are supposed to manage your academics, social life, part-time job, sleep and anything else that you take upon yourself. But if you start loving every bit of it, this will be the best experience of your life. Whenever I feel down, I keep going back to the speech given by Steve Jobs. It never fails to inspire, even when I know the lines by heart. Hearing him say it gives it a whole new dimension.
Link to speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHWUCX6osgM
As always, the University tried its best to organize amazing events for us to relieve the much-accumulated stress.
This has been an exhausting and amazing month so far – stronger bonds were made, and the harder side of being independent was experienced. And I hope I have something to write about every single month.
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P.S. As always, here are some nice snaps below.