Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Ups and Downs

I had an interesting ride home tonight. It was one of those stop and go traffic nights which allowed a lot of time for reflection. During this reflective period I was able to think of all the progress I've made before the calendar even flips to September. However, I then thought to my self, "oh sh*t!! It's September! How will I ever get everything done before the deadlines." My ride progressed back and forth like this for almost an hour. This is nothing new but I'm trying to find concrete ways to ease my own insecurity and pressure. At the end of the day, I've learned I cope well when I definitive time frames to work against. So I started laying them out so I won't feel guilty if I don't get a ton done before this weekend (especially since my work day lasts well into the night most days).

I guess my point is that when you have these moments, it's completely natural. This is that time of year where freak outs will occur every few days. It's completely normal but by creating check lists and action items I will keep my self calm and on track to complete all 5 applications in the first round.

Hope this helps and happy essay writing.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Draft Weekend Day 1 (Rounds 1 and 2)

In retrospect, I wish I had done a Simmons-esque draft diary. Unfortunately, I didn't think so that until sitting down on the Tuesday after what I've now dubbed draft weekend...well, let's try to recapture the magic and give it a whirl anyway. And away we go:

Saturday 9:37am - Hello and welcome! The lights are on, snacks are out and I'm ready to get down to business. This is the inaugural draft weekend with the publicity, last year the event occurred over a much longer time frame. Following the lead of the NFL, this is how it must be done.

9:48 - With the overview and outline of my first essay Tuck essay reviewed, I'm ready to get down to business...and we're off!

9:57 - OK, still white page in front of me. Another coffee should help.

10:33 - yup, that must have done the trick. I now have 850+ words of dribble. It's well beyond the suggested 500 words limit but at least it's a start. And to have one draft in just over 30 minutes must be a record. Anyone out there beat me on this one?

10:52 - After such a great showing, I've bounced back to the next version of my resume. Since I applied last year and had what I felt was a pretty solid final product I didn't anticipate too much effort here. Five versions later and I'm finally honing in on an adcomm ready product. I'll summarize my key learnings at the end of this post but I must admit this is much better than last year. By focusing on quantifying my results (especially where you don't think you can quantify) the end product is much stronger. Now you can quickly see what I've accomplished. The other lesson, in many cases in this process less really is more. By limiting my entries, such as cutting my internship on the Hill to a one line bullet point under my education, I've focused on my current role which is much more impressive.

1:48 - After a much needed break for some food and plugging away at my Math for Management online homework it's time to get back to business.

2:11 - I think I'm slowing down a bit as reviewing my initial comments and quickly jointing down my outline took a lot longer than I anticipate. This leads to my next lesson of the day: my style is best when I physically write my highlights down. For some reason I get into the flow of things, my excitement builds and I clarify (to some extent) what I'm trying to say. With these all fresh in my mind, I'm ready to hit the keyboard.

2:32 - And I'm done! My next version is complete. I know what you're thinking, that can't be. How could I just bang out two pages on my leadership experience in 20 minutes? Well, this is my biggest lesson of the day: JUST WRITE! Don't worry about what you're writing. Get it on the screen. Last year, I don't think I had a version I was willing to call a draft until October. October! This was because my perfectionism took over and every couple of lines I wrote were immediately erased with the thought that I could do better and/or the adcomm had no interest in reading it. This year, I don't care if I have typos, grammatical errors, sentences that trail off, paragraghs without a topic, it just doesn't matter because I'll have something to edit. I can find questions, clarify and pull the themse to the top in the next round. Now I have a great sense of accomplishment, something to build from and the rest of the afternoon.

4:17 - OK, I didn't really take the rest of the afternoon off. I'm now struggling with the data forms. How can I explain what I currently do in 300 words? Don't they already have my resume? Why do I need to fill this in? I'm floundering.

6:03 - After starts and stops, I finally end my session. I have a good base for my data forms. I think they're close...enough to have reviewed at least

6:15 - Well that's the end of the first two rounds of the 2010 draft. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. Now to recap the key lessons before day 2:

1. Just write! Remove that blank page with ANYTHING, you can then edit and refine which is the most important part. There are now ~6 weeks to do it so don't worry what it looks like today as long as it has your ideas.

2. Everything in this process takes more time than you'd ever imagine. After last year, I was hoping certain pieces (resume, data forms) wouldn't be as intense. I was wrong. Start early and allow yourself the required time.

3. Quantify your results. Probe to what the outcome was; how did you have an impact. These questions, when you're honest with yourself, will go a long way.

4. Enjoy the process. Yup, I'm guilty of hating it too but try...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Over committed?

I created this blog to keep track of my progress, push myself, share whatever knowledge I have and see what comes from it. In my attempt to make progress I've neglected this blog. A couple of times this week I've attempted to schedule in a post but just never got around to it. It's amazing how quickly time passes as I start to put my head down. Here's a quick recap of what I've been up to and where I stand.

Math class - yup, it's back to high school. Even though I crossed the 80th percentile in the quant section, the feedback from Tuck was to demonstrate my quant abilities once again. I see the validity here, I took accounting, econ and stat (C+) in college. That C+ is a huge red flag which I understand. Unfortunately, it was because the professor put me to sleep if I were there and most classes I just didn't go...oh well. Anyway, I'm getting close the end of the online course which is quite a relief. I'm excited to not be doing math homework a couple mornings each week.

Resume - this is one of the first pieces I tackled because it was only a matter of updating the version I sent last year, or so I thought. Right now, I'm on version 5. The quick and easy piece has become a grind. Even though I think I could have stopped at version 3 and been satisfied, each version is better than that last and in the end, I am really happy I continue to push on this one.

Goals essay - I have a solid version but no where close to final. I'm lucky to have a pro editing all my stuff this year (incredibly helpful from a psychological and results perspective). This weekend I'm taking a break from the goals section as I just completed the newest version this year which leads me to...

Remaining essays - the outlines need to be converted to full drafts this weekend. It sounds like a lot but I think it should be manageable given the completeness of the drafts.

Data forms - a couple of my target programs have their applications live now so I have started to put my information in while I'm "relaxing". Right, there's nothing better than watching John Lester get shellacked and filling in contact info.

Networking/Interviews - scheduled one on campus interview and reached out to a handful of students at my target programs. Last year I connected with what I considered a lot of people so I think I'm ahead of the game on this one but I know I'll want to know more and have stories prepared for the Why XX School and interviews so I'm off and running on this one. I'll post separately on this later.

So I think that's it for my progress but there are a handful of tips I want to highlight from the last month or so of application work:

1. Utilize ever minute. Even if you only have 20 or 30 minutes and don't feel like you'll be able to get into the flow, do it! I'm getting better at this which leads into....
2. Nothing is final until you hit submit. These two points mean spend those few minutes even if you're only added two or three sentences to an essay, that's a little less you'll have to do next time PLUS you've captured those thoughts somewhere and will continue to think about it throughout the day. This second point will also allow you to feel more comfortable/confident that the slow progress will amount to something
3. Take time off. You have to find ways to "do you". Whether that's going out one night a week, cooking, a movie, gym 5 days a week, do something to get out of the groove
4. It's still August!!!! If you've made progress already, you're well on your way. Last year, I kept thinking and thinking and thinking but never really amounted to much until the very end of September. Then it was a full on sprint to the October deadlines of 5 schools. This year, I'm taking little steps and breaking things into chunks and making sure I accomplish a few pieces each week. By doing it this way, my anxiety is (relatively) under control so far and I feel confident that the 5 applications will be complete well in advance of the deadlines this year. Of course, it helps that I'm a reapplicant and have done this once before...