Paul L. Caron

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Should Law Schools Offer A Course On 'Becoming You': Crafting The Authentic Career You Want And Need?

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  Are You There, M.B.A.? It’s Me, Industry, by Suzy Welch:

Business-school graduates usually go into consulting, finance or tech. But there’s a whole world of other opportunities out there. ...

I teach a class called “Becoming You: Crafting the Authentic Career You Want and Need” [at New York University’s Stern School of Business:

The objective of this class is to guide students through the complex, exhilarating, and sometimes surprising journey of discovering the right career for them, one rich with opportunity, meaning, and impact. “Becoming You” grows out of the premise that the happiest, most fulfilling lives are those lived in your “Area of Destiny,” the intersection of your best and most unique skills, your deepest and most authentic values, and the economy's most rewarding spaces. On many levels, the Area of Destiny construct is intuitive — of course you should be doing what you're good at, what you love, and what the world needs. But what's less intuitive is how often smart, ambitious, and often enlightened people end up with lives and careers that are less deliberate and joyful, and more accidental and stressful, than they'd ever wanted. With readings from memoirs that are as illuminating as they are brutally honest (Tina Fey, Steve Wozniak, and Phil Knight), spell-binding documentaries about trailblazers such as Dr. Dre and Iris Apfel (to name a few), as well as classical works about identity by great philosophers and social scientists, “Becoming You” will explore career journeys that are provocative — and instructive. But the career journey at the center of this class is yours. Where have you been and how has it shaped you? What are you dying to leave behind, and what is ahead that scares you? What is your unedited dream of a life? What are your non-negotiables around lifestyle? Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? And what about money…really? Analytic tools, assessment surveys, and exercises will be employed in each students personal exploration process, along with team activities, writing assignments, and guest speakers from careers paths both conventional and unorthodox. The course will conclude with a capstone project in which each student will identify their own “Area of Destiny,” either newly discovered or confirmed, and the roadmap to it, now and in the future.]

I’ve watched countless smart, shiny new graduates from great (and good) colleges and M.B.A. programs, ... [f]abulous degree in hand, with every opportunity in the world before them, off they march, lockstep, to “the big three”—consulting, banking and, starting in 2005 or so, tech. In some cases, the underlying impulse is financial security (read: repayment of student loans). But there’s more to it. It’s a deeply rooted group instinct, virtually inexorable. I wouldn’t call it lemming-like, but maybe lemming-esque.

Unlike lemmings, though, members of this herd survive to have regrets. A lot of very smart, very capable people, usually in their late 30s and early 40s, wake up miserable one day. Over my years as a journalist specializing in the workplace, I saw this phenomenon so often I came to dub it “The Velvet Coffin”—a state of cushy creature comfort encased in emotional or intellectual dissatisfaction.

“Becoming You,” as I conceived it, would help avert this fate by encouraging M.B.A. students to think about careers another way—as a journey toward their “area of destiny,” the world of opportunity that exists at the intersection of their authentic values, their strongest skills and aptitudes, and the kind of work that interests and excites them intellectually and emotionally. Sure, some of my students would still end up in consulting and banking and tech, but if I taught the class right, others would have their eyes and minds open to—dare I say it—jobs in industry. That’s right, in companies decidedly not selling advice, professional services or shipping software and devices conceived by engineers—but making and doing real stuff. ...

[Why do MBAs gravitate to consulting, finance or tech?] I put this question to my students again and again and heard the same answers. A job at McKinsey, or Goldman, Amazon or Bain, JPMorgan or Google offers money and security, they told me. It’s a sure thing. It makes your parents happy. It impresses your friends. It looks good all around. You’re set.

There’s one more dynamic I observed. For my students, and I’m sure for top M.B.A.s elsewhere, banking, consulting and tech companies are there—on campus. They’re in your face, in your inbox, on your social media making their case. They’re everywhere, all the time, with fun internships and bold promises of how much you’ll learn and grow with them.

Also important, they have a narrative. I heard it repeatedly, because my students parroted it back to me: Even if you don’t stay long-term, with our credential on your résumé and professional development programs, we’ll set you up for your career! The big three are so persuasive and make it so convenient to get a job that it ends up feeling inevitable. ...

There’s a famous book titled “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” The adolescent protagonist shouts out to heaven for answers to life’s big questions. I am here to suggest the time has come for industry to shout out at M.B.A.s—not with questions, but with answers for those seeking careers (and thus lives) of growth and learning and opportunity. ...

[T]oday’s M.B.A.s seek meaning and purpose from their work like never before. They want to make change; they want to have an impact. They don’t want to be cogs in machines. Perhaps most important, they are coming to realize that no job offers security—not even one in banking, consulting, or tech.

So, are you there, industry? If so, consider that this could be your moment to change the talent game with new, bold narratives about the work you do, the lives you change, the futures you contain. Young, talented people at M.B.A. programs everywhere are poised to see you and hear you anew. Draw close, and meet them where they are.

Poets & Quants, At NYU Stern, A New Highly Introspective Course For MBAs Has A Famous Teacher:

When Jack Welch died at the age of 82 in March of 2020, his widow lost not only the love of her life but also her intellectual partner and collaborator.

Ever since the beginning of their relationship nearly 19 years earlier in 2001, Suzy Welch and her husband, the legendary CEO who led General Electric Co, for two decades, had been bound by the hip and the mind. They began each morning devouring newspapers together, debating the motives and the wisdom of the subjects in various stories.

Welch, a former editor of The Harvard Business Review, would ultimately collaborate with her husband on a weekly magazine and newspaper column as well as three books, the bestseller Winning, its companion volume Winning: The Answers, and The Real Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team and Growing Your Career.

“I was casting about for an organizational principle for my life with Jack gone,” Suzy Welch tells Poets&Quants. Was it another book, even a memoir of sorts of her life with Jack Welch? Or perhaps more commentary on TV where she already is a regular contributor on The Today Show? After speaking with a friend who teaches at NYU’s Stern School of Business, her search led to the possibility of entering a classroom to teach MBA students. ...

Welch searched through Stern’s course catalog only to find that the school lacked a class that would help students live a more purposeful life in a career aligned with their personal values. “I wanted to create the class I should have taken at Harvard,” adds Suzy. “My goal is not that you get to your area of destiny tomorrow. My goal is to take off maybe two years of wrong turns in your career. Everybody has to make mistakes. And everybody has to do that zigging and zagging to go where they want to go.” ...

Welch discovered that she loves teaching MBAs. “I bet Jack would be tickled by this,” she laughs. “When he helped people, he would say, “In the veins! In the veins!” to convey how helping people grow gave him a high like heroin? I am having an “in the veins” experience with my class.”

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