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Carroll School of Management Graduate Programs

Practice - Ready

A blog post by Jacqueline Ouellet, BC MBA '16

Jacqueline Ouellet, BC MBA '16

When I decided it was the right time to pursue my MBA, I spent weeks fretting over upcoming interviews.  While I was prepared, I totally blew my first interview.  I wasn’t confident in my answers. I stuttered and said things that sounded ridiculous but that I’m sure I thought sounded great at the time.  By the time my interview at Boston College rolled around, I had already done a few interviews at other schools and I had refined my story.  I knew the points I wanted to make, how I wanted to phrase them, and which stories I wanted to include to support my points.  I left the interview knowing I showed my interviewer why I belonged at Boston College.  The presentation was easier.  And now here I am, writing a blog post for the Graduate Admissions Office nine months later.

It may seem like this goes without saying, and it kind of does, but the way to get better at things you’re not good at is to practice.  Do it over and over again.  In the words of some pseudo-famous Pinterest quote, “Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.”  I spent many hours revising possible answers to interview questions until I had succinct and to-the-point mini stories about a time I disagreed with a co-worker, a time I acted entrepreneurially, and a time I assumed a leadership role on a team, among others.  Practicing these responses with friends and family, while it felt ‘canned’ at first, prevented me from trying to come up with a relevant story or example on the spot during an interview, making the dialogue flow more naturally because I was comfortable with the stories I was telling.

With the internship search in full swing right now for first-year MBAs, we’re all recognizing the importance of practice.  For some, it’s putting in a few hours a week on case interviews.  For others, it’s eliminating the “ums” and “wells” from their sentences.  For me, it’s getting out there and chatting with people about industry trends.  It’s well outside of my comfort zone.  Sometimes it’s terrifying!  What keeps me scheduling those phone calls and coffee chats, though, is that from experience I know it will get easier and having that skill set will position me for success.  The more people I chat with, the better I get at formulating thoughtful questions to gain insightful answers.  I have the key list that I’ve memorized to fall back on should conversation drift, but I’m able to let the conversation flow where it naturally tends to.  It’s also helped me to realize that CEOs and VPs of Product are people, too.  It can be intimidating to reach out to those with such an important title, but these people are often generous with their time and are impressed when students reach out to them to learn more about the business or industry.  Plus, when you’re reaching out to a fellow BC alum, chances are even better that you’ll be able to connect for a meaningful conversation.

With everything else going on in your life, you need to make time to practice.  Practice the things that don’t come easily to you, but are important for getting you where you want to go.  Whether the end goal is a new job, getting accepted into your top-choice MBA program, or running the world’s fastest marathon, you need to recognize you’re not going to get there without a lot of practice.  Lean on your support system for strength when you need it, but remember to keep pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and with practice, you’ll achieve things you never thought possible.