It's been about 7 months since I've finished business school and it's crazy to think how quickly the time passed. Sometimes I forget I even went through this experience.
Reflecting back on my journey, it's been an incredible learning experience. I like to think of business school as a social experiment. It's a test to reveal who you really are, especially when you have to re-invent yourself to an entirely new network of people. Never would you be paired up with 5 completely random strangers with the most different backgrounds and be forced to collaborate like your life depends on it. In business school, you need to figure out whose on your side, who you're competing with, who is trying to subtly one-up you. You learn to deal with all sorts of personalities, be in awe at how smart some people are, and in awe at how some people could lack common sense.
No one likes admitting these things, but for me, I struggled a lot. I felt like misfit: I was a huge introvert in a sea of extroverts. Compared to my colleagues, it took me a longer amount of time to pick up the quantitative topics. Not only was I one of two HR people in the entire program, but I also lacked any sort of Finance/Business background (I studied International Studies in college). I didn't even know how to use Excel but my classmates could build fancy models in a matter of seconds using various shortcuts. I didn't have the traditional "cookie cutter MBA" background that most my colleagues had; I was a black sheep. And this showed when it came to grades an exams, where I would fall consistently below average.
At first it felt so unfair. In my eyes, my colleagues had a running start, either through their profession and/or academic studies. How do I even being competing with Investment Bankers, Accountants and Analysts when it comes to Finance? To compensate, I had to push myself even harder, so several times a week after work, I would drive to Google to study with my colleague. We would see the nightly cleaning staff, and sometimes we'd stay until about midnight. For a while, I saw my classmate more often than I saw my boyfriend (now fiancée). Despite my efforts, I was still under the curve, which destroyed my confidence. Why was I doing this to myself? I was much happier (and more confident) prior to starting school.
I don't recall exactly when my mindset changed, but it was probably midway through the program, when I switched jobs. I started to realize, learn and accept that everyone has their own strengths; you're dealt certain cards, so learn to play with what you have. Everyone has something to offer, and maybe mine wasn't purely academic: instead, I started counseling and helping my classmates with their job searches, interviews and resumes. This was my forte and I loved it! My perspective about being the one of the few HR people shifted from a place of weakness, to a place of strength. I no longer saw being a black sheep as a negative: instead, being one of the few HR professionals with an MBA made me stand out. Now, I look back and see that temporary suffering and hard work was worth it.
So, if you can relate to my story in any way, I encourage you to challenge your perspective and see it from a different angle: work on your weaknesses, but don't forget to play to your strengths too.