Your Unique Career Vision

This article is the first in a series chronicling the paths that HBS graduates have taken as they fulfill their unique career vision upon graduation replica watches. These profiles are meant to inspire you to consider your own thoughts, your own values, and your own desires as you choose your first job after HBS.

This week, we meet with Kristin Hall, Class of 2001 and a proud member of Section G. She is currently an Assistant Director at HBS Admissions.

What was your background before HBS //
I graduated from Bowdoin College in 1995 where I majored in economics and math. After graduation I went to work for Integral Incorporated, a small management-consulting firm. I worked there for 4 years before coming to HBS.

What was the feeling on campus when you were going through recruiting? How was the market?
The Fall of 2000 was still a good market; people had plenty of interviews or offers to consider. Lots of people were still doing the dot com thing or starting their own companies. 30% of the class of 2000 went to work for companies with 100 employees or less. In March of 2001 the first crash happened, and people were looking for something safer, which for many people meant going back to their pre-HBS companies.

What did you want to do?
Well, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I wanted to get into operations, but I had a hard time finding a role that would fit my background. Many of the companies were looking for people with an engineering background. I was also making a dual career decision with my husband, which made location an issue, and frankly, I wasn’t so set on going into operations to warrant us moving to a remote location. I took Monica Higgins’ course “Self Assessment and Career Development,” and that was a huge help. The course is a lot of work, but it’s all about you and your interests. I’ve actually referred back to that course more often than any other course I’ve taken.

What did you end up doing?
I interviewed for general management positions, but I also had a generous offer to go back to Integral as a senior consultant. I really enjoyed working there before HBS; it’s a great firm and I really liked the people.

Why did you leave if you liked it so much?
At first the work was new and exciting, but the travel started to wear me down. I was traveling every week, four or five days a week. I was learning a ton and I had lots of responsibility at a young age. When I was evaluating their offer, I let them convince me the travel wouldn’t be as much, and it seemed like so many people at HBS were looking for a great job in consulting. Here I was with a generous offer, for a great firm, so I was swayed more than I should have been by the “herd” mentality.

Then what happened?
I took the offer, and ended up on a morning flight to a client my first day on the job. When I mentioned to a partner that this wasn’t what I thought I’d signed up for, he said that they had found that the firm was able to deliver better value on site, and had reinstated the travel policy. So I was back to traveling four or five days a week. It wasn’t working, I was stressed out, and I knew I couldn’t do this much longer. I wanted something more tangible, so I went back to my Self Assessment notes and I realized I had been trying to convince myself that this was going to work.

So now it’s January of 2002, the market is in a tailspin and you are setting out on a networked job search. How did you do it?
I first made a list of what I was looking for in my next job: a product I believe in, work that’s tangible, and interesting people who are passionate about what they do. Those are 3 vague things, you can’t go online and do a search, and I had no industry to focus on.

I made a list of alumni from HBS who also graduated from Bowdoin. I came up with 25 people, but then I was so nervous I waited to contact them. I wondered why they would want to help me, because they’d just think I’m looking for a job…until one day I just sat down and emailed everyone.

I introduced myself, said I was in the middle of a career change, and asked if they had time to meet for coffee or over the phone. Within 48 hours 18 of them had gotten back to me! They were so helpful; they all spent at least an hour talking me through their careers, what their friends were doing and what I might be interested in. My goal was to walk away from each meeting with the names of two additional contacts to talk with. I usually got that and more. The best part was that I got to meet some great people.

This led you to the job at HBS?
It would be a nice story if they did, but no. I was walking along the Charles with my husband when I looked across the river at HBS and said to him it would great to work at the School, especially in Admissions. I went to the Harvard website and found a posting for a part time alumni consultant to Admissions. I left Integral in February and started at HBS working 20 hours a week, reading applications and interviewing candidates. Then this role opened up, and here I am.

What do you think of not-for-profit work?
I have to admit I was nervous that there was going to be bureaucracy, and it wouldn’t be run the same as a fast paced company. It’s not that way at all – we have real deadlines. We have a relatively lean office to process over 10,000 applications, and everyone is focused on getting things done. It can get really busy, but overall the hours are reasonable. I can see myself doing this for a long time. It’s unbelievable how much happier I am – it’s affected my whole life – I feel like a new person. I am not stressed anymore.

Any advice to students?
First, don’t let the culture here influence you. Think in broad terms and think about next year, when it’s just you and your job. Second, use the alumni network. I was blown away by their helpfulness. Third, don’t stress so much! I switched jobs after 6 months and it was fine. Finally, use the self-assessment tools, be it Professor Higgins’ class or Tim Butler’s online tools, and listen to the results. It’s all about you; don’t convince yourself that you’re interested in something you’re not.

September 3, 2002
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