On the first day of a speed-reading class I took years ago, we filled out a form with only two questions. Question #1: How many hours do you anticipate you will spend reading over the next five years? (A: 3,000).
Question #2: How many hours do you believe you should spend becoming a better reader over the next five years? (A: A hell of a lot more than I thought before I answered question #1!).
I was impressed by the cool logic underlying this form – how could I not, I asked, have spent sufficient time improving my reading when it was such a significant part of my life? I continued with the class and the payback has been enormous.
Analogous logic led me to become a member of a Career Team last year, and to make me recommend it to every first year I meet.
Let me first tell you what Career Teams won’t do for you. It won’t prepare you to answer McKinsey’s toughest case problems. It won’t help you perform an on-the-fly DCF in a banking interview. And it probably won’t directly help you find a networked job (although I was lucky and got a few good leads from some teammates).
What it does do is far more lasting and broad: it gives you the tools and the support network to help you make better career decisions for your internship, your full-time job and for the rest of your life. Practically speaking, Career Teams will run you and your teammates through a set of tests, assessments and questions above and beyond the ones you did before arriving here.
You’ll quickly learn that (as much as the consulting firms try to convince us otherwise), there is no such thing as the ideal path for MBAs. Yet there IS such a thing as an ideal path for you. The tools used in Career Teams are for discovering more about the “you,” and how the “you” will select the right job from the huge sea of choices out there. An early benefit of Career Teams is that it will save you the time of writing 42 cover letters for internships that make no sense given your desired career path.
So that’s the nuts and bolts of a Career Team. But there’s another key benefit. Members of your team, like members of your Crimson Greetings group, will become friends for the rest of your time at HBS (and presumably beyond, although I can’t speak yet from personal experience). What’s special about these friends is that you not only have a shared experience, you have shared insights into each others individual drives and desires. In some respects, people from my Career Team know more about me than my family, which means I don’t just nod when I see them in the halls.
A third benefit: as a business leader, I guarantee that you will be relied upon to give others career advice. Being part of a Career Team will help you hone your skills in giving thoughtful, constructive, and personalized guidance. It is a very practical LEAD class.
But you have to treat it with the same level of respect as your LEAD class. There are a few people out there who belonged to teams where people arrived late or were otherwise distracted during discussions, and they did not have the rich experience the majority of us had. It is up to you to individually make the investment – and to give back to your teammates who spend their time thoughtfully helping you with your career. Just like the speed reading class, it will be worth it.
My best wishes to RCs and their coaches for this year’s Career Teams!