AN INTRODUCTORY BLOG POST
by Richard Qian
Hello fellow Badgers, I’m a 2010 graduate with a degree in economics and mathematics. I’m currently an MBA student at Harvard Business School and the chair of the Wisconsin Economics Young Alumni Council (WEYAC). Through WEYAC, we aim to support student career development by working with the ESA and Economics Department. One thing that I’ve found very helpful as a student thinking about my career is to listen to different perspectives from alumni. I hope through this blog we can start a new medium for similar conversations between students and alumni.
I’m happy to start by sharing my story. I chose economics as a major because it offered rigorous perspectives on how the world and economy worked. I found courses like Intermediate Macro and Micro offered theoretical frameworks to analyze economies, industries, and companies, while 590 and the senior thesis I completed provided opportunity to examine my interest areas within the economy in a more rigorous way than I would working in businesses, which was my goal after college.
My career post-graduation so far has been a mosaic of complementary experiences. My first job at Morgan Stanley in New York developed my analytical toolkit and acclimated me to a professional work setting on Wall Street. Next, I took a less-traveled path for a year working abroad in Hong Kong, in a region where I grew up before my teens, and developed an understanding of the cultural differences in the investment banking industry there.
After Hong Kong, my career took me back to the U.S., this time in Miami, where I’ve taken a more in-depth look at industries outside of auto and aerospace where I spent most of my time previously. It’s through this experience that I developed a passion for consumer healthcare, and at the same time identified holes in my experience and education that could be better filled with an MBA.
I was fortunate that my career decisions so far were guided by learning and career interests, and less so bounded by family influence or geographic constraints. However, looking forward, I foresee family playing more of a role as I move on to the next stage of life. Luckily, in MBA, we have tools designed to help us assess our career objectives such as CareerLeader.
CareerLeader is a tool to discover interests (e.g. managing people and team, creative production), motivators (e.g. financial gain, security), and skills (e.g. communication, quantitative analysis), key ingredients to planning a career. Our first exercise as a Harvard MBA student is to complete an inventory of over a hundred introspective multiple choice questions via CareerLeader. One of the lessons that I wished I had learned sooner was that career development is a journey, not something that you have to gain a complete understanding senior year before graduation. It may be hard to believe that Sam Walton started the first Wal-Mart at age 44 or Vera Wang designed her first wedding dress at age 40.
With that said, I’ve found the framework of interests, motivators, and skills as building blocks of a career to be a great tool to think about career development. We are often influenced by what our peers are doing or what our parents would like us to do, but later find out that we are either bored or frustrated due to lack of interest. CareerLeader suggests interests, and not skills, should be the foundation of a career. In economics terms, interest is your ultimate competitive advantage in the job market.
Interest alone shouldn’t be the only consideration in making career decisions. Motivators and skills should also be taken into account as they mesh with your interests and narrow down your ideal job opportunities. While these are very personal and are derived from one’s upbringing and education, they could also change over time.
I hope this is a start for you to explore and listen to Badger alumni’s paths and stories post graduation and how they’ve thought about their careers. Please feel free to drop comments below on any questions or topic suggestions. See you next time!