Interview Prep

I know that preparing for interviews can seem like a waste of time sometimes.  In the basic sense, it is just having a conversation, so why not just go in with the attitude of: “I’m just gonna go in there, be myself, answer their questions with great stories, and knock the interviewer’s socks off.”  And the answer is, because that probably isn’t how it will go at all if you don’t do any prep work, like having answers for common questions prepared.

When I was up in Chicago for the MBA Veteran’s conference, I participated in a conversation with some fellow combat arms vets that probably could have been titled:  The greatest hits of terrible interview question answers.   The questions that were asked in the interviews were generally along the lines of:

“Tell me about a time you were in a seemingly impossible situation, how did you find an innovative solution?”

“Tell me about a time when you were under a lot of stress and had to make a difficult decision?”

“Describe a time when you worked as part of a team to meet a seemingly impossible goal?”

“Describe a time when you used your leadership skills in order to resolve a conflict?”

As a former infantryman who went on multiple overseas deployments, I have a fair amount of experience working in adverse situations, making difficult decisions, working as a part of a team, and using leadership skills.  But, as the mental Rolodex clicks through my life’s story, the first experience that comes to mind for any of those questions is not one that I am going to use in a job interview.  The reason I say that isn’t because I lack pride in my time as a Marine, or am ashamed of what I did overseas or anything like that.  The reason is that the interviewer is not going to be able to understand how to translate those answers into potential value for the company.   During a job/internship interview, the potential employee has to show that it would add value to the company to bring them on board.   If your answer takes the interviewer to a situation and place that they will never understand, full of acronyms and jargon that sounds like a foreign language, they are not going to be able to grasp the value that you can add to their company through your past experiences.  Instead of stories appropriate for the VFW hall, focus on positive stories, that showcase skills like the ability to work as part of a team, be a leader, use time management efficiently, make timely decisions, ect…

So, in my humble opinion, if you are in a situation where you are going to be going to interviews, taking the time to think through some answers to typical behavioral interviewing questions.  That is what I have done, and now I have alternative experiences to draw on, and don’t need to rely on the first experience that comes to mind when someone asks me about a time when everything was going wrong, and success seemed impossible.

I know this post seems rather veteran-centric, but I think it applies to everyone.  It is a good idea to think before you speak in an interview, and make sure that your story conveys a sense of added value to the company that they will be able to understand.  That generally isn’t something that is going to happen without some prep work ahead of time.

Keeping Pace

There was a saying that we used in the Marine Corps: “It is easier to keep up than catch up.”

This phrase mostly applied to things like running or forced marches in that context, but it seems to me that is is quite applicable to an MBA program as well.   Time management is a crucial skill that is needed in order to thrive in this sort of environment.  In the Marines they begin training in stress inoculation and time management almost immediately.  It is not uncommon in boot camp for something simple, like making a rack (bed), to be given an impossible, or nearly impossible time restriction, and it progresses from there to more complex issues with seemingly impossible time constraints.

Important life decisions.

Time management and the ability to work under duress are two of the many valuable skills (along with leadership), that the Marines helped instill in me.   So, back to the MBA program, during the program, there are a lot of priorities that need to be balanced.  Some of the main ones are:

  • School:  Not just going to all of my classes, but doing homework assignments, studying, and working on projects.
  • Future Careers:  Especially for people like myself looking to switch careers, I need to actively work on building my professional network, attend company info sessions and events, job fairs, apply for jobs, hopefully interview for jobs, work on my resume, and meet with my career counselor.

    First Career Fair as a graduate student today!
  • Student organizations:  There are a myriad of student organizations at Fisher, and they all offer valuable opportunities to students.  There is certainly not time to join all of them, but I have joined several, but each additional one requires an additional time commitment.
  • Personal:  This is possibly the easiest to neglect, but humans need sleep, and to eat, and every once and a while to relax.  Things like going to the gym take time, but it is something that should not be neglected.  Also, having a social life within the program is important.  A big part of business school seems to be networking, so doing things like going to happy hours, and football games are important to building strong relationships with classmates.

All of these areas need to be kept in balance, and maintained, sometimes one is going to be more in focus than the rest, but that doesn’t mean the rest can be neglected.  If I neglect an area, then I am going to fall behind in it, which means that in the future, I will need to expend the same amount of energy needed for it now, plus the energy needed for it in the future, in order to catch up.  That is in addition to meeting all of the other requirements from the other sections of my life.  So, a short term sacrifice now, causes long term harm if I decide to slack in one or more areas.  So, even though it might seem overwhelming sometimes, keeping up with it all is easier than trying to catch up with it all in the future.  I should thank my Drill Instructor for the life lesson.


Four simultaneous Script Ohio’s is an amazing thing.

Start early, start often

People, perhaps now more than ever, like instant gratification.  We want answers and results right now.  We don’t want to have to wait until 6 in the evening to catch the evening news, which is why we have multiple 24 hour cable news networks.  Most of us carry more computing power in our pockets than it took to get to the moon, so that we have everything, news, weather, banking info, contacts, and whatever else there is an app for, at our fingertips.

But, if you are looking at attending an MBA program, or utilizing the GI Bill, or even planning to use the GI Bill to attend an MBA program, then an important element to achieve success is to start both processes early.   And neither one is really going to give you that instant gratification that we all crave these days, but they are worth it in the long run.

If you are thinking that attending a top MBA program sounds like a good idea, then if you haven’t already, you should be studying for and scheduling a time to take the GMAT.  It was actually about this time last year that I took mine.  That way, you will have your score when you go to recruiting events, and if you don’t score as high as you would have liked, might even be able to re-take the test before it is time to apply.

After the GMAT is done, come all the other important things, like recruiting events, campus visits, and interviews, all of which you want to get done before application deadlines, so that you can make the best informed decision possible.   Sometimes there are also scholarships and fellowships that are available only to those who apply to the earlier deadlines a school may have.

And, if you are eligible to use the GI Bill, I assume you have dealt with the VA before, so start the process of verifying your eligibility early, because that process can involve a whole lot of hurry up and wait as well.   Time management and task prioritization will be of the utmost importance when pursuing an MBA, so it is best to build those skills early, if you don’t already possess them.

Finally, here is a more current picture of Ohio Stadium, taken last Saturday vs.  Buffalo.

I think my seats are not too shabby.


Finals week – survival tips

This one goes out to all of my MAcc classmates…

First of all, let me say that I CANNOT believe this is the last week of classes for the first term of the MAcc program.  The past seven weeks have flown by, and now it’s time for finals.  So for now, here are some tips to succeed this week:

1.  Remain calm – you will study much more efficiently if you’re not thinking about every class, scheduling for next term, when you’re going to sleep, etc.  I find it best to list out what I need to study or practice for each course and then create a schedule I can follow easily.

2.  Get comfortable – but not too comfortable!  Set up some place where you won’t be distracted and you can sit undisturbed for a generous length of time.  That being said, I would not suggest bundling up in bed and attempting to read anything on a Sunday afternoon.  That only resulted in a wasteful, albeit enjoyable, nap.

3.  Review, don’t re-do.  Theoretically, it should be easier to go through notes and examples now that we’ve been over them once in class.  For example, don’t spend hours recalculating every number from every case in Financial Reporting, one of the autumn term 1 core courses.  Review each of the topics and focus on the ones you don’t understand.

4.  Ask for help!  It’s not too late to reach out to your professors or classmates.  Each one of the MAcc faculty members is very understanding and will make themselves available to help you.  Study groups are also a great way to prepare for finals.  Chances are you’re not the only student who needs help with a problem and studying in a group also makes it more likely that someone else will know the answer.  It’s not a bad idea to reserve a room in Gerlach or Mason for some group study time.

At this point, we’ve all been through this before as undergrads.  Finals aren’t anything new, but we seem to be stressed out each time finals week rolls around.  So for now, don’t stress, study for a few days, and before you know it we’ll all be celebrating the completion of our first term as MAcc students!

Stress? We don’t need no stinkin’ stress!

Even MBA students have rough days.

All in all, being a full time student, in my opinion, is far less stressful than working.  You are only responsible for managing your own work, you don’t deal with customer issues, and your schedule tends to be more flexible, which is a benefit that everyone can appreciate.  But, even in that environment, stress can rear its ugly head.

So just like in the “real world,” it’s a good idea to know what helps you make it through those stressful times.  It’s different for every person.  And very often it’s different for the same person based on the situation. I know people that thrive on being with friends and those that need some quiet time to regroup.  I myself turn to junk food (I love cake), while I have friends that find themselves looking to healthy food options that make them feel better.  My sister sweats away her stress at yoga, kickboxing, running, and other forms of exercise, but my mother turns to Lifetime movies to take her mind off her own stress (apparently by focusing on the dramatic life issues of those poor people in the Lifetime movies).

And I have Einstein.  Einstein never interrupts me when I complain, he doesn’t judge me if I choose not to make the bed, and he certainly doesn’t give me a hard time about my food choices because that dog will eat anything from fresh vegetables to frosting.

Think about what brings you joy and be prepared to have those options available to you during school (or anytime, for that matter)!  Life, after all, is all about balance…. right?



Taking a nap with Einstein


Five Tips for Stress Management

Let’s face it, being in graduate school is pretty stressful. As my former roommate said, “I always feel like I should be doing something, even if I’ve completed all of my assignments.” This is one of the truest statements you’ll ever hear about graduate school. The constant feeling that something, somewhere needs to get done can get really stressful and fast.  Here are some things I’ve found are helpful in managing stress:

1. Yoga- Everything you’ve heard about yoga is true. It’s so relaxing. I try to make time for 45 minutes to 1 hour of yoga every Sunday. There are classes at the RPAC (both for class credit and not-for-class credit) if you’re just starting and there are studios on W. Lane and High Street (Short North). Most places offer 1-2 free classes if you want to try it out before purchasing multiple classes.

2. Make time to sleep- It’s so easy to stay up reading or trying to edit those last few PowerPoint slides before the presentation in the morning. But sleep is really important when it comes to stress management. Sleep is the best way to “recharge”, so try to make the time. I’ve found my new motto to be “if it’s not due this week, then try not to worry about it.” This has come back to bite me only a few times, so for the most part it works. It certainly helps put things into perspective.

3. Have a week day schedule- It doesn’t have to be the same thing everyday, but think about what you need to accomplish everyday and manage time accordingly. If you do this either the night before or even the morning of, you’ll find you’re not stressing all day about when you’re going to have time to do all these things. It also keeps you on track, so you don’t start doing something that doesn’t need to be done.

4. Take time out for yourself- I allow myself between 30 mins to 1 hour per day to do what I want in terms of relaxing. That may mean watching Top Chef right after class, working out, even painting my nails (yes, I have to plan time to paint my own nails…. sad, but true), etc. During this time, I don’t allow myself to think of all the things that need doing or about what I really could be doing instead of figuring out who I want to leave on Top Chef.

5. Exercise! – After about a year long hiatus, I finally got motivated (with the help of one of my best friends) to start working out again on a regular basis. People in the health-care field, parents, friends, etc. who work out always talk about what a great stress reliever exercise is and now I can give you confirmation that this is true. I feel great after running on the treadmill for an hour. Unfortunately, I can’t workout everyday, but three times a week seems to work for me. It has definitely helped with the stress, especially because I can talk to my friend about whatever is going on and vice versa. Gym time has turned into exercise/therapy time, which is even better 🙂

When you’re constantly stressed, you are more likely to get sick, have physical pain throughout your body, eat more, etc. In order to stay happy and healthy it’s important to manage stress.

Stress Relief

What do you do to relieve stress? One of my methods is to listen to music. I’m into a lot of different kinds, but since my honeymoon in Hawaii, I’ve been very much into music from the Aloha State. So much so that I hope to receive an ‘ukulele as a gift next month. I’ve learned to play the piano, clarinet and saxophone, and have picked up a guitar and my grandmother’s ‘ukulele a few times. I don’t expect learning to be super easy, but at least I won’t hurt my family’s ears like I did with all the honking and squeaking that comes out of a beginning clarinetist’s instrument. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to sing some songs to my daughter to entertain her, and in a few years she could learn to play herself.

What else do I do to relieve stress? Sometimes I just have to let myself get away from work and school and think about something totally unrelated. For example, I try to schedule a night off from studying when possible just so I can do something relaxing, like watching a movie. Oh, and sleep. Sleep is good. Sleep comes at a premium when you work full time, go to school full time and have a toddler. (But at least this toddler sleeps 13-14 hours per day.) I suppose I should exercise more, but I suppose everyone who isn’t a gym rat thinks that. I’ve taken a couple days off work to spend with my husband and my daughter, which was great. Funny how I can relax more when I feel like I’m playing hooky from work.

In two weeks, finals start, and then I have about four weeks off before winter quarter begins. Five down, three to go. Quarters fly by so much faster than semesters. I’d only be about halfway through the term if Fisher were a semester school (which, of course, it will be in 2012). But it will be nice to relax and enjoy my family. I’m not going away for Thanksgiving like I did last year. While I love visiting family, Thanksgiving is crunch time because it’s just before the big exams and final projects. So, it really will be less stressful for me staying home.

…by the way, guess who scored some FREE tickets to the Michigan game? Go Bucks! Beat Michigan.

Now for Some Rainbows and Butterflies

Read through any of our blogs this quarter, and it’s pretty clear that first-year MLHR students are a stressed out bunch. We’re juggling class projects, work, family obligations, group presentations, interviews, massive loads of reading, along with all the other travails of daily living. After a while it can make you either want to pull up the covers and lie low, or head to the Varsity Club to forget it all. Either option seems acceptable.

I thought I was handling it all fairly well…and then one of my friends called me before class Tuesday night. This was a little unusual since we normally communicate through email or text, but a pleasant surprise nonetheless. And then he told me why he was calling. Apparently my emails had been a bit of a downer lately, to the point that someone was now concerned about my stress level. Hmmm…I thought my “colorful” emails were just good old-fashioned story swapping. But who am I kidding, between all of the aforementioned stuff, I am also swirling in stress stew. I miss having supper with my kids during the week and tucking them. I miss not feeling compelled to study at every turn. I miss sleeping through the night without thoughts of exam questions burning up my brain. I miss reading for pleasure! Essentially, I miss my life between undergrad and now.

That said, I’m glad to be here. I wanted this! I applied to this program and accepted it above others! There is much to appreciate. So now I give you some of the good things about life at Fisher, or the rainbows and butterflies of this quarter, as I like to think of them.

1. Meeting New People. This group of fellow students is the most I could have asked for. They are smart, fun, talented, interesting, unique and caring. There truly is a collaborative, supportive spirit here that I don’t believe can be faked. And everyone seems to have a good sense of humor. This helps, A LOT!

2. Driving at Night. I live about 35 miles from campus, so I’m driving quite a bit these days. I’m enjoying the night drive, though. Seeing downtown lit up like a Christmas tree is a pretty sight. The traffic is low, but I always find that one car shooting out I-70 at about 85 mph. And I’m making good use of the Sirius stations on the radio. I can sing; it doesn’t matter. No one else is along for the ride.

3. Adults in the Classroom. I always had that feeling in undergrad that the professors thought we were kids. I wonder why?!? That’s not the case now. They talk to us like adults, we share our stories from the career world, and there’s a real sense of peer collaboration. This is nice.

4. Electronics in the Classroom. Fisher’s facilities are nice. I’ve sat in dank basement environments, gigantic lecture halls, and uninspiring classroom settings (Denney Hall, anyone?). I sometimes forget how nice and comfortable it is to sit at a table with an adjustable office chair and computer plug ins…along with cup holders at every seat! I try to avoid bringing my laptop to class because I’m afraid I’ll get distracted while taking notes. But, it’s nice to know it’s an option. In the meantime, my ipod touch keeps me connected to the outside world, just in case. Gone are the days when a professor would stop class entirely because someone was reading the Lantern.

5. Going Somewhere. Perhaps the biggest rainbow, prettiest butterfly or fastest galloping unicorn in all of this is finally feeling like my career is starting to go somewhere. I spent too many years hoping to find the proverbial pot of gold with my last career to take for granted how fortunate I am to be starting a new one with Fisher. So, I may stress or complain, I may whine and pout, but I’m always thankful to be here.

Dear Time, We aren’t friends. Love Christina

3 midterms, 1 paper, several group projects, 2 speeches, various interviews, plus normal everyday coursework. Sound familiar? If your work load looks anything like mine, this pretty much sums up your next two weeks. Major yikes. That doesn’t even include other priorities like keeping up with email, checking the Hub, Fisher Connect, My Fisher, Carmen, and other websites, keeping tabs on internship opportunities, going to the gym, putting in hours at work, making time for a significant other, etc., etc. That reminds me… I should probably give my mom a call to let her know I am still alive.

Man, it can pile up fast, can’t it?! If I surveyed my classmates on the toughest part of grad school so far, I wonder how many would consider “time management” the biggest challenge. For me, that has been something I’ve really had to focus on. Without a clear schedule, daily to-do lists, and color coded binders and notes (no, I’m not kidding)… I’d be lost. Everyone has their own time management style, but the trick is, no matter what your system is, KEEP WITH IT.

If you haven’t yet mastered your own time management groove, then here are a few tips that might help you along the way:

1. Figure out where you are losing time. One of the best things you can do is keep a journal of your time allocation for a day. Literally log your activities and how much time you spend on them. Then, at the end of the day, go back and see how much time was devoted to non-priorities. This exercise was an eye opener for me. Now I know I shouldn’t check Facebook, ESPN, or MSNBC when I have other priorities. Sometimes I even turn my wireless router off when I have an assignment that doesn’t require the internet.

2. Get a calendar – any calendar! I prefer Outlook only because I’m comfortable with it, but many of my friends use G-Cal or other tools to help them stay organized. Every day I block off time to work on certain projects and set reminders to make sure I’m on task. At 7:45 this evening I had a reminder to write a blog post – and here I am! The trick with this is sticking to your schedule. If you fall behind, it is hard to make that time up!

3. Learn to say no. (Or at least to prioritize.) Some of my classmates have been commenting on my ghost-like tendencies over the past couple of weeks. While I’d love to socialize as often as possible, I’ve learned that I have to say “no” to going out sometimes. It’s a bummer, but it saves me freak out moments the night before a big assignment is due. If you have a hard time saying “no,” then the best thing to do is prioritize. For example, I promised myself I’d go with my classmates for $3 Brazenhead burgers on Wednesday nights, and I’ve gone every week! Remember to give yourself breaks and reward yourself for your hard work.

I hope this helps some of you who are stressing for time! When in doubt, just keep swimming!


It’s that time of the quarter… midterms… interviews…gloomy weather…

They all seem to come together in a nasty blend some days.

After seeing more than the normal percentage of students walking with their heads down, with a woebegone expression on their face, I figured perhaps I could share some of my coping mechanisms.

The first thing is to consider your priorities in life. An effective exercise for this is to write your obituary as if you passed away today; then write it with everything you hope to accomplish in your life. Then, think about how you’re going to achieve those goals.

Chances are, you may re-prioritize family, friends, job search, grades, and other facets of your life, once you step back and take stock of what your goals are.

One other important lesson that students need to learn is that uncertainty is a staple in the world. You must become comfortable with a certain level of uncertainty, and be able to make decisions despite not having all the information you may want.

Of course, no matter how you prioritize, there will be times were you just feel overwhelmed. If this happens, try exercising – go for a fast walk, a run, dance around the living room to your radio, lift some weights, you name it. If that’s not your style, try taking a break and cooking a healthy meal that requires some preparation – there are few things as soothing and washing and dicing veggies and fruits and creating a tasty meal.

I hope these ideas help – I’m off to relieve some stress myself before studying a little bit more before my first midterm.