Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What are your short-term & long-term goals OR can you fabricate a convincing story?

today is gonna be the day that they're gonna throw it back to you…
by now you should've realized what you've got to do…
i don't believe that anybody…
knows what they want to do…
two days from now…
(two days from now) --- echo…

let me explain.

first off, i think its "great" that people ask this question. but i think/feel/believe (for all your MBTI lovers out there trying to analyze my intentions) that there's a much simpler question to ask that demands a much simpler and more real answer. That probably gets to the heart of the driving forces you're interested in learning about when you ask someone to write an essay about aforementioned goals.

before i express that let me add my "caveat"

our's is not a generation governed by habits.
it is governed by disruption.
whether its technology that changes the way we hail cabs.
or ways to share photos, video or other media that go viral instantaneously…

our's is not a generation of very stable, long-term thinkers.

we're constantly seeing the way that changes in our lives need us to adapt.

so while i might have thought my short-term plan was to join a hedge fund before i gained the necessary skills to work my way into management and one day run a venture capital fund based on whatever it is i learned through my amazingly eloquent short term goal -

If i'm not ready to be smacked in the face by change, adapt to it instantaneously and find a way to remain relevant, competitive and also actually interested in what i do, i most probably will not achieve any semblance of a long term goal.

i'm going to make a statement now that i know will get some sort of backlash but its kind of like---- asking an economist about tomorrow.

there's so many VIABLE theories based on the studies of past trends, but in all fairness, there's absolutely no way to actually predict or plan for a packaged, clean version of tomorrow. so what do we do?

we study what we've done. we study how we've done it. and we project based on that, but change those predictions and forecasts as the time passes. economists are great at talking about the trends in history & about helping us UNDERSTAND where/what/how we got to all those beautiful bubbles that burst.

and in that light, I've read so many MBA essays to so many schools out there asking this question with amazing responses but mainly from those who know how to tell a convincing story. Is it a lie? I don't know. But is it what happens 9 times out of 10? I highly doubt it. More often than not you're thrown into a class full of people with all kinds of "standard" short-term & long-term goals engaging each other in ways that have nothing to do with said-goals and end up creating an amazing mixture of conversations and ideas that spin up yet another disruptive technology (at least thats how b-school feels today. a merging of the minds molding new, exciting, fun ideas).

because fortunately or unfortunately i do not believe that anyone in our generation has a good enough sense of a short term & long term goal.

just like an economist might feel like s/he has a good idea of the trends about to take place but can't and won't ever actually stake too much on such postulations - why then is this question asked on ALL MBA applications? or almost all? is it primarily because AdCom is looking for the best story? (and yes, I know ultimately its all about the story you tell and how its consistent and believable) but… I feel like its asking you to write a story.

… or If you know how to write as eloquently as possible and convince us that this short term & long term goal you have is really true. that you already know or believe or worse yet HOPE that things will go EXACTLY the way you plan them and therefore you want to be a consultant upon graduation so you can gain exposure to various industries and understand those sectors and the skills required to be successful in them and advise the CxO on how to do xyz, before taking those skills to a business of your own or another larger company to apply them and be a successful leader..?

Sorry i lost track of myself in that last statement. Because there's no way I am willing to believe that it matters what I say there. Truth is…

We have an idea for what we hope our life turns out to be. Bar any real change. Be it life changing (getting married or having kids, which I know in more ways than one can impact say… "id love to start a company some day" essays). World changing (like a bubble bursting for certain sectors or worse - natural disasters). So many examples.

But the main point I'm trying to get at - as I myself evolve through writing this post and realizing what I'm thinking, how its impacting me, what I would say or ask in this situation is this:

Why not ask applicants about their ideal day/month/year in 5yrs? Why not give them the chance to think about the inevitables and talk about the real life stories and consider their thoughts about where the economy might turn or how their personal lives might impact their decisions to ask them a real question about WHO they are and WHAT they like or WANT or VALUE and asking them straight up - forget the job.

Where do you want to be in 5yrs? (and yes I can see how this might be the same thing as asking them to fabricate a story --- but there's a part of the 5yrs from now that involves actions today leading to things tomorrow but also acknowledging the inevitable and maybe stating the highest priority goals)

Because I find that if/when you ask someone that question (5yrs from now) and you really want them to answer it, they'll actually (or at least in my interactions and in my experience asking this question) ask back - do you mean personally or professionally? Ideally? Or really thinking about how things unfold - UNEXPECTEDLY?

I guess, I just wish short-term & long-term goals were believable in todays world. Anyone whose apps I read or work with/on, I challenge this piece until I am convinced that they are not just convincing themselves (or maybe training them to really be convinced so I'm convinced?!)

We don't think about working in the same jobs for more than 5yrs. When we hear about someone whose had the same job for 10yrs we applaud them (..or worse judge them). Unless they are on some sort of a partner track. Maybe. We're so… disloyal? but not out of some sort of fault or lack of loyalty but because things are changing and if we don't change with the times and adapt and grow and react, then we're left managing a cd player or a palm pilot in a room full of touch screen tablets. Make sense?

If you're being asked about your short term and long term goals, let me know. I want to ask you that same question right now. I think there's a very different approach to what is being asked. There's something to say about knowing or being able to articulate what you THINK your short term and long term goals are, but the REAL answer will come if/when you truly examine yourself. Your desires. Your goals. Who you are - not just who you want people to think you are.

Let's talk. I'd love to hear about your short term & long term goals :)

No seriously. Please, convince me. Not yourself. Not what you are convinced you want to do or are convincing yourself for what you want in 5yrs. Most of us have no idea (or aren't willing to admit what we truly hope ;). ANd you can't answer I don't know in these apps... so then you fabricate the story of your life. And for those few minutes, it works, but then the next morning does it really stick? But you have to answer something.

Now what?