A corporate job offer prompted my move to Cleveland, Ohio, in Fall of 2003. Nestled on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland would be my third Great Lakes City in three years, following Chicago (Lake Michigan) and Rochester (Lake Ontario).
I worked very hard at my job. Especially that first one. Late evenings, long work days, short weekends and abridged holidays. I earned every single cent that I made there and for every social and personal opportunity that I passed up. Deadlines, presentations, meetings, training sessions, interviews, Excel spreadsheets, it was all part of the MBA deal. It’s what no one tells you when you’re in business school: that your opportunity cost for having those initials and all that student debt signaled a workhorse to the executives of Corporate America. This was the price you paid for a good salary, good benefits and three weeks of vacation time.
After a couple of years, I shifted departments and continued to do so just about every year, exploring various divisions and learning from some killer smart bosses. They had experience, education and instincts and shared them all with me. In return? I rolled up my sleeves and provided the deliverables they expected. Sometimes I met their expectations. Sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes the expectations weren’t clear or changed 100 times. No matter what, I worked hard. And paid attention.
Then around 2006 a couple of nice gentlemen I had befriended in my new home city reached out to me. Both were in their early/mid 20’s. Both college educated. Both ambitious. They each wanted to get into very particular MBA programs. And asked for my help.
Doing the good Samaritan pay it forward thing, knowing that I didn’t need their money, as I was gainfully employed, I took the time to work with each of them. Specifically, we focused on their Resumes and on their Application Essays. I was adamant about not writing any of these documents for either of them. Instead, they provided the material and I pushed them really hard on it. I mentored them through the entire process, beginning to end.
The result? Each was accepted to his Ivy League MBA program of choice. Both on full scholarship. This certainly rang a bell. A loud one. But it would be another couple of years before I truly heard it.