From the monthly archives: November 2010

One of the best things I do at Fletcher each year is work with the students who have volunteered to conduct evaluative interviews.  (Note:  Take advantage of their generous contribution of time by arranging for an interview today!  Student interviews run only through December 10.) And we have a really great group this fall — great not only because they show up on time, but because they have wonderful insights into the process.  Today, Marc Frankel, a MALD student who started last January, shares his unusual dual perspective.

Interviewing for graduate school can be tough – not only have I been there myself, but I’m still there now.  I’m Marc and I’m in my second semester here at the Fletcher School.  I play on the intramural soccer team, I’m in the Fletcher Business Club, and I write the occasional article for the local humor newspaper, the Fletcher Ledger.  I’m also an admissions volunteer, which means that once a week, I spend an hour or so interviewing prospective Fletcher candidates.

During my time here at Fletcher, I’ve decided that I’d like to pursue a joint degree with an MBA program.  I’m in the process of applying to schools now, so I’m writing the same types of essays and enduring the same interview anxiety as many of the prospective students I interview.  Being both an interviewer and an interviewee has given me a few insights I’d like to share with this year’s applicants:

#1)  Be candid.  As an interviewer, I can tell whether you’re legitimately passionate about what you’re applying for or whether you’re just saying what you think we want to hear.  If you’re going to drive all the way up here, get dressed up, and spend an hour with us in an interview, you owe it to yourself to let us get to know you openly and honestly.  I’m a lot more impressed with people who are proud of their accomplishments than I am with someone who spends 20 minutes trying to explain how their job “kinda sorta” fits their idea of a program here.

#2)  Be informed.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t ask questions about the program, but it does mean that you’ve done your homework on the easily-researched basics such as required courses, fields of study, and the number of students here.  These points are all easy to find online, and familiarity shows that you’re serious about your application.

#3)  Do the little things right.  The logo on your shirt or the bond weight of your résumé paper isn’t going to make much of a difference to us, but if you’re late or sloppily dressed, or if you don’t bring a copy of your résumé, we’re going to notice.  Be comfortable at your interview, but treat it professionally.  On that note…

#4)   RELAX!  Believe me, I had the sweaty palms and the jitters before my business school interviews, so I know what you’re going through, but just take it easy.  Your interview is a half-hour when all you really need to do is talk about yourself (the subject you know the most about).  So perk up, smile, and look forward to it.

I know a lot of this is common sense, but I also know how hard it can be to heed common sense when it’s time for your interview.  Just remember to be yourself: the interviewer on the other side of the table will appreciate it.

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Although the initials PDP could stand for many things (People’s Democratic Party, Pretty Darn Practical), at Fletcher we all know it refers to Professional Development Program, the nine-week course offered by the Office of Career Services for new students each fall.  Applicants often ask us about OCS, and I answer that students and OCS start working together almost from Day One.  (To be precise — Day Four of Orientation.)  Once classes begin, the focus of the OCS-student partnership is initially PDP.

I’ll be honest — some students think they don’t need PDP.  They’ve held professional positions for several years and don’t see the value.  But they’re nearly all quickly persuaded.  If nothing else, they see that putting everyone on the same page is important to the smooth functioning of OCS.  But most provide insightful comments on how PDP has helped transform their thinking about their new career/job hunt.  Here are a few samples, kindly provided by the folks at OCS:

“Even though I have had significant professional experience, the PDP allowed me the chance to focus on my career in a way I would not have without it.”

“I’m glad you guys require these sessions – especially in the first half of the first term.  It reminds us why we are here – as a key step in our careers.”

“The PDP forced me not only to think about what I want to do, but to develop a realistic path of how to get there.”

“While many of us know what we’re supposed to do regarding networking, interviewing, etc., PDP gave us the structured venue we needed to PRACTICE these skills.”

“Since I’m here at Fletcher to change fields, the PDP was helpful to start me thinking about how to most effectively market myself to a new industry.”

“I thought I had a good résumé, but the PDP made it MUCH better – I am ashamed to think of the document I used to hand out!”

“The PDP forced me to stop and think about what is important to me, and how best to market myself, and then gave me the opportunity to try out new approaches with peers.”

I’ve asked my OCS friends to provide more information about their work.  I hope to share their reflections next week.

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We have Norway maples around our house that provide wonderful shade in the summer, and hours of leaf raking in the fall.  Bagging leaves was, therefore, high on the agenda for the weekend, along with cheering on Kayla’s soccer team during the final game of the season, and doling out candy to trick-or-treaters for Halloween.

But between those activities, we still managed to squeeze in a few unplanned extras.  On Saturday, Paul and I decided to check out a new restaurant in Davis Square on our way to the movies.  We had barely walked through the door when we saw friends of ours.  Once we sat down, we spied one of this year’s MacArthur grant winners, whom we recognize because he works with our former next-door-neighbor.  On our way out, we passed Tufts president Larry Bacow.  Later, as we left the movie, we bumped into friends near the theater and, having walked them to their car, waved to yet another friend as she drove by during our trek home.

These are the days when, contrary to Somerville’s municipal status, it feels like a small town — the kind of place where you run into people you know wherever you go.  I like that!  But it’s also great to take advantage of all that Boston, our larger city neighbor, has to offer.

So off we went on Sunday.  Hopped on the T and soon arrived in Chinatown for dim sum.  When we walked out of the restaurant, I had a hankering for a cannoli.  (Doesn’t everyone follow-up dim sum with Italian pastries?)  A quick walk down the Greenway and we were in the North End, Boston’s traditional Italian neighborhood.  Warmed ourselves with coffees and yummy cannoli at a busy but mellow spot.

Back on the T in time for Paul to carve a pumpkin before the youngest trick-or-treaters started ringing the bell.  And we could hardly have forgotten about Halloween, as we passed witches, zombies, skeletons, one large elf, and a wookie on a Segway, as we meandered through this area where — depending on how you crunch the numbers — as many as 20 percent of residents are students.

All in all, a perfect small-town big-city fall weekend.

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