Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Grad School Personal Statement

Okay, I'm sending this out today, so make any comments ASAP!

The path leading to this program has not been easy or direct for me. I have spent the past decade working in so-called “good” jobs, yet never quite achieving any sense of career fulfillment. My nine years in finance, while satisfying on an purely intellectual level, was neither engaging nor rewarding on a personal level. After much research, I feel that the Masters program in Organizational Communication is a perfect fit for my interests, skills, and future goals.

People have always asked me how a French major ended up working in investment banking. It’s an excellent question, and one that I have asked myself many times over the past 9 years. I accepted the job because I am innately curious, and I knew it would challenge and educate me. Was it an area in which I had any actual interest? No, but I learned something new every day those first few years. I loved interacting with intelligent people, loved dealing with clients, and loved observing the internal structure (and power plays) at a big corporation. Over time, I began to realize that I had absorbed the jargon and the basic routine. The learning curve flattened, and the things that attracted me to the industry no longer existed.

I decided to pursue an MBA, with the goal of changing careers. I chose Emory University due to its strong Organization and Management department, including mandatory communication, leadership, and ethics courses. At the beginning, I was particularly interested in the field of human resource consulting, which addresses corporate issues such as employee identification and motivation, internal communication, and leadership styles. I was fascinated by these topics, and selected a course of study accordingly. However, the more time that I spent in class convinced me that I could make more of an impact by teaching at a business school, rather than working as an outside consultant. I saw many students graduate with great statistics skills and no ability to actually communicate or lead in a corporate setting. Many students laughed off the mandatory communication classes, considering them nothing more than “soft skills” or “girl classes”. I perceived the classes in the opposite manner. Having worked in investment banking, I was fully aware that finance can be taught; yet, these so-called “soft skills” were often completely missing in many otherwise top performers. Without these abilities, it is very difficult for anyone to be truly successful on a long-term basis in a leadership position, regardless of how talented he or she may be at statistics.

After much debate, I made the difficult decision to leave the MBA program in order to pursue a more specific course of study. I wanted to focus on the psychology of business interactions. Why do people interact the way they do? How do outside forces shape internal interactions? Can we affect the way people think and act within a business without outright manipulation? The term manipulation is pejorative, but what is its realistic place in corporate communications? The list goes on and on, and I knew that the strict MBA program was not going to allow me to delve deeply into these topics.

I researched several communications programs, but was drawn to Queens University for a number of reasons. The University’s close ties with the business community are very appealing because they ground the program in an applicable, practice-based course of study. I also like the idea of a young program, adapting and growing with the shifts in communication today. Finally, I appreciate the interaction with the business school, as that is my particular interest.

I believe I would be an excellent fit with the program. I am intellectually curious and driven by a personal passion for the subject. I also look forward to conducting dedicated research studies, as I have never had that experience. This program will also allow me to pursue my future goal of teaching. I plan to study for my PhD after completing this degree, and I am particularly interested in the Organizational Science program offered at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. It has a similar real-world focus as the Queens program and would allow me to teach at the graduate level, preferably in an MBA program. I also believe the Masters in Communications would prepare me to perform outside consulting work in the business community, specifically in investor relations. This would be an excellent blend of my work experience in finance with the advanced skills and focus of the masters program.

The program combines my passion for learning with my passion for the subject matter; my innate skills with my capacity to learn. I look forward to beginning the next part of my professional life, and I believe the Masters in Communications from Queens University is the first step.