Making Sense of the Chaos

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Hafa Adai! (Guam’s version of Aloha)

Ahhhh, what a long six weeks it’s been.

If there’s one thing I wasn’t prepared for coming to the Grad School, it was the job search! When I began the MBA job search, it felt like I was in a large, dark hole that was spinning out of control. It was, in one word, overwhelming. But like all things at Smith, you somehow manage to make sense of pandemonium and here’s how I managed:

  • Know your why.  (I get by with the help of my friends) My good friend in the MBA, Zane Adoum published his thoughts early in September about the importance of knowing “Why” you’re coming back to business school. (Read his blog here.) But really, it applies to life. Knowing your why helps to center you when the rest of the world is in chaos.After reading Zane’s blog, I was drawn back to Meg Ryan’s Ted Talk, Why 30 is not the new 20 that reminds 20-somethings to be intentional with their decisions. Intent is so important, it affects all your next steps in life. Thats what an MBA is-a stepping stone – and action without intent will distract you from your “why.” Being distracted isn’t such a bad thing, but it is detrimental to the job search, and frankly, Life is too short to waste time on the wrong things!

    Google Images

  • Learn to love Networking– it’s necessary.Contrary to popular belief (& by popular, I mean amongst MBAs) networking is a necessary people skill – not just a job search skill. When it became apparent to me that the networking opportunities weren’t disappearing, I decided I needed a plan. I began setting personal networking goals for professional events such as- make five meaningful connections with people no matter their industry or profession.Aside from future professional connections and benefits, people are interesting and you never know what you’ll learn. I also stopped relying on BuzzFeed for my networking advice, and subscribed to the following blogs to keep track of new platforms/methods for networking. Find ones that interest you, these are my favorite:
    • The Muse Networking: This is part of a larger website that offers career advice, company information, and employment opportunities.
    • Accenture Career Blogs, I was unsure about the Consulting field, and so I started following Accenture’s Career Blogs to gain more insight about the company and the nature of their work. I found some very insightful articles of what recruiters hate about networking and other useful tips for the job search.
    • Human Capital Institute: I stumbled across this blog while google searching Human Capital internships. This offers both career advice for the job seeker but also for Human Capital practitioners. The information helped me understand lingo amongst practitioners as well as different and new techniques being used.

My networking strategy is simple: people focused from a learning perspective aimed at making memorable connections. I’ve utilized this strategy in traditional networking conferences and corporate presentations, but also on random train rides to Philadelphia and New York.  What I learned so far, is that most people really want to help you, you just have to be help-able. (Idk if that’s a word, just go with it.)

Google Images

  • If you’re anything like me and are always looking for your next adventure… Don’t put yourself into a box. Boxes are narrow and will close you off to some valuable learning experiences. So whether it’s a life choice or a job opportunity, be open to the possibilities. It’s so easy to get caught up in what seems to be the traditional “MBA Career track” especially with  the overwhelming pressure to know your career track BY THE FIRST DAY OF ORIENTATION. Again though, it’s self-inflicted pressure, and you have to always go back to your center point —your why.
    • Attend Lunch and Learns
    • Choose Company Sessions to learn about industries you’re not familiar.
    • Do things that scare you. (Advice I received from multiple professionals at a career conference.)
  • Get out of the classroom. It’s so easy to get stuck in the halls of Smith. There’s always a project due, a meeting to schedule, a company presentation or an MBA happy hour you shouldn’t miss- but balance is key to your sanity. UMD is so close to everything on the east coast, and you have no excuse not to explore! More than that, the there is always something fun to do in DC:
    • Things to do DC: This is for young professionals interested  DC networking opportunities or just to make friends.
    • UpOut: This is a DC centric event website. I signed up to participate in UpOut for a monthly fee, and receive exclusive discounts on concert/event tickets as well as monthly updates for festivals or new restaurants in the DC/MD/VA area. The challenge is finding that sweet spot between academic priorities and your social life.

      The Liberty Bell. Philadelphia, PA. Net Impact, Nov. 2016

  • Lastly, Stop comparing yourself to your classmates. I had to remind myself that my goals, grades, experience, and success measurements are different from my classmates. We have such diverse backgrounds that its almost impossible to measure yourself against each other.I came to this conclusion a month ago, after reaching a breaking point in my job search and my studies. I failed an exam and missed a job application deadline before I realized I wasn’t tying my job search to my personal goals – I was tying it to what I THOUGHT my goals should be, because it seemed like the MBA thing to do.At that point, I started focusing my job search on impacting people in a positive way, looking for ways to learn how to build programs within organizations that ties its talent to its goals. It goes back to your “why,” we’re all looking for something different from  business school and I had to be okay with it. The only thing we share is that we’re here at Smith  to achieve goals, how we get there and the choices we make is ours to make. At  my breaking point, I almost bought a ticket back to Guam, but my father wasn’t having it, he reminded me “Failure is part of the process, but you’re not a failure.” This is particularly important for MBAs who feel like a fish out of water in the first two months.

    To wrap up:

Focus on your why.

Build a network of professionals and friends.

Choose a path that best fits your needs.

Explore your surroundings.

And, trust the process, including failure.

Nov. 2016

Taking time to appreciate the first signs of fall outside Van Munching Hall.



Janna Fernandez

I am a first-year MBA/MPP Candidate at the University of Maryland, Robert H. Smith, School of Business. I enjoy exploring new places and meeting new people. My blog will give you insight on my B-school experience, as well as how I, an island girl (from Guam), acclimate to the coming winter.For questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions email:

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