During the SDA Bocconi MBA program, we hear quite a lot of advice, feedback (both positive and negative), and we encounter plenty of victories and defeats. Speakers from industry tell us about leadership qualities and necessities for today’s business climate. Resilience is one of them.
For example: though I don’t come from a retail or fashion background, my passion and interest in the subjects are clear to anyone who knows me for more than a few minutes, so when I applied to the SDA Bocconi MBA, I took the additional step to apply separately for an academic concentration in luxury business management.
I was rejected, though, long after the acceptance to the main MBA program arrived. What was I to do?
I forged ahead, quietly telling myself: lead by example. So I campaigned to be the president of the SDA Bocconi Luxury & Arts Club. I won, and with nine other board members, we completed 24 events over the course of the year, with brands like Valentino, Burberry, Hermès, Bottega Veneta, Buccellati, and lesser-known companies like Il Ponte Casa D’Aste and L Capital that are equally entrenched in the world of commerce and status symbols.
Initially I had doubts about my legitimacy as a president, since I am more passive, introverted, etc., but the experience showed me that letting go of duties, trusting others, and celebrating those with complementary skill sets to my own are to be welcomed and praised. I believe this is is an element of being humble.
This past summer, I applied to probably twenty internships and was interviewed for two: Louis Vuitton and Acqua di Parma. Neither selected me, about which I quietly reassured myself it was their loss and/or not the right fit for both of us. However this attitude may seem when spoken aloud, it is critical to maintaining a positive outlook and not losing momentum.
Instead, I took an internship with a start-up—a one-man company training corporate firms and MBA students how to be better negotiators. It wasn’t luxury, or fashion, or retail, but I was allowed to work from home, and used my writing and communications skills to help my boss Giuseppe plan his marketing activities over the following twelve months, to help grow his business and leverage his 4000+ database of LinkedIn contacts. Now, his profile is the most viewed out of all his colleagues at Merck pharmaceuticals in Geneva (his “day job”).
Eight weeks later, I’d digested mountains of information about the nuances of influencing and improved my own skills of negotiation, an area I typically avoid as someone who hates confrontation. But now I feel more educated and prepared for it when it comes up.
Which brings me to now: the first of December, the program is over, and I am looking for a job. It was a lightning fast fourteen months, perhaps the most transformative in my life. What I unequivocally know now is: I am ready to work. I am hungry!
Last month, my colleagues elected me as one of their two class presidents. While I was never the life of the party or the loudest in the classroom, I nevertheless conducted myself with respect for others’ time and opinions, professionalism, and a grasp of the big picture: “what needs to get done and what is superfluous?”
Perhaps the most notable practical change I have seen in myself this year is in (quite simply) getting things done. While quality is critical, time moves with or without you, so knowing when to submit and how much effort to put toward any product is a key skill to managing multiple roles, deadlines, deliverables, etc.
I have learned that preparation is important, but overthinking a presentation or wringing my hands in stress is mostly counterproductive. Just do it, and trust that if you do your best, given the constraints of life, you can rely on your instincts, trust your colleagues, and move onto the next challenge.
One thing I have always been good at, because I’m not ultra competitive, is stepping into the background and letting others take the limelight, though recent additions to my CV wouldn’t suggest this.
I truly enjoy sharing space, recognition, and opportunity with others, and especially like to share my thoughts when there is an issue to be analyzed, if I think they will be helpful. For those who have treated me respectfully, I am massively loyal (a Pisces trait I think), and ultimately find that my relationships are worth far more than short-lived pride or self-interest.
I have realized that this is why I am good at organic networking, because I tend to gravitate towards genuine people with honest motives, try to steer clear of drama, and cultivate mutually-enriching connections with people.
On the other hand, I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about being a pushover or too soft, so I am hypersensitive to the feeling of being manipulated or micromanaged. It makes me uncomfortable and offends me, so I am also conscious not to do it to others I am working with.
I once saw a psychic medium and she said I am like my paternal grandmother—a spitfire when provoked. Soft-spoken and accommodating to a limit, but fully capable of wrath when provoked.
Luckily this rarely happens, and I try to conduct all of my reactions to people and things with rationalism and the good sense to take a moment to collect myself before I escalate the situation or make illogical conclusions.
As much as I have enjoyed Milan, it has plenty of quirks that are, from a global perspective, unacceptable for a modern city: sidewalkers who tend to be oblivious, no concept of a proper brunch. However, as a wise friend said to me, no place is perfect: there will always be that thing that annoys you, and its usually the first thing you notice that you don’t like, about a place, a person, a relationship.
Up to now, I have applied to something like 40 full-time jobs, across the globe. Milan, London, Switzerland, Seattle, New York, Dallas. Hong Kong and Sydney. I am ready to go somewhere new.
Right now, I really need someone to give me a chance. Let me get my foot in the door so I can prove myself, and I will not disappoint you. Gallup said my five key strengths are: empathy, communication, connectedness, arrangement, and input (which means curiosity and knowledge-seeking). Let me put them to use!