It’s funny how quickly one can do a full 180 after graduating. I think about this a lot when I get home from work. My hours aren’t too bad now, and with daylight savings in full effect, I get home before it’s dark. Taking out the dog, plopping on the couch, and cooking myself dinner all seem old hat by this point. It’s part of routine that goes back many years. But it’s the 12 hours that precede this ritual that seem somewhat novel, and sometimes make business school seem like a faded, ancient memory.
Things are a lot more rigid now. A few months ago, I showed up to a school building whenever I felt like it, perhaps wearing a pair of raggedy jeans, ready to interject whenever a professor said something objectionable. Now, I have a much more strict schedule … I remembered where worker bees got their name from.
It’s not all bad, though. There’s something to be said for earning an honest day’s paycheck, for functioning like an adult, and for moving on. But there are a lot of things I now miss about business school, even though several are more or less unexpected:
Yes, I’m aware that I live in a large city, and that happy hour is never more than a block or two away. But it isn’t the same. The level of burnout is somewhat higher at work; sometimes, Friday celebrations are a little bit more subdued.
If you’d have asked me about this a few months ago, I probably would have disagreed. At some points, getting involved in extracurricular activities seems like an additional, unnecessary dollop of stress for people who need less of it. But with hindsight, the work you do in leading these clubs seems to be a lot more gratifying. There are equivalents in the workplace, but perhaps they lack the level of solidarity that I saw at Fuqua.
Actually, this is a little misleading. In my job, I’m reading virtually all day long. I read through contracts, agreements, and laws. But business school actually gave me time, and incentive, for going beyond the scope of my job in reading. Perverse as it may sound, I actually came to enjoy reading the Wall Street Journal on a daily basis. Now, the sheer quantity of emails in front of me in the morning prevents that. That’s what weekends are for, I guess.
There were some days during business school that I was free and clear after this time with a dozen hours to do whatever I wanted. I usually had work to get done, but it was at my discretion, and if I could motivate myself to get it done quickly, I’d have been rewarded for it. Not so anymore, and I have it better than most people.
One of the unexpected benefits of business school was it really provided a sense of belonging. Whether you’re at Harvard, or Duke, or even UNC, there’s something distinctive about the community. You become part of it quickly, and even if it’s quirky, you co-opt it as your own. It’s a little harder to do that now. We’ve gotten to a point in corporate history where employment is necessarily fleeting; no one stays in one place forever. You get attached at your own risk; with business school, once you set foot on campus, you’re permanently part of something.