Starting Over During an EMBA Program

When we started our Darden EMBA journey back in August 2015, the career advising center recommended we wait until after our China trip (which was last month) to make a career move as we would then enter electives and a slightly less aggressive schedule; I probably should have listened.

In the midst of our core curriculum, I did something crazy. I resigned from the federal government to use my remaining time as a student to explore entrepreneurism and compare it to my career options. I did this while taking finance, accounting, marketing, and strategy.

Soon after resigning, our class had our second week-long leadership residency (LR2) at Darden. The curriculum for LR2–centered on leading change–required a lot of self-reflection and turned out to be pretty emotionally draining. Even being an extrovert, it took me almost two weeks to emotionally recover from the week-long experience. Unfortunately for those of you that seek a Darden EMBA after me, you will not have this same experience as the new format starting this year eliminated the LR2 ‘leading change’ week.

I learned a lot about myself though and really wish I would have written about it while it was still fresh. What I expected to be semi-dry curriculum on how to change an organization actually urned out to be a highly engaging look at how not only to lead change, but also how to change ourselves.

What I found most disturbing is I think I identified exactly why I was so unhappy in the job I left. It was so easy to place blame on the organization or certain managers or the leadership as a whole, but ultimately I was personally responsible for my own unhappiness. I realized my own high expectations and arrogance at wanting my organization to run a certain way (my way of course) prevented me from enjoying my job and certainly prevented me from advancing (and potentially having an opportunity to make positive change). Yes, my old agency has problems and could use some positive changes, but I forgot the lesson I learned so well in the Army, don’t be the new guy in the organization trying to change the culture.

For many other reasons, I still think I made the right decision in resigning. While I haven’t had a paycheck in 8 months, I also haven’t woken up unhappy, I haven’t come home from work unhappy, and I’ve been able to connect with so many innovative, creative thinkers. I’m highly optimistic for the future; I haven’t felt that type of optimism in a very long time. I smile more, and much more pleasant to be around, and my stress levels have dropped significantly. This was not because I was stressed with my workload, it was simply because I was stressed about how unhappy I was with my job.

Since then, I’ve spent most of my time starting a new business with my sister. She’s been a real estate agent for over a decade, and I’ve always thought she could really accelerate and elevate her business through innovation and by using the right tools. I always saw the real estate industry as ripe for disruption and the perfect opportunity to test the entrepreneurial waters. I have much to say about how that’s worked out so far, so stay tuned.

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