There’s an often misattributed quote to the effect of: “Knowledge is learning from your own mistakes. Wisdom is learning from the mistakes of others.” Regardless of who said it, I think there’s a nugget of truth in there. So to that end, I’m going to share two anecdotes from my own life — two mistakes, two humbling lessons. You may gain a little wisdom, but if nothing else, you’ll understand why I coach.
It was my junior year of high school. Despite the fact that I was bouncing from homeless shelter to homeless shelter, I dreamed of going to college. And because I fancied myself smart, I aimed for the top — Harvard. I pored over the details of the written application, labored over my resume, spent weeks on my essays. I thought I had Harvard in the bag.
What I didn’t prepare for, however, was the interview. When it came time, I found myself in a room, sitting across from an alum, with golden opportunity to prove myself — and I froze. I couldn’t think of insightful questions to ask about the alum’s experience, couldn’t explain why Harvard was the right school for me, couldn’t articulate why I was worthy. I bombed.
It’s not enough to create a character on paper. You have to be able to show up in a conversation.
I ended up going to college at UCLA, where I was offered a scholarship to study chemical engineering. When I graduated I took a job at Anheuser-Busch. Soon after starting, I had a shot at a promotion. This time, I made sure I was prepared for the interview. I learned everything I could about the role, had my talking points down, and even prepared a few questions. I went in confident; the interview went really well. I didn’t get the job.
When I asked for feedback, a mentor of mine (who’d also been one of the interviewers) told me: “Mavrick, you’re always interviewing.”
Lesson #2: Interviewing isn’t just about how you show up in a formal, thirty minute conversation. It’s about the way you carry yourself all the time.
So, why am I sharing these stories?
As a result of these two hard-won lessons, I’ve made it a habit to not only be great at interviewing, but to learn how to present myself with confidence — what some might call “executive presence” (though that phrase sounds a little cringe-y). I’d consider myself much better at this now than I was years ago, but only because I’ve worked at it — you just read about how un-executive my presence was when I started out. The point is, if you work at it — if you practice interviewing, and showing up with confidence in your life — it can really make a difference.
Here’s how I know. When I applied to Chicago Booth for business school, I was booked for an hour long interview. After 25 minutes, the interviewer asked if I wanted to enjoy the beautiful Chicago afternoon, and we ended early. I panicked, thinking I’d failed. Turns out, my interviewer had heard enough to admit me before we’d hit the halfway mark.
This, then, is why I coach — because if I can go from being homeless to getting an MBA from a top business school, then you can learn how to crush your admissions interview. The interview is low key one of the most important, and trickiest, part of the admissions process — but with a little help, you can impress your interviewer the way I did mine. If you’re looking to learn how to prep for your interview, how to show up with confidence — with, dare I say, executive presence — then I’d be thrilled to work with you.
Together, we can do this.
Interested in working together on your MBA application? Click here for my Leland coaching profile.