Why I Coach—Sean Lauer

Sean L., an expert Leland coach and Darden MBA, outlines why he chooses to coach and what it means to him.

Sean L.

By Sean L.

Posted August 22, 2022

Plain and simple: I coach because there’s no more rewarding act than helping other people achieve their goals.

I come from a background that MBA folks like to call “non-traditional.” (I know this phrase gets bandied around a lot these days, but I actually think it’s merited in this case.) Prior to business school, I’d never worked in finance, banking, consulting, or tech. I had some recognizable brands on my resume (CBS, the Parsons School of Design), but I’d taken multiple different career paths after undergrad and had gone back to school once already (did I mention the Parsons School of Design?). To say this was the path less traveled is an understatement. I was trying to chart my own course, to answer the age old question: what do I want to do with my life?

In reflecting on my journey, there’s one conversation that really propelled me. It took place almost twenty years ago, when I was at UVA as an undergrad. Professor James Burroughs, who taught my Consumer Behavior class, called me into his office and asked me about my future. As an inexperienced, somewhat naïve 21 year old, I didn’t know how to answer his question — I knew a lot more about what I didn’t want to do than what I did want to do.

Burroughs and I talked for a while about this and that — my performance in his class, different internship opportunities. We didn’t reach any consensus about what I should do. There certainly wasn’t any profound “aha” moment. But my professor ended the conversation with a line that has stuck with me to this day. He looked me in the eye and said: “Sean, whatever you choose to do, you’re going to be great. You just have to figure out what it is.”

Now, this might sound trite, but this small drop of belief gave me the confidence to chart that nontraditional career path I mentioned: to make the nonobvious choices, to zig while others zagged. His words helped me choose a job at Anheuser-Busch, then gave me the courage to leave when that job wasn’t right for me. His words led me to, then away, from Twitter. His words have landed me in my current role, as Head of Product Marketing at MURAL, a role that, while stressful, I know I was born to do.

My professor’s words are also, in part, why I coach. The truth is, I didn’t have much, or really any, coaching when I applied to UVA again, this time for business school. What I did have were my professor’s words, echoing in my head. Our conversation was fresh in my mind when I filled in my application, wrote my essays. I thought about how profound his impact was on me — and how different my life would have been if he hadn’t taken the time to call me into his office and offer those small words of affirmation.

This, then, is why I coach — because sometimes all it takes is a few words. A few words to give you the confidence you need to pursue your own path, however nontraditional it might be; a few words to propel you as you kickstart your career in whatever industry you choose; a few words to guide you through the stressful MBA admissions process, whether on your application strategy or your essays. I want to do for you what my professor did for me.

That’s why I coach.

Interested in working together on your MBA application? Click here for my Leland coaching profile.

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