General David Petraeus once said, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." When I left the military and entered the workforce, I felt my leadership experience wasn’t substantial enough to be successful professionally. To me, going to business school wasn’t a matter of if, but when. I knew I wanted to move back to Houston and join the energy industry, but I couldn’t afford to take time from my career to pursue a full-time MBA and miss what might be my best entry point into the industry.
Now that I'm in the Executive MBA Program at Chicago Booth, I am grateful for the ability to apply what I learn in class to my work right away. In one of my electives courses at Booth, Persuasion: Effective Business Communication, we talked about the concept of “superpowers”, and how identifying them can help you frame your personal value proposition. According to Professor Hal Weitzman, “an interview is the ultimate persuasive exercise,” and this class literally could not have come at a better time for me.
COVID-19 has affected the oil and gas industry by changing the demand for consumer products such as gasoline and jet fuel. With fewer people driving and flying these days, the industry experienced quite the demand shock and the new norm has been reflected in a lower price. My company, as well as competitors like British Petroleum and Chevron, announced that thousands of jobs would be eliminated this year due to the crisis. Soon after the crisis hit, I learned that my job was going to be eliminated. Thankfully, I was able to directly apply what I learned in Persuasion to the ultimate test: a job interview.
In this changed environment, the job market internally at Shell was extremely competitive. Multiple people were applying for just one role. I knew that if I wanted to stay at my company, I had to stand out. The stakes were extremely high; looking for a job while in school was challenging enough but being laid off and having to start the process all over again in this post-COVID environment really motivated me to do well on the interview.
After the class on “superpowers,” I asked Professor Weitzman if I could get some time with him to really hone my superpower. He agreed, and in our session, we had a mock interview where he asked me the classic interview question: “Tell me about yourself.” We practiced my “superpower pitch,” and after each iteration, he gave me feedback and we continued. After several attempts, I was able to refine my pitch, get my story straight, and provide examples to really demonstrate my value proposition. Later that week, when I had my interview, I got to apply what I learned.
The interview was an opportunity to showcase my value and persuade the hiring manager of my unique “superpower” and how it set me apart from other candidates. I provided tailored examples of where this unique attribute brought value to the company and had an opportunity to discuss my fit for the role. The feedback and coaching that I received with Professor Weitzman was invaluable. I was able to share my “superpower,” and in turn, I received a job offer just days later. My initial decision to go to Booth, and even to take this class, wasn’t just luck: it was preparation meeting opportunity.