I don’t have many career aspirations.
At the age of 39, I thought I would be a human resources lady and a mom. The fact that I write and speak for a living is very crazy. And it’s even weirder when leaders ask me for strategic advice.
I always think, “What the hell do I know? I’m just a fraud, wrapped in yoga pants, traveling around the world to fun places, doing Pilates in my spare time until someone figures me out.”
(Yeah, I suffer. Tough to be LFR.)
The good news is that my career thrives despite my lack of ambition. I have been asked to sit on several advisory boards. That is fun. I am finalizing many of those opportunities right now. And I was asked to sit on an official board, too!
(Here’s the difference between a strategic advisory board and a board of directors.)
The bad news is that I turned down the BOD opportunity because I was scared. I didn’t feel ready. I worried that I wasn’t smart enough. I wanted to learn more about compliance and compensation before I made a huge commitment to a growing company.
Yeah, I know. So dumb. Can you imagine some dude saying this?
To build my confidence, I applied for the Women’s Director Development program at the Kellogg School of Management. It’s a three-day course that runs about $7,000. NBD, right? That’s an investment in my future.
I applied online. Easy peasy. I didn’t have to describe myself in great detail, and I didn’t have to write an essay. No one called me for an interview. Capital One asks for more information to qualify for a high-interest, low-limit credit card.
Several weeks later, I was denied enrollment.
Hey, look, it’s fine. It was a long shot. But I just expected a more personalized experience from Kellogg. So I decided to be transparent about my feelings. I sent an email to the program chair and said, “Did I miss something? As someone who knows a thing or two about interviewing candidates, my experience with the Women’s Director Development Program has been disappointing. I’m bummed. I expected a little more.”
I heard back from an executive development advisor, whatever the hell that is, and she told me that the center manager — aka the person in charge — was out of the office. Someone would get back to me ASAP.
That was March 5th.
Again, I am not mad. I know it must seem like I am irritated. Actually I’m typing this with one hand while I eat a pretzel rod dunked in Nutella with the other hand. Life is good. And I’ve had six weeks to think about the lessons I want to share with you.
- Whenever someone tells you that they’re interested in empowering women, it is probably a marketing ploy.
- When someone asks you to sit on the board, you always say yes. I shouldn’t have doubted myself. No dude doubts himself so easily.
- And I should have acted like a man and asked a Kellogg alum to get me into the program. Only in America would a bunch of academics and administrators — fueled by the last vestiges of a bankrupt endowment fund — have the audacity to decline my enrollment.
Listen, I know that I don’t know what I don’t know. (Does that make sense?) I acknowledge that I have tons to learn. But I am nobody’s fool. I really don’t need Kellogg. I can help companies grow. I can raise rounds of funding. And I can advise CEOs and executive teams on sales, marketing and customer retention strategies that help companies grow and generate recurring revenue.
I know this because I already do some of it.
I was willing to spend some cash on a Kellogg certificate because I believed in the brand, but this experience reinforced what I already understood: academics and administrators always ruin their brands by overestimating the value proposition and delivering horrible user experiences.
For $7,000, I will take more pilates classes and enjoy a fabulous vacation.
That’s the real lesson.