Friday, June 6, 2008

What Did I Do Yesterday to Help Me Be Better Today

I don't know that I plan to make this a recurring post every week, and I certainly don't plan to post on this idea every day, but I felt like writing a general post on the idea of daily planning and progress. After all, how can I reach my dreams if I don't take steps each day to do so?

This past week, I have been to two bookstores to get study books for the GMAT, the Graduate Management Admissions Test. It's the like SAT for graduate business schools. I got the first book because I couldn't initially find the second one. The first book, though, had a companion CD-ROM that did not work - it crashed every single time I tried the test on two different computers. So, I went to another store to get the book I really wanted - Kaplan, the creme de la creme of of test preparation. When I took the GMAT six and a half years ago (amazing to see those words), the only thing I did to prepare was use Kaplan's CD-ROM. So, now that I need to take it again, I wanted the program that helped me when it mattered.

Now that I have Kaplan's book and software, I have done several practice tests. I feel better about retaking the test, which could play a part in deciding my future. I don't like statistics deciding my future any more than most people, but it helps when the data plays in my favor. So, I'm handling the little details I will want out of the way when the time comes to apply to different programs.

For anyone reading this and looking for the subtext, I have started looking into getting my Ph.D. in business. So I have also spent a lot of the last two weeks looking at different programs of study and different business schools to determine which ones I should apply to, and which one I would most like to attend. Before I started looking, I already knew I would consider organizational behavior, strategy, and entrepreneurship. I have seen programs that offer the first two under a more broad heading called "management and organization" while others have offered programs in "strategy and organizational theory." For anyone who has taken microeconomics and macroeconomics, organizational behavior is the "micro" field while organizational theory and strategy are the "macro" field in management. O.B. examines individuals and groups and how they interact with the firm (the organization). It also studies human resource considerations such as how to find the right people to fill a need within a firm. Strategy looks at the firm as a whole and examines its abilities, its specialization, and its direction. Strategy might also examine how the firm interacts with the competitive environment, whether the firm has branched out into fields that are diminishing the competitive advantage (or failed to branch out into logical fields that would improve that advantage), and other "big picture" concerns. Not to leave out my other interest, entrepreneurship studies how new businesses are formed, the people who form them, and how existing businesses can use entrepreneurial ideas to improve and compete. These areas may bore some people to tears, but all of them fascinate me, and I would enjoy studying any of them. The question I must answer is which one I want to specialize in for my dissertation and later research.

In my quest to determine what I should pursue, I had an amazing conversation with someone at one of the business schools. I was very encouraged by his attitude, and he seemed very interested to see me pursue my degree. He even gave me an excellent idea for how to frame my interests into a dissertation within the context of one of those disciplines - something few candidates have in mind until they're in a program. I have also exchanged emails with several of my former professors that have helped me know which schools to choose from - unfortunately U.S. News and World Report doesn't have an issue on "top Ph.D. programs in business". Since ten percent of the people who get bachelor's degrees get masters degrees, and ten percent of those get Ph.D.'s (and most of those probably not in business), there are only so many people to ask about programs like these. Still, I feel like I have a selection of schools now, and as I get to know more about them I will move them up or down on my list. Hopefully we'll be able to visit the finalists and make a truly informed decision.

Now back to taking the GMAT practice tests.

-- Robert

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