NYC, Wk 2: For people thinking of coming to CEU

The takeaway from week 2 is “If you want to be a leader in a big firm, this is what it’s like; this is how you get there.”

CEU arranged for us to talk at length with the directors of two major private equity funds; a senior VP at a Fortune 100 company; the HR-head and a partner at one of the “Big Four” audit firms; and an independent consultant whose clients include governments all over the globe.  We learned about what these leaders do.  But the “only possible in NY” value lay in noticing these leaders’ bearing as they responded to our questions ― the way they communicate, the way they think.

For the reader who is thinking about attending CEU, it may be equally important to think about how to optimize your time in NY.  Two suggestions: network and prepare well.

CEU held a networking reception this week.  We met alumni from CEU’s business school and main campus (which includes Public Policy, History, etc.), who now work in NY.  I connected with two graduates ― one later gave me a tour of his company’s headquarters; the other gave me useful tips on living economically in this expensive city.  The CEU alumni are doing exciting things here and want to support us.

To prepare well means a number of things.  Obvious things include arriving at our classroom or offsite locations early and informed.  If you’re late and haven’t read up on the speakers, you short-change yourself and inconvenience your colleagues who must wait for you.  Moreover, you contribute to an atmosphere of carelessness, which makes CEU look bad and adds to the risk that these leaders will decline future meetings with CEU students.

The NY module includes TAs (Teaching Assistants), who have such defined jobs as keeping track of attendance, cleaning the classroom, etc.  Students apply to be TAs months in advance of NY.  If you become a TA, it’s an excellent opportunity to go beyond the defined role and really help your colleagues prepare well.  You can be a reliable information hub for your colleagues.  You can pro-actively communicate changes to the schedule, distribute articles about the speakers beforehand, open the classroom 30 minutes ahead of class.  When unexpected problems occur, you can say, “Although this is not my fault, I will try to create a solution.”  Your responsibility-seeking attitude and beyond-the-call-of-duty effort will get noticed ― by your peers and by the guest leaders.  And getting noticed for good things will help your career in ways you cannot predict.

Finally, you can prepare months before you set foot in NY.  CEU is open to you proposing visits to NY companies that you are interested in, not just the ones they plan.  If you have ideas, pitch them to the professors in the fall or winter.

Networking and solid preparation will move your NY experience from good to transformative.

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