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MitaliPOV

Danielle Mitalipov (MBA ’25) offers advice to conflicted MBA students.


This marks the first edition of the Harbus advice column, MitaliPOV, where we answer anonymous questions on topics ranging from career woes to romantic dilemmas. Creative liberties are taken with student signatures, but otherwise these queries are directly from HBS students!


“What should I do if I have a crush on someone in my section? RC year is ending so it's more socially acceptable to do something about it, but summer is coming up!”  Hopeful in the Homestretch


Dear Hopeful,


We are such fleeting, fragile beings, here for a wisp of a moment then gone the next. The sage Roman poet Horace warned that the promise of tomorrow is an illusion to which we shackle ourselves, at the cost of seizing today. Another great mind (Benjamin Franklin, although the quote is often misattributed to Albert Einstein) advised us that there are only two guarantees in life: death and taxes. Put less poetically – life is short, so ask them out for heaven’s sake! Don’t take my word for it – the wise people of Section G have at least 5 intersection couples and seem to be having a blast. 


Let’s put on our FIN hats and value this romantic option. What’s the downside? You said it yourself – RC year is ending and summer is around the corner. Even if you get turned down or things otherwise fizzle out, the days of having to see them at 9:10 / 9:30 every morning are numbered. Sure, you might have an awkward bump in at the odd section event in EC year, but that’s a relatively small price to pay for taking a glorious leap into a potentially rewarding unknown. Besides, you’ll have the ultimate escape route: 90 other people to frantically strike up a conversation with! There’s even an HBS-approved menu of questions to choose from: how was your summer, what classes are you taking, do you think the Fed will decrease rates soon?


The upside? It could range from a fun summer fling (massively underrated!) to a lifetime of love and partnership – if you want more statistical rigor, Rory Finnegan (MBA ’24) writes in a brilliant Harbus article: “An HBS survey from 2015 reported that of alumni between ages 25 and 30, 31% of married women and 16% of married men had tied the knot with a fellow HBS alum.” I’m no finance whiz, but the probability-weighted outcome of this gamble seems like a no-brainer – and besides, didn’t the Black-Scholes model teach us that uncertainty makes an option more valuable? Even if things don’t go your way, you will have taken a step toward realizing a new, more daring version of yourself. That will be its own precious gift that will leave you in-the-money guaranteed – yes, guaranteed, Benjamin Franklin quotes be damned. Carpe diem!


__________


“Do you have advice for couples where an MBA internship (or full time job) will take them to separate places over the summer / post-grad? It’s my first time doing long distance.” – Navigating New Distances


Dear Navigating,


Long distance is a challenge, but eminently doable when temporary! To ease the friction of the miles between you, make sure to establish norms of communication with your significant other. Can you plan to visit one another in person? When, and how often, do you want to call each other? Text? Send silly memes via Twitter? What would a virtual date look like – could you watch a movie or try a new recipe together via Zoom? I am not, of course, advocating for developing an agile standup routine with your beloved, but careful planning can help you feel connected even when your loved one isn’t physically present. It’s a practice that will serve you well even when you’re reunited – 33% of divorcees attribute the dissolution of their relationship to poor communication. 


Ultimately, though, few relationships can withstand being apart indefinitely. So I’ll recommend one more tricky conversation with your partner: how do you plan to close the distance? Are either of your career paths, for instance, more amenable to remote work or relocation? Consultants, for instance, are able to transfer offices with relative ease if they can provide a compelling case to HR. If no easy solutions exist, is one of you willing to sacrifice somewhat on their ideal job or location in the short term? If so, what compromises will the other make? It’s critical to be aware of potential power dynamics in these negotiations – women, for example, are statistically more likely to give up career advances to support a partner or start a family. Intentionally crafting a long term plan for equalizing these costs will help prevent resentment from taking root in your relationship. 


It’s possible that you’ll realize neither of you are willing to make these trade-offs, or that your career paths make them prohibitive. In that case, you might make the difficult decision to part ways – but at least you’ll do so mutually, with a clear-eyed view of the future, instead of coming more bitterly to the same conclusion months or years down the line. And if you do make the choice to stick together, there will be a concrete path towards your reunion. Having an end in sight will help make the distance more bearable – good luck!


__________


“I still don’t have an internship…” – Eager for Employment


Dear Eager,


First of all, don’t panic – you’re not alone! About 20% of the class of 2024 didn’t undertake a summer internship, and similarly 20% of the class of 2023 didn’t have a job within three months of graduation. This might seem like cold comfort, but it’s a tough job market out there, so keep your chin up and don’t take this as a reflection of your personal skills and qualifications. 


In better news, the economy is forecasted to rebound in 2025, just in time for graduation! Anecdotally speaking, many ECs I’ve spoken to report that an MBA internship is far from a prerequisite for full-time employment. The only question that remains is how you can maximize your summer. Of course, you should continue to seek out an internship, perhaps broadening your search to consider other opportunities – startups, for example, tend to recruit later in the spring, and over a third of sustainability internships are secured in April or May according to CPD. New job postings crop up daily on 12twenty, but don’t neglect your network or the power of cold outreach in the job hunt!


Even if you don’t obtain an internship, there are plenty of options available to you. You could be one of the 14% of students who pursue starting a business for the summer – are there any wild ideas you’ve been entertaining, ideally one that will give you some relevant experience in your industry or function of choice? If all that white space is overwhelming, an appointment with a CPD coach or the Rock Center can help give you focus for the next three months. Alternatively, consider building your skills in other ways, perhaps by enrolling in trainings, workshops, or certificate programs that will come in useful for your full time job search. 


Finally, I’ll plug an option that’s underappreciated in the never ending hustle culture of HBS: take a break! I promise you will find a job after HBS – if I’m wrong in this prediction, feel free to hunt me down for a well-deserved “I told you so.” But hey, you asked for my advice, so let’s assume I’m right, in which case you can look forward to starting to climb the corporate ladder upon graduation, a rewarding but grueling journey that (likely) won’t stop until retirement. At various rungs along the way to your career summit, you’ll probably think back wistfully on your MBA summer as one of your last chances to explore and learn about yourself for an extended period of time. Think of this as an insurance policy against a future midlife crisis – find yourself now, and not in twenty years time when you have a mortgage and college tuition to pay for. Maybe you’d like to travel outside the rigid constraints of a 100+ person trek, or train for a marathon, or start that literary magazine that you keep noodling on during the ephemeral breaks between cases. Those are some of the ideas I’ve been kicking around, at any rate – yes, Eager, I too am still not sure of my summer plans! 


We are often so busy trying to fulfill the HBS mission of being a leader that makes a difference in the world that we have little time to think about another important question HBS asks us, one that it borrows from poet Mary Oliver and which you can find in the countless portraits hanging in Spangler Hall: What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? You don’t have to know for certain – honestly, life would be pretty boring if you did – but you can at least take a summer to think about it. 


Danielle Mitalipov (MBA '25) is an RC interested in scaling climate technology and renewable energy generation. She is a Student Sustainability Associate (SSA), and helped organize the HBS Climate Symposium. Prior to HBS, she studied philosophy at Stanford University, and led merchandising for a global brand at adidas. Outside of school, she is usually writing or watching the latest release at the Coolidge Corner Theater.


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