When I entered the Frankfurt School (FS) building in October 2021 wearing business formal and heels, instead of pride, curiosity or happiness, I felt fear and insecurity – exactly the same feelings I experienced eleven years ago on the first day of my undergraduate studies.
Luckily, I could shake off these thoughts very fast, because today I know that “fitting in” is a myth. So, if you ever worried about not fitting into the Executive MBA programme (EMBA), let me share with you what made me realize that I do “fit” in:
Trying to fit in was a huge weight holding me back both my entire personal life and professional life. I started working at the age of 25 and had an immensely fast career development. Just after two and a half years at the company, I was leading three teams with around 30 people. Obviously, along the way, I was turning heads, as I was considered the “the young one” without any previous (people) management experience. Plus, I am a woman in IT, which makes my career even more “unusual” – at least that’s what people thought. Hearing many comments about my professional success, it felt that (some) people were almost waiting for me to fail. I was doubting myself and every professional move I made, since I was often the exact opposite of how a manager in the business world looks, speaks or behaves.
I never understood why I should not be wearing sneakers in the office, or why I cannot joke with clients in a meeting? Why should I not tell my colleagues or managers that I disagree or don’t understand something? Why should I not make the Harry Potter or Friends reference in a team call, when it simply fits perfectly? To summarise: Why should I pretend to be someone I am not to adhere to some unwritten rules?
While it seemed as if I was walking through my career with ease, making right moves full of self-confidence and representing a “charmingly unconventional way of doing things” (a direct quote from a former manager), I constantly thought I was failing despite all my professional achievements. Additionally, I was experiencing the same pattern in my personal life. I was struggling mentally and was afraid of taking important decisions for the fear of doing something outside the social norms. Thanks to great support but also effort and work from my side, I am now able to see that I don’t need to change my whole personality to “fit in” anywhere. I’m embracing the fact that I’m not always like others and no longer see it as a disadvantage – in my personal and professional life
When I started to think about an MBA, I had major concerns that I was too young, too inexperienced, too “unprofessional”. After all, already the idea of wearing business formal on opening day made me nervous. How should I manage an Executive (!) MBA programme?
I told myself to ignore all these thoughts and still apply for the EMBA. Using my rather unconventional resume as my advantage, the FS recruiting team saw my potential. And because of that, I know that the programme and the school were the right match for me – nobody at Frankfurt School has ever given me the feeling that I don’t fit in. At the end of the day, there is simply no such thing as “the typical EMBA student”. We’re all different, we all have our edges, strengths and weaknesses and exactly that diversity is what makes the program so rewarding.
And as a side note: Already by the end of the opening day I got out of my heels and put on my sneakers – and I have never walked into the Frankfurt School building not wearing sneakers ever since.