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Strengths & Weaknesses Essay Samples
Many MBA applications include a strengths and weaknesses essay prompt, either directly or indirectly.
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In the meantime, see examples of strengths and weaknesses essays from our successful admits below.
My diverse upbringing and career choices have provided me with a broad skill set that I intend to further cultivate in business school. My analytical and interpersonal skills have been integral to my success, and I aim to further enhance these skills while also honing my leadership abilities at Kenan-Flagler.
Analytical skills are instrumental in my role as a planner at Fossil Inc where I combine historical sales metrics with current trends to forecast sales opportunities and maximize sales potential nation-wide. Working on a tight budget, I scrutinize sales and inventory reports to make the most accurate allocation and purchasing decisions. My precision in forecasting has led my team to achieve the most productive product assortment of any Fossil merchandise category. Most recently, I architected the Holiday 2010 Sunwear assortment purchase for North American stores by determining which silhouettes sold best in different geographies and which price points were the most effective in certain regions. For instance, large round shaped frames are not as productive in many west coast and Hawaii stores as these shapes do not fit Asian faces as well. Also, customers are less price-sensitive in Las Vegas and New York, as most of the customer base is tourists who are willing to pay higher prices. Because of my precise analysis of purchasing trends, I created a highly accurate assortment purchase and led my team to achieve same-store comparative sales of +6% in October, a result that had not been reached in over 14 months.
Interpersonal skills have also driven my career success to date. When working with the international planning department, I was quickly recognized for these skills and was selected to serve as an ambassador to our international counterparts when they visited the corporate headquarters, directing them to meetings and organizing break-out sessions with the individual planning groups. Due in part to my strong interpersonal abilities, I was moved to the domestic planning team where I have relished the challenge of more corporate and executive exposure. I quickly became the contact person within the stores planning department for the entire Sunwear business, partnering with our wholesale teams to discuss best practices and sales drivers.
While I have also been recognized for my leadership skills, leadership is a strength I intend to leverage in the future as I progress up the management ranks. Recently at Fossil, I assumed an ad-hoc leadership role on my team and was selected to be the new store coordinator based on my performance. Organizing meetings, communicating critical milestones and ensuring flawless execution of product delivery, I have led the store planning team in the opening of 18 new global sites in 2010 and will lay the framework to open an additional 50 sites in 2011. At Kenan-Flagler, I plan to continue my leadership development by assuming the role of team leader on a STAR team, where I will gain unmatched real world and leadership experience and skills. I also intend to leverage the “continuous learning cycle” method and the leadership development program at Kenan-Flagler to evolve into a recognized leader in my newly launched career.
?Leadership ability is one of my greatest strengths. The most vivid example of this ability was my role spearheading the move of our $3 billion Wealth Management business from Matstone to GTR amid the chaotic financial system meltdown and the collapse of our firm in 2008. My attention to detail, organization, and capacity to adapt quickly resulted in significant progress, but it was my ability to effectively delegate responsibilities and empower team members that enabled us to be successful. As a leader, my open-minded, results-driven style made me more productive and respected and I used feedback from my team to make effective changes in my management style. My versatility and self-awareness elicited a positive response from my team members, which was reflected in their attitudes and in the quality of their work. The end result: today we operate as one of the largest and most successful teams at GTR.
Another area of strength is my communication skills, which are essential to building and fostering relationships in the financial services industry. The dynamic interrelationships of markets and the growing complexity of financial products regularly exceed clients’ levels of sophistication and it is my job to interpret and explain these investments in a language they can easily understand. During Matstone’s bankruptcy, I interacted in person and over the phone with our panicked clients to comfort and reassure them we were actively seeking the most accurate information and consistently looking out for their best interests.
An additional strength is my ability to think analytically across a wide spectrum of interrelated disciplines, from trading to developing investment solutions, to estate planning and operations. In Wealth Management, decision-making occurs in real-time and requires the ability to proactively synthesize large amounts of information and react accordingly. I earned the CFA designation in 2008 to further develop my analytical skills and it is this critical thinking ability that has drawn clients to seek my advice and perspective, adding value to our team and to GTR. I look forward to leveraging my creative and teambuilding skills while capitalizing on the diverse curriculum offered at Kenan-Flagler. The STAR program, for example, will provide me with an entrée into the consulting field and the opportunity to work collaboratively with students and global business leaders, turning real world business challenges into profitable business solutions. As a varsity “athlete” at Kenan-Flagler, I am also eager to utilize these skills as an active participant in case competitions, leading my team to a first place finish over Duke University in the “Battle of the Blues.”
Philanthropy is also an integral part of my life and I intend to leverage my extensive non-profit leadership experience while continuing my commitment to community service at Kenan-Flagler. As a leader of the Kenan-Flagler Habitat for Humanity Project, an organization for which I have done extensive work, I can contribute to an MBA culture that exemplifies a positive impact on society and supports leadership development on campus and in the UNC-Chapel Hill community.
I define myself as a person with strong values, intelligence, passion and perseverance, who is committed to making a difference in her country and her region. These qualities were instilled in me at an early age by my family and my environment.
My father’s death when I was one year old changed my life significantly. To cover her grief, my mother put her focus on my education during my pre-school years. Through her commitment I entered school directly into the second grade and since then, I have succeeded in doing many things earlier in life. Although, at times I was put in situations I was not really prepared for, including entering university as a precocious age of 15 years old, on the whole, I have matured faster than people my age, built a strong character to overcome challenges, and become self-confident. These qualities have helped me achieve success both personally and professionally: I was a top performer in my marketing career in three international companies; I lived and thrived in three different foreign countries; and most recently, I started my own venture.
My mother also instilled in me a strong moral character. That strength, coupled with my problem solving skills, makes me a good leader; I have led teams successfully in diverse situations with different leadership styles, from an intellectual style based on data-driven decision-making and strong analytical thinking, to a more participative style, requesting ideas and fostering teamwork. I am aware of my weaknesses too: I am impatient, it is difficult for me to deal with ambiguity, and sometimes I react quickly and emotionally. To overcome these weaknesses, I keep a log of the situations that trigger them so I will be more careful in the future. I also seek out coaching from people who are strong in these areas, and read relevant self-help materials.
Starting my own venture helped me further develop perseverance and overcome my impatience. Launching my company was very difficult because I lacked a network in Chile, knowledge of the country, and experience starting a business. However, with perseverance and creativity I learned how to make an impact and provide a compelling offer to local companies, I also learned how to absorb negative answers and deal with adversity. After the success of my first project, people learned about my good service and my business is now well positioned.
Perhaps the most important aspects of my upbringing in Canada was seeing the difficulties poor people face first-hand. I am aware of the advantages I have received, and I am passionate and committed to improve the quality of life of all North Americans.
One of John’ greatest strengths is his personal drive. Even though he has a full workload, often requiring weekend work, he requested authority to hire and manage an intern this year too. Though it added to his work-load, John felt that an internship program would give us an opportunity to develop talented young people for future positions, while providing local students with the experience they need in today’s competitive job market. John has also taken this opportunity to build on his own management and delegation skills. However, drive alone does not translate into high performance. John is extremely intelligent; he grasps and synthesizes complex concepts quickly. I can think of numerous instances where I explained a complicated accounting concept to John, and he quickly demonstrated a firm understanding and incorporated it into a financial model. Also, John stands out among his peers for his work ethic. We can always count on him to take on extra projects with immediate deadlines. It is never necessary to ask John to stay late or put in extra time as he takes the initiate to put in whatever it takes. Moreover, he completes these extra projects by the deadlines every time, while continuing to complete his standard duties in a timely manner as well. Finally, John is committed to giving back. He places a high priority on contributing his time to help Oregon State students. Additionally, he coaches the varsity girls’ volleyball team at a local high school.
The Library Foundation’s (TLF) motto reads that “the love of learning is the guide of life.” I have always lived my life to this effect, majoring in History and studying and travelling abroad whenever possible. Desiring to give back and inspire others to follow their own love of learning, I became involved in TLF, initially through fundraising and later through a program called The Upper School Awards, whose proceeds go towards scholarships for local, underprivileged students. I volunteered to co-chair the awards committee and read through each application. I was honored to present these awards to the recipients in a ceremony at the TLF headquarters.
Following this effort, I further collaborated with a TLF Board member to spearhead a Fundraising Committee, not only to continue raising money for the Upper School Awards, but also to fundraise for member events and speaker series, and eventually launch a small endowment. We created a proposal and presented to the Board, discussing the reasons why we felt this committee would be fruitful to TLF, our monetary goals for the year and specifics as to how we planned to raise money through donations and special events. The Board ultimately voted in favor of the Committee and members of the association recognized my dedication to the organization and its cause; as a result, I was elected to become the youngest Executive Committee Member on TLF’s Board.
Through this experience I learned that I am adaptable. When asked to co-chair the High School Awards committee, while I did not have direct experience in education, I used my analytical skills and love of learning to select three well-qualified individuals for scholarships. I also learned that I am skilled at communicating effectively not only in the corporate world, but in the non-profit world as well. For instance, I determined it would be worthwhile to invest our limited funds to generate a small return. While other board members had suggested this to no avail in the past, I performed my own due diligence and clearly communicated my findings in layman’s terms to the Board, which ultimately signed off.
Through this experience I also learned that I could be impatient when others are resistant to change, as was the case when I suggested investing our funds. Ultimately, I was successful in this pursuit. However, next time I will approach impatience as an opportunity to find a useful solution, rather than a hindrance in accomplishing a goal. Additionally, I learned that I have difficulty accepting that a non-corporate environment could have a different pace, and there weren’t necessarily the same kinds of experts to which I was accustomed. I am learning to adjust my expectations and in turn take advantage of learning about concepts in non-profits with which I am unfamiliar.
I hope to continue following my love of learning by pursuing an MBA at Tuck. In doing so I am confident I will bring the same enthusiasm for teamwork, adaptability and effective communication as I did to TLF.
I am a leader, and I would like to emphasize a few characteristics I have found to be especially important in terms of my leadership skills. In my opinion, the biggest challenge of leadership is taking responsibility rather than assigning it. I’ve always taken responsibility. For me, personal example is not a slogan, but a regular practice. I believe that a real leader is someone with full integrity and high moral standards and all my life I have striven to keep the highest standards in my personal and professional lives.
I am a very open minded person. While I believe in myself, I am also highly self-critical. My gift, as a journalist, has been to interact with a lot of people who are smarter and more experienced than me. I believe I am a quick learner and for me, criticism is a means of self-improvement. I must admit that I make many mistakes, but I try not to repeat them and to understand what went wrong in order to improve in the future.
I’m a man of action and not a man of words. I know that this statement sounds funny coming from a journalist, but I truly believe first in action. The Jewish leadership includes two items: responsibility and action. A Jewish leader is judged on his deeds, rather than his words.
I tend to make difficult decisions on my own, rather than reaching out for help. This is an advantage when the process requires speed and decisiveness, but I believe that I need to be more open to discussion and that is something I have been focused on improving. I am a very curious individual; over the years I’ve gained an extremely large base of knowledge, but I acknowledge that I lack international exposure as someone who has never been away from my home for more than 4 months. I’m also aware that I don’t have the broad base of knowledge required of a 21st century global manager. I believe studying at HBS could help to address these weaknesses.
Lastly, I am an ambitious and determined individual. My efforts are to keep those characteristics in balance so they will be strengths and not weaknesses. A thorough understanding of personality brings me to the conclusion that balance is the key differentiating factor between strengths and weaknesses. Most characteristics are neutral in nature and the way that you use them determines whether they become a weakness or a strength.
Since an early age, balance has played a critical role in my personal growth. I define balance as embracing new activities and perspectives that challenge me, broaden my worldview, and ultimately allow me to enrich my work environments and communities. Consciously maintaining a balance in all elements of my life has trained me to be versatile and has helped me develop numerous strengths. My team leadership and adaptability skills have grown most under this philosophy.
My life-long passion for team sports culminated in a leadership role as a member of Colgate’s Division I lacrosse team. Although I was not the most physically gifted athlete, I compensated for my lack of innate skill with a dedicated work ethic, uncompromising team loyalty, and strong performance under pressure. A consummate student, my experiences during the first years on the team taught me that the most effective leadership style requires a mix of leading by example and leading by instruction. Recognizing that I was developing these attributes, our coach selected me as captain my senior year. In turn, I leveraged this strength to help lead the team to the Patriot League regular season title.
Subsequently, I have applied the team leadership skills developed on the field to my career, where I have led several teams. Most recently, I partnered with the Global Head of a new sales team at AllianceBernstein to execute the strategic direction of the company. In this role, I have collaborated with multiple levels of stakeholders to determine that we should shift the firm’s sales strategy from one focused on equity products to one oriented towards alternative investments.
Although I have been successful in my post-collegiate career, my career alone does not define me. I am deeply involved in several non-work activities, adapting to each activity’s demands in order to meaningfully contribute. In particular, I embrace and thrive in a diversity of environments. To maintain ties to nature, I annually climb fourteen-thousand foot mountains in my native state, Colorado. To maintain ties to team sports, I captain a club lacrosse team and race for a cycling team in New York. To maintain ties to the arts community, I supportively patronize emerging artists and am a young member of the MET. My most meaningful non-career activity, however, has been my work with two philanthropic organizations in New York: the Fresh Air Fund and Year-Up. Each group supports at-risk urban youth from New York’s five boroughs. My involvement has been balanced between ground level support, tutoring Fresh Air Fund students and mentoring Year-Up participants, and fundraising support, ensuring the organizations have resources to achieve their goals.
While my adaptability and team leadership skills will allow me to immediately contribute to the MBA program, I believe my perspective on seeking balance is the strength that will enable me to truly enrich the McCombs community. I plan to share my experiences and skills with fellow students while leveraging the full resources of the school to gain not merely a degree, but a broadening educational experience.
Living in Malaysia was a defining moment in my life. I attended an international school where I developed an appreciation for diversity as I interacted with people from countless countries and societies. My experiences living and traveling abroad also shaped many life choices I made going forward. I chose to attend Tufts University because of its diverse population, international relations coursework, and extensive study abroad opportunities.
These international experiences have been beneficial thus far in my career, namely in working with global teams at Fossil. These skills will also be an asset to the McCombs community, enabling me to effectively work with diverse classmates on team assignments and club activities. My understanding of other cultures will help me relate to my international peers, serving as a link, when needed, between international and domestic students. While at McCombs, I plan to be an active member of the International MBA Student Association and Graduate Marketing Network. I believe that the purpose and team building on which these associations are built are fundamental components to both a well-rounded MBA experience and an extensive global perspective.
Living abroad also instilled a desire to give back to my community. My family participated in a number of company-organized community outreach events in Malaysia, inspiring me to serve my community since. After college, I decided to focus my efforts on two organizations where I feel I make a substantial impact: Vickery Meadow Learning Center, an ESL center in an impoverished neighborhood, and Attitudes and Attire, a women’s outreach program. My work with both organizations involves helping diverse people turn their lives around, whether it is through teaching English or offering job interview advice. These are highly rewarding experiences as evidenced by my long-standing tenure at each. I strive to hold a leadership role in the Net Impact Student Club, and leverage my business knowledge to help solve social issues in the Austin community. I also plan on making an impact on the Net Impact Club and McCombs community by proposing new local organizations, namely ESL centers, so that my peers can experience their inspiring nature and create personal relationships with the greater Austin community.
I also believe that my retail industry experience will add richness to classroom discussions, and my knowledge of trend identification, strategic data analysis and sales forecasting will be valuable for case studies. Furthermore, because of the entrepreneurial spirit at Fossil, I have sharpened my persuasion skills, as I often propose visual statements or other initiatives to the executive team.
Both my diverse upbringing and retail industry background will bring a fresh perspective to the McCombs classroom and community. Moreover, my involvement in the McCombs community will not end at graduation; I plan on being a dynamic member of my local McCombs alumni chapter. Exposure to diversity and investment in the community are key initiatives in my life, and I intend to make a significant impact at McCombs, both as a student and an alumna.
?One way I’ll enrich the McCombs community during my two years in the program will be by sharing my passion for community service. Giving back is incredibly important to me for a number of reasons, most prevalently because there were times in my youth when my family was on the receiving end of charitable giving. That experience left me with a deep and unwavering commitment to the people and organizations that help families through hard times. I’ll be eager to share this passion by challenging my fellow students to use their unique skills and knowledge to improve the lives of less fortunate people. At McCombs I’ll look to bring my experience as a Life Circuit board member to the Board Fellows program and will work with Net Impact to organize a student trek aimed at meeting and evaluating successful nonprofits in an effort to share best practices and strategy with local nonprofits.
Another way I’ll enrich the McCombs community is by bringing a unique, creative perspective, both inside and outside the classroom. Since graduating with a degree in creative writing, I’ve continually found ways to apply the creative processes I refined in college to problems and opportunities in business. When the Life Circuit faced the inherent challenge of maintaining long-term communication with the homeless youths on the street, I developed an outreach program that relied on social networks, public library computers and a small but spirited troop of volunteers. When LOCO converted to a new data management system, I developed alternative uses for the program that significantly improved my team’s data mining efficiency. At McCombs, I’ll continue to deliver creative solutions and ideas, specifically in terms of innovative approaches to economic development and social capital management.
I’ll also enrich the McCombs community by sharing my passion for health and wellness. Living an active lifestyle became an important part of my life a few years ago when I set out to compete in an Ironman Triathlon, which is a 140.6 mile race composed of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a full 26.2 mile marathon. I had never been much of a runner or biker, let alone an endurance athlete, so the experience was a transformative process. My goal was to go from “everyman” to “Ironman”, and after roughly eight months and over 700 hours of training, I was able to do just that. Going through that transformation motivated me to help others live healthy lifestyles. Now I’m passionate about creating inroads to wellness for novices like me and I write about these efforts on my blog. We all live busy lives and often experience fitness in waves of motivation. However, I have a core belief that when it comes to wellness, a small effort goes a long way and we are all much closer to a healthy life than we realize. Through student clubs, forums, and launching events such as fitness themed fundraisers for nonprofits, I’ll spread this philosophy and passion at McCombs, where I expect to find many students eagerly trying to maintain balance between work, school and personal health.
My first major project as the new store coordinator was arguably one of the largest milestones in Fossil Inc.’s history. A local Fossil Clothing concept store was undergoing a major transformation. The re-opening of this store marked the first full-fledged “lifestyle brand” site, and all corporate staff members, both domestic and global, were eyeing the implementation of this project closely. With the annual proforma rising by 200% and an unparalleled amount of money being spent on the state of the art light fixtures, wall displays, and check-out counter, this site was a very expensive testing ground and astonishing results were anticipated. The execution of this new store opening had to be airtight, and I was determined to deliver tremendous results. When I was presented with the responsibility of launching the new lifestyle brand location, I immediately took action. In order to effectively communicate critical information to my team, I needed to understand the vital tasks involved in a successful store opening. I began attending team meetings with the various departments involved in the new store process, compiled each team’s key objectives and timelines, and kept all team members updated on project progress via email and meetings. In order to balance my new leadership role and my everyday job duties, I knew serious process changes had to be made or I would find myself living at the office.
To ensure the successful execution of this project in the most efficient manner, I established new communication strategies. I created an unprecedented template that displayed the most critical projects pending completion from each team. Amended weekly and distributed to all departments, this template helped all teams involved plan and coordinate tasks better with other teams. I also arranged for the store manager to visit the corporate office, so that my team could field any merchandise questions and explain the financial objectives that needed to be met.
Two weeks prior to the store opening, I received word that the Board of Directors wished to view the space in its completed form the day before the official re-opening. To fill any inventory gaps, I enlisted the support of our wholesale and ecommerce partners. The evening before the Board visit, there were still some key items pending delivery, so I arranged a hand-carry of merchandise from the warehouse to the store and helped with last minute aesthetic touch-ups.
The presentation of the new lifestyle brand location to the Board was a huge success for all teams involved, not to mention critical in my leadership development. I needed to make a solid impression on my colleagues in order for them to fully trust my leadership and organizational skills in my new role. After the project reached completion, I was applauded by my peers for my embodiment of two of Fossil’s Core Values: “Be Resourceful,” and “Be Relentless.”
In reflecting on this experience, I initially found myself struggling with time management, working late hours and inefficiently juggling the two responsibilities. Thus I learned the power of communication in leadership and developed new communication documents and a hands-on approach to correspond with the field team. I not only streamlined my communication to all teams, but was also applauded for my entrepreneurial and resourceful abilities.
Moreover, my experience during this project taught me the ability to think strategically under pressure and take the necessary measures to react to challenges with confidence and positivity. In doing so, I demonstrated my relentless attitude and secured the confidence of my colleagues from my quick, yet calculated response to providing a seamless early viewing of the store to our Board. The store remodel was a huge accomplishment for both the Fossil brand and me. The store has far exceeded financial expectations, and since then, I have played a large role in the successful execution of 18 global Fossil sites in 2010 and will lay the critical framework to open another 50 sites in 2011. ?
My team at Knoxland manages LOCO’s international trade operations. In early 2010, I led a project that became a defining leadership experience in that it challenged my quantitative and analytical abilities, as well as my ability to inspire innovation while managing a group of my peers.
After a long-term review of an ongoing operational problem, I presented a plan to management aimed at reducing LOCO’s risk exposure and operational costs. I asserted I could lead a small cross-functional team to analyze trade flow at boutique brokers and ultimately reduce trade risk and costs by developing customized data management solutions to meet the unique needs of broker-dealers in small and emerging markets.
Once management consented, I began the work of executing the plan. I outlined the project with colleagues from different business units, emphasizing the value it would create for our client. I gained the support of foreign broker representatives by highlighting the benefits they’d see through an improved system. And eventually, once all parties were on-board, I led the cross-functional team to orchestrate the technology review and data customization process.
The plan relied on extensive collaboration between operations specialists and IT teams from firms around the world. As project manager I managed deadlines, set goals, mediated conflicts and guided overall strategy. But the more rewarding aspects of the project centered on training my team to address problems creatively.
Each boutique broker presented a different set of technological and operational limitations. By helping my team develop unorthodox and nonstandard solutions, we overcame each broker’s unique set of challenges. I did this by empowering my team to allocate resources and time towards exploring ideas and alternative approaches to longstanding processes.
When the project was complete, LOCO’s risk exposure and operational costs were reduced and an array of longstanding problems resolved. I was pleased to have created added value for our client and proud to have left a lasting footprint on the methods my colleagues now employ when approaching operational problems and solutions.
The experience gave me a great deal of valuable insight into my strengths and weaknesses as a leader. I reaffirmed that effective communication is a key leadership skill and one that demands constant attention. Had I not successfully persuaded managers across a number of departments that the project would strengthen our client relationship, I wouldn’t have had the cross-functional support needed to carry out the project. By highlighting how the project’s success could regularly be quantified and how it would serve the ongoing mission of our division, I was able to get the project off the ground.
Another personal take-away from the experience is that I thrive in a team setting, in part, because I lead by building consensus and advocating collaboration. During each stage of the project, from the initial planning through the final stages, I made it a point to gather feedback from each member in the group in terms of how they felt we should move forward. This was especially helpful since the team was cross-functional and few of us had detailed insight into the challenges each department would face, but it was also helpful because when it came time to execute the plan, each member had a strong sense of ownership in our approach. One personal weakness that surfaced during the project was my inexperience managing direct reports. I learned I tend to rely on collaborative, consensus-building leadership because I have room to grow as a “directive” leader. While I expect leadership via collaboration to be a constant and vital aspect to any MBA program, to be a successful CEO I’ll need to be proficient leading a team of subordinates in a non-restrictive, non-authoritarian manner. I want my direct reports to thrive, personally and professionally. As a result, part of my MBA experience will be about exploring opportunities to develop my personal “directive” leadership style, such as holding leadership positions in various clubs, soliciting feedback from students and faculty, and through specific leadership classes such as Leading People and Organizations and Creating and Managing Human Capital.
It was June of 2005. I had just completed three long years of flight training and was on my way to my first operational squadron. I couldn’t wait to get there, start learning how to tactically employ the F-18, and go on my first deployment. After all, the war on terror was raging and that is why I had signed up three years earlier. But when I arrived, I found out there would be one more detour. I was immediately sent for three weeks to the Naval Legal Justice School where I received a crash course on the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the laws that regulate behavior in the Armed Forces. After the training, my first job in the squadron would be Legal Officer. A Legal Officer handles administrative paperwork, investigates alleged violations, gathers evidence, and advises the Commanding Officer (CO) on how to best deal with sailors who have found themselves at odds with the law — specifically, what punishments could and could not be legally rendered. I initially thought the job would be no big deal — a few weeks of training and then an hour or two a day dealing with legal matters. I could not have been more wrong.
To begin with, I quickly realized that law school is three years, and not three weeks, for a very good reason. There was simply more to learn than you possibly could in three weeks. Plus, up to that point in my career, I had only been in flight school where my sole responsibility was learning to fly. Now, one month into my first operational tour, not only was I overwhelmed by the new tactics I was expected to learn and execute in the airplane, but I also had a completely different set of skills to master.
Second, it became readily apparent that being the Legal Officer entailed a lot more face time with the CO than most brand new officers were comfortable with, including me. Because violating an accused sailor’s rights can cost a CO his job, he took a great interest in mine. In fact, every time he asked me a question, he wanted the answer yesterday. I also learned that the CO had spent twenty years in the Navy waiting for his chance to be in charge, so he didn’t like being told that he couldn’t do something. While he was very knowledgeable on the inner workings of the Navy, he was unfamiliar with the rules of the UCMJ. So, as the newest member of the squadron, I had the precarious task of advising the boss on what he could do and, on occasion, telling him what he couldn’t.
My initial thought was the squadron made a mistake; someone of my rank and experience should not be given this much responsibility. After I let the overwhelmed feeling sink in, I had to step back and evaluate the situation. What weaknesses were preventing me from doing an outstanding job? I realized I had to get organized, both with my time and study management. Like it or not, I now had two very important jobs to learn. Second, I had to be more assertive when speaking to authority. I had the knack for analyzing a situation and developing a strategy; I just needed to develop my communication skills so that I could effectively convey those options to the CO without negatively affecting my career. By putting these realizations into action, I became more comfortable in my role and over time I even began to enjoy the job. About a month before I was relieved by a new Legal Officer, the CO approached me at a squadron social function. He put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye and said, “Wanted you to know that you’ve done a great job,” the ultimate compliment for a new officer.
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