The power of paying it forward


By: Nandita Bothra, Class of 2019

As an international applying to business schools, one thing that I really cared about was how supportive and collaborative a school was. Community has always played an important role in my life by both helping me succeed and by supporting me when I was down. Booth topped my list because every alumnus and student I spoke to vouched for the strong pay-it-forward culture. Even though that sounded great to me, I don’t think I understood its impact till I started my journey at Booth.

In my first few months at Booth - between corporate conversations, course selection and getting to know my classmates better while getting accustomed to a new country - I was lost to say the very least! I was torn between what to recruit for, whether consulting even made sense to me, or whether it was even worth the time and effort. It was then that my second years, namely MCG co-chairs and my assigned mentors, played a major role in decision making. They sat with me for hours, discussing my ambitions, my reasons to come to business school, and helped me formulate a strategy covering both academics and recruiting.

An instance that particularly stood out for me was receiving a 4000+ words email from my mentor explaining everything he had learnt about interview prep. And that was only the first of many such emails. I couldn’t even imagine how an extremely busy second year could take out time to write such well thought out emails simply for the benefit of first years. This is what formed the basis of my willingness to paying it forward!

There are many who stand with you during the good times, but the mentors that I formed stuck with me even after they graduated and became my pillars during final year recruiting. The amount of confidence they showed in me compensated for my lack of belief in myself when I was about to step into the same interview for the second time.

When the Management Consulting Group (MCG) co-chair applications came out in February 2018, I did my cost-benefit analysis (of course!) of the opportunity. I knew it would be a huge commitment in time and effort - I would have to juggle re-recruiting, Kapnick (LEAD for law school), and give up on a lot of social activities that my classmates would be a part of. On the other hand, I would be able to hopefully positively impact the recruiting experience of 150+ first years, just like my second years had done for me. After this thought came into my mind, it was a point of no return. I knew I was biting on more than I could possibly chew, but I also realized I’d regret not taking the chance to leave my small impact on the Booth community.

Often what people underestimate is what you can get out of being a mentor. A question I’ve been asked by almost every first year I have met is whether I’d do it all over again. And my answer to that has always been the same – YES! I’d go through 200 hours of casing, motivating, wearing suits and checking-in people to events, not to forget fining, all over again. I would do this to share my learnings and pitfalls, to show gratitude to those that helped me and most importantly to build relationships with first years. I now understand that sometimes meaning comes from what you give, not what you get. Because that to me is the power of mentorship – when you get a lot out of it, you’re willing to put a lot back into it.