My grades are good enough to get into an Ivy league business school. I want to become an innovation consultant and write Harvard Business Review pieces and books on the direction of business as it relates to innovation, politics, society, and civic issues.

However, I know those jobs require very good social skills, and a few years ago you told me on the phone that I have autism. Since we have spoken, I’ve found that much of my daily experience matches up with other autistic women. I’m bad at keeping meetings on track. I don’t cope well with direct challenges to my authority. I do an exemplary job in independent contributor roles, but I always have communication/personality clashes with managers and co-workers.

A friend of mine who was previously socially unskilled told me getting an MBA really helped him develop leadership and soft skills. I’m hoping to get the same results so I don’t have to use one of my backup plans: doctor or engineer.

1 reply
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    I think doctors and engineers are backup plans for a large percentage of young people who are middle-class and risk averse. There aren’t other choices that afford a clear, low-risk path to an upper-middle-class life.

    It’s hard to trust your friend who reports that he overcame his social skills deficits in business school. The definition of autism is not seeing the problem, which is why it’s hard to believe your friend saying he has solved the problem.

    Presumably, your friend is a few years older than you, so he doesn’t realize that all people with poor social skills hit a career wall at age 35. If you want to make sure business schools help people overcome poor social skills, look at the people who are in C-level positions who had poor social skills in college and overcame them in business school.

    You won’t find any. Be sure that when you pick a path for yourself it’s a real path and not a make-believe path. I think what you want is flexibility and respect. You have that now, during your four years at the top college. I can imagine that you like it. Everyone would. But not very many people would work as hard as you did for 18 years to get there.

    If you want flexibility and respect again in your life, it’ll probably take you another 18 years of hard work. Respect comes from hard work, and flexibility comes from being so great at what you do that people will work around your schedule and preferences.

    Penelope

    Reply

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