Matthew Pon







By Matthew Pon

It really does get better

In the months since my last post, I often looked forward to writing about things getting better, but they just… never did. The times that I felt I wasn’t smart enough to get through this programme, and wanted to give up, are more than I can count. And those times were far darker than I can or would want to describe here.

To any future students that can’t see the start, middle, or end of the tunnel:
I can finally report that things do in fact get better. Make friends with smart people, even if it’s only temporary – I’m certainly never going to talk to one of my fellow students EVER again now that I don’t need him to teach me about Contract Theory and the BEKK model. And reach out to people at the b-school, or your college, or whoever else you might be comfortable talking to. They really are here to support you. Also feel free to reach out to me – I could have used a chat with someone that had gone through the same insecurities. (Please use mpon [at] ualberta [dot] ca).

To any discouraged “late” job-seekers of future years:
Keep the faith and stay true to yourself. There are cases in which I was rejected from companies due (well, I think) purely to ‘fit’, because I didn’t want to lie and say I was passionate about certain things when I absolutely wasn’t. Objectively speaking, some of these were great jobs; they just weren’t right for me. And if I’d received and accepted offers in such cases, I would have probably ended up somewhere and been unhappy for a few years. When it seems like everyone around you is getting an amazing job, it’s easy to feel that you just need to find something. I’ve been there. But being comfortable with spending a little more time in the search of finding something you’re truly passionate about is a worthwhile cause. There are far worse things in life than graduating from the MFE and not knowing yet where you’ll end up afterwards – celebrate making it through this program – it’s tough. As for me, until last week I had essentially no idea what I’d end up doing after graduation, but with a bit of luck and of course, the advice of the smartest guys in the room, I received an offer for my dream job. As with the academic side, feel free to reach out if you’d like to chat about being disheartened with the job search.

In any case, definitely use the careers service – they were instrumental in my becoming someone that could deliver a half-coherent interview response. The Careers Director has a reputation for sometimes being harsh – in fact, I was going to say that I hadn’t personally experienced this, but now I think back to the first week I met with him, during the September pre-course, when I told him I wanted to apply for a certain top-tier consultancy whose name starts with the letter M, he asked me a few short questions, gave me a bit of an incredulous look, and then stated firmly, “Don’t apply yet. If you interview now, you have ZERO chance.” He was certainly right.

Disclaimer: The rest of this will probably read like an Oscar acceptance speech:

After all of the anxiety that I wasn’t going to survive this year, the relief of sitting here in June and not having to think about another Corporate Finance model for the rest of my life (well, fingers crossed) is indescribable. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to express a bit of gratitude. I can’t begin to count the number of people without whom I couldn’t have made it through the year, and my sincere thanks go out to you all. But above all, I must formally thank:
1) My fiancée; over the past 10 months, your unfaltering encouragement through my frustration, desperation, and use of scientific notation every single day, was what ultimately kept me going in the hardest of times.

2) My parents; thank you for believing in me from Day 1, even when I took home that report card in Grade 6, on which my social studies teacher wrote: “Matthew struggles. I can’t tell if it’s a lack of intelligence or motivation.” She didn’t realize that it was a combination of both ;). Your unwavering support has been the foundation for my growth.

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