My name is Belinda Stubblefield and I am currently National Site Director at Year Up. I had an eclectic career path, as I followed my interests and took advantage of key opportunities that presented themselves. Ultimately, these diverse experiences helped to prepare me for this wonderful role as a leader within Year Up.
There was a time in my life when a number of people took it upon themselves to offer their insights, guidance and encouragement, which ultimately resulted in me attending Harvard Business School (HBS). First, an African American female alumni of UCLA (my alma mater), who also attended HBS, came back to UCLA to share her HBS experience and encourage several of us to apply. I was skeptical, as I had never attended private schools, nor had I lived on the East Coast. I didn’t think Harvard was for me. I didn’t think I would fit in. When I met her, my mindset began to shift. I could relate to her. If Harvard was a good experience for her, why not for me?
Then, a family friend heard that I was considering applying to Harvard. He took me to lunch to encourage me to apply – no one had ever taken me to lunch! I told him I didn’t have the kind of money it took to attend Harvard. He was a banker and told me he would lend me the money. I didn’t know if he meant personally or through his bank, but either way, it made quite an impression and I knew that I had to think seriously about it.
I was also applying to UCLA’s business school. I visited the Admissions office, met a number of current students and even some alumni. They were all incredibly helpful and supportive. They got to know my story and helped me decide which experiences to write about in my application essays. Two of the UCLA alums read my essays – for UCLA and Harvard – and provided feedback.
Without these interventions, I doubt if I would have even applied to Harvard Business School. This “team of supporters” (who I barely knew) was my Year Up!
My advice would be to recognize that you don’t have to have a long-standing relationship with someone for them to want to be helpful to you. Don’t block your blessings by limiting yourself to those you currently know.