Unleashing Confidence: Embracing Your University Journey

My Journey to London Business School

In summer 2021, I had a call with a woman in finance that changed my mindset. While discussing transitioning from tourism management to finance through the Master in Financial Analysis at LBS, the subject of gender appeared. She told me: “Often men don’t put up the barriers, it’s us. We have to be more confident.” This surprised me at first, but then I figured, although working on my confidence might not solve all problems I might face by being a woman in finance, it was a good way to start diminishing my self-imposed barriers.

As I could not merely embody the feeling of confidence, I decided I would start taking confident actions. During the next years, in preparations for my admissions to LBS, which at that point seemed quite far out of reach, I dared myself to uptake challenges outside of my comfort zone. I signed up for the CFA exam with no prior finance knowledge, applied for internships in finance with, again, no prior finance experience, and contacted a number of finance professionals.

One and half years later, when it came to the evening of the deadline for sending in my LBS application, I almost didn’t apply. Why? Because, although I had successfully passed my CFA exam, secured an internship in finance, and spent hours building my network, I still didn’t feel confident. Had it not been for my partner, who is also in finance, and his continuous emphasis that I had good chances of being admitted, I would not have had the confidence to apply. In retrospective I realised how much I was holding myself back and made it my mission for my year at LBS “to be more confident.”

Women In Business Club

LBS offers so many opportunities to work on your confidence as a woman. The first event I went to when I arrived in London in the summer of 2023, was a Women in Business pub crawl. It was an empowering experience. The sight of young, ambitious women dominating the pub atmosphere filled me with a sense of solidarity. Engaging with like-minded women enthusiastic about discussing careers and opportunities shattered my ingrained belief of “but, I am a woman.” I also attended a Woman in Business alumni panel where former students, now thriving in finance, shared their stories of navigating recruitment and professional life as women. The club brings together bright women, put them in front of you, and show you “See? They did it. Now why can’t you?” – now that’s a brilliant question.

Student Ambassador

Surprisingly, one of the most influential roles I’ve taken on during my time at LBS has been that of a student ambassador. Serving as an ambassador not only bolstered my confidence in networking settings, but also made me pivot back to what I was told years earlier; “Often men don’t put up the barriers, it’s us. We have to be more confident.”

In my interactions with prospective students, I’ve noticed a distinct difference between the amount of help men and women typically ask for both during and after a call. While I always extend an invitation for further questions or assistance at the end of our conversations, I’ve observed that male applicants almost always follow up with additional requests or questions while, so far, I’ve only had one woman follow up with an inquiry.

Reflecting on my own hesitancy to seek help in the past, I would often hold back from reaching out again to my network in fear of inconveniencing others. As an ambassador, however, I’ve come to appreciate the joy of making connections through advising and supporting applicants who are currently in the process I was in a year ago. I value these relationships even more when individuals reach out repeatedly, provide updates on their progress, and ask for continuous assistance when they need it.

To those navigating similar challenges, I encourage you to challenge your confidence and take action. I understand how scary it can be to put yourself out there, but you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re unsure where to begin, feel free to email me at esvarstad.mfa2024@london.edu. I will salute your courage and am here to support you in any way I can!

Written By Elisa Day Svarstad, MFA 2024

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