It’s done. I’m officially an MBA.
I know I’m an MBA because I’ve suddenly become a celebrity. The Alumni Association is knocking down my door. Recruiters can’t get enough of me on LinkedIn. Even the dean of the business school wants to meet me and shake my hand. Granted, it was Commencement and he shook everyone’s hand, but I’m convinced that I got the firmest grip.
I want to take this opportunity to reflect upon the two years gone by. This may well be my last attempt to document my MBA experience before I start reflecting fondly upon my student years with the syrupy sentimentalism of the fully employed. “Ah yes, the cafeteria. How well I remember the soggy sandwiches that sustained me through 5 straight hours of group meetings! Those were the best days of my life.” (As I gaze fondly at the deli case I wipe away a tear that has appeared, glistening and unbidden, upon my cheek.)
What legacy can I leave for the incoming class of 2017? How can I help them make the most of these two short years of hard work and self-discovery? What nuggets of wisdom can I impart that will smooth the way for their success?
Mmm…nuggets of wisdom.
Sorry. Ever since I gave up sweets I sometimes lose myself in fantasies involving imaginary chocolates. I’ll try to stay focused.
Remember when somebody told you that it goes by fast? Well, it goes by fast. At least in retrospect. While it’s happening, it feels like you’re strapped to a herd of elephants who are dragging you slowly and painstakingly to your death. But even as you’re clinging to the back of those elephants, take a moment to appreciate all the great things you’ve accomplished so far (starting with getting accepted into a great MBA program).
It doesn’t really get easier. At least, not if you’re doing it right. You might find yourself with more free time as you get better at PowerPoint, scheduling, or delegating group projects. But if you ever find yourself watching a 4-hour Chopped marathon without a care in the world, take a step back. What about applying for a case competition, taking on an internship, or going to more networking events? If business school feels too easy, maybe you’re missing out on an opportunity.
Be a leader. Run for student government, get on the board of a club, or get involved with your school’s charity organization (our’s is Challenge for Charity, which has chapters at 9 West Coast business schools). If there’s something you’re really passionate about, start your own club. It may seem like a distraction from your job search, but remember that employers want to hire well-rounded people with leadership experience (and you’d be surprised how many MBAs never take advantage of this obvious opportunity to differentiate themselves).
Don’t forget to make friends. “But B-School Girl,” you say, “I made 400 new friends just at Orientation!” I’m not talking about the sort of friend you chat with in line for coffee. I’m talking about the sort you’d invite to your wedding. Not only will these friends make your b-school experience infinitely less painful, they are the ones who will go the extra mile for you in the future. While most former classmates will forward a resume, only a really good friend will walk it to the hiring manager’s desk, tell them they would be crazy not to hire you, and follow up repeatedly until you get the interview.
Follow your own path. It’s easy to look around at your successful, high-achieving classmates and compare yourself to them. There will always be people who seem to have more than you do — more money, more luck, more connections, more whatever. Stay focused on your goals, remember the skills and experiences that make you special, and take time to congratulate yourself for each milestone that you complete. Remember what you came to b-school to accomplish and don’t let anyone else define success for you. This is your MBA experience and no one else’s.
I’ll wrap it up now before we all get indigestion. See you next time as I venture out on my post-MBA journey!