On the first day of my MBA, the dean advised us to prioritise. He spoke about the many opportunities that would be placed in front of us and how the hours in the day were limited. In the previous 10 years of my career, I had prided myself on being able to multitask, juggle, and tackle never-ending to-do lists. His quote was a warning.
The MBA experience is a crossroads of classes, industries and people. The ultimate goal is to land a job – a better job from where you came from initially – and to learn a little along the way. How you navigate the insanity comes down to what you hope to achieve.
Set out clear career objectives
Before you send your initial deposit, be truly honest with yourself about what you expect to gain from this experience: a job? friends? a new perspective? Map out three clear goals, write down a strategy to pursue them, identify means to measure your performance (e.g. success, failure, time to adjust), and commit to continually reflecting on what you want relative to what you are experiencing.
Apply early and spend a lot of time preparing. By preparing, I do not mean coordinating your outfits or decorating your apartment. I would advise you to clarify your career goals, identify the people that you need to meet to help you pursue those goals, and literally make an inventory of all the alumni of your programme who could possibly help you. Remind yourself to be focused. Motivate yourself with the image of employment post graduation!
Sleep before the start date because once orientation commences, the race has begun. Maximise every moment possible to interact and engage with your peers. You have paid a premium for this privilege. In a top course the people selected all bring a different talent to the table. Never underestimate that guy in baggy jeans – he could have just sold his start-up for millions prior to matriculation. Get to know your classmates, even if when it’s like peeling away the layers of an onion.
Use the resources available to you. Business schools offer tremendous resources that often go underutilised simply because students do not know they exist or how to use them. Little did you know that the librarian could become a helpful assistant.
Professors are your friends. Have coffee, lunch and drinks with them often as possible. They are the most underutilised of all networks. Treat the MBA like a job without a year-end bonus. Set clear goals and timelines to measure your success. You are in school to get a better job than the one that you had before.