This post was written by MBA candidate Ari Sefton. Check out his website www.arisefton.com for more insights about relationship building, impact, marketing and more.
Dear Myself on my First Day of Classes…
by Ari Sefton (and his fellow graduating MBAs!)
“I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger” – Ooh La La by The Faces
Today I finished my last exam of my MBA. With only one project left before I finish I have been reflecting a lot on what I’ve learned in the past two years. I began wondering what I might say to myself on the first day of classes. Maybe it would be something that I learned too late, or wish I had known two years ago. Turns out, some fellow soon-to-be graduates were wondering the same thing. Instead of writing myself, I wanted to give them the opportunity to share their own “Insights to Myself on the First Day of the MBA.” Big thank you to Ekta, Ravneet, Jacqueline, Shreya and Julien for sharing!
The right time is now!
Don’t wait until October or the end of the first semester to start applying for internships. If I could go back in time, I would have definitely started networking in September itself. Recruiters will tell you to reach back to them when the positions are posted. But there’s absolutely no harm in meeting potential managers and colleagues for coffee chats. These meetings are beneficial not only for those who know what industry and company they’d like to join but also for those who are confused about their specialization or want to learn more about different industries. Coffee chats and lunch sessions provide a sneak preview into a company. Information gathered during these sessions can help students gain a better perspective of how different companies function and what skills are required to be successful. Potential managers and colleagues might even recommend you for upcoming openings if they are impressed. Taking initiative to set up meetings before the recruiting season is definitely admired. There’s absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking such initiatives and the sooner you start, the better!”
Have an open mind when I talking to your peers about their journey through the MBA, and to your professors about their experiences. By having an open mind, certain doors would open that are not part of your personal plan coming into MBA. Additionally, have a presence at social, formal, and networking events as someone might tell you something that might help you in the future. Lastly, it is important to build lasting friendships so that you can relive the MBA experience when all you reunite with your classmates.”
“To me on the first day of classes:
An MBA is an opportunity and privilege, you’re extremely lucky to be in the position to take a break from “real life” and make this significant financial and time investment in yourself. Now that you’re here, this is where the real work starts. However, it’s important to remember it’s not just about the assignments, exams and group presentations. Grades aren’t everything and the true value you will get out of this program will be determined by how choose to act over the next two years. Here are two ways I think you can get the most out of your time back at school.
You’ve already heard so many people talk about how the MBA is a transformative experience, and how true that is won’t really hit you until the end. What many of them fail to mention about this transformation and change is that it really isn’t easy, so you need to remember to be patient with yourself. You’re immersing yourself in an entirely new environment and community; you have to give yourself time to adjust before you start judging your performance. Give yourself the time to adjust, the time to reflect on your mistakes and you’ll be able to find more success than if you rush to try and do everything perfectly right from the beginning (which, truthfully, is probably impossible).
People will remember how you make them feel.
The MBA is almost like a rehearsal for real life, but remember this practice comes with real life consequences. You must keep in mind how you’re treating the people around you. Business is about people, relationships and communication so take this time to practice and develop those skills. You’re surrounded by some people who are about to become your lifelong friends (Seriously, look around, I promise you they’re there). Whether they become your friends or not, all of these people will remember how you treat them. People will remember if you don’t contribute, people will remember if you show up late all the time, people will remember if you were a complete jerk. ‘At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.’ ― Maya Angelou. Treat the people around you with respect, that’s good life (and business) practice.”
A friendly (somewhat cliché) list of advice to you at the beginning of your MBA:
- Don’t panic. Or at least, if you do, know that everyone else is too.
- Play to your strengths, and acknowledge your weaknesses.
- Challenge yourself but know your limits. Heed them and ignore them in that order.
- Seek out and listen to advice. Heed and ignore the advice in that order.
- Trust others and yourself. Help them and let them help you achieve each others goals.
- Oh!! Set goals!
- Be mindful of your values, thoughts and actions.
- Don’t be so serious! Laugh a little. Jeez.
- Make choices! You’re allowed to be wrong.
- Learn. Fail. Learn to fail. Fail to learn and be aware that you’ve failed at learning and learn again. And start again and again and again and again. And again.”
The last few months in the MBA program have been the most stressful months I have faced in my recent past. Even still, I’ve made it out, well almost out, alive. As I unwind and look back, there are several lessons that I have learned during my time here, each contributing to remarkable change. As well, I have made several mistakes. For each and every one of them, I wished against all hope to go back in time and give myself that one piece of advice that would have avoided the mistake. One such advice I wish I knew during the start of my MBA is this – reach out to your immediate network. You will focus on networking a lot and for most of us, networking means reaching out to people on LinkedIn. But networking is not just that, it is reaching out to second years or your own peers and asking for advice. Second years are the best sources of information that first years have access to. They have all been there, they have been burned at information sessions, they have made mistakes in interviews, they understand what is out there and more importantly, they are the people you can be candid with. In my second year, I have met so many peers who have taken time out of their own schedules to do mock case interviews, behavioral interviews or just talk about their experiences. This is their way of going back in time and telling a first year to not make the same mistakes they did. We are all bound by common experiences, bound by the same classes we hate, the same complaints. Use this time, use it to reach out to your immediate peers and second years, ask them for some time and you will be surprised at how many of them provide invaluable advice. All they want in return is for you to pay it forward, maybe by writing a letter to yourself on your last day of your MBA.
Do you have any advice to yourself on the first day of your MBA? Let us know in the comments. Please reach out to the authors so we can continue the conversation!