Advice To The Next Generation Of MBAs

Stanford GSB Students

Stanford GSB Students

Do Grades Matter: “My own view is that the cost of aiming at Hs [The highest grades that will vault students into the top 10 percent of the class] far outweighs the benefits. You may have to study two or three times as much in some classes…The rewards of getting Hs are dubious. Neither your summer nor your first permanent employer will have any idea what your grades were. After your first, job performance becomes a much more important criterion than your grades…I consider some Hs that I received in the past year to indicate a failure on my part to properly allocate my time away from course work and towards extracurricular activities.”

How Students Evolve Over Their First Year: “Initially, most people come in with a sense of excitement and openness. You are eager to meet everybody else and give them a chance to become friends. Soon, however, pressures start to build up. Your ego will undergo an unprecedented challenge, because for the first time in your life you are surrounded by people who are just as good, if not better, than you are. Rather than biting the bullet and accepting everyone as good people with equal but hopefully different talents, it becomes tempting for some people to adapt a cynical and fault-finding attitude….

After a while, people gravitate towards those they are most comfortable with, typically those they are most similar to. Ironically, they are the very friends who will stimulate the least amount of learning and growth. They will only tend to reinforce who we already are…The discomfort level between the different groups will increase as time goes by…There were several occasions in the spring quarter and this summer when I was forced to spend time with some of the people I had avoided…In every occasion, I quickly became ashamed of myself for the harsh judgments and found those judgments to represent more my own fears and paranoia than the other people’s shortcomings. These people have become some of my closest classmates.”

Toughness vs. Niceness: “In the spring quarter I had a visiting professor teaching the strategic management course. He had asked us to write a few things about ourselves on 3×5 cards to help him get to know us. He came back the next time expressing surprise that most of us had written about how warm and sensitive we were but had proceeded to apologize for it by saying we were working on becoming tougher. Most of us thought we were too nice and soft to make it in the cutthroat American business arena. The professor went on to say that we shouldn’t apologize for being warm and sensitive because the most successful CEOs are nice people and don’t fit the business media’s stereotypes. When he urged us not to change, the class of 60 burst into spontaneous applause—a very rare occurrence in the middle of a lecture. This showed how common the concern was to everyone and how relieved we were to hear we were O.K.”

Be Open to Your Peers: “I strongly urge you to fight negative judgments of your classmates. Instead, try hard to make positive interpretations…[In doing so], you are exposing yourself to being hurt a little by a jerk. But that is a small price to pay to get to know many more wonderful people than you would otherwise take the chance on.”

Who is Part of the “In” Crowd: “One other common and unfounded fear among most people is that they feel they don’t quite belong to the mainstream social life of the GSB. People have very different reasons for the paranoia: I am too young and inexperienced, I am too old for this, I am a foreigner, I am from the Midwest and this is a California scene, only men seem to be running the show, these are rich kids and I am a farmer’s boy, this is really a place for Ivy League investment bankers and consultants, etc. I have been shocked by hearing some of the most seemingly “in” and socially active classmates confide in me the frustration that they feel [being] left out…

There seems to be no mainstream life or group in the GSB. There are just many different groups. Some may seem more vocal or visible, but they are a small minority. If you feel comfortable with 5 or 6 people, consider yourself “in.””

How You’ll Change Between Your First and Second Years: “It is easy to see your progress in learning new material on a daily basis. It is harder to see the more gradual internal changes in terms of your personality, confidence and attitude. These internal changes, I believe, are much more important than the specific academics you learn. Most people end up realizing how much they have changed only when they start their summer jobs. Going back to the real world is an amazing experience. We tend to forget that the GSB is a very unusual place, with extremely high standards. After a year here, these standards will become internalize in you. The real world, often infested with mediocrity, will allow you to shine once again. This time, much more brilliantly than ever before. It was worth all the pain, you may think. But remember, it can be as much pain and joy as you allow it to be.”

Some Final Words of Wisdom: “No one on his/her deathbed has been known to say, “I wish I had calculated a few more NPVs.” Some have been known to wish they had taken a few more chances, loved a few more people, touched a few more lives, fought for a few more causes, caused a few more smiles.”

To read the full letter, click here.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek

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