Advice for First Years from the Class of 2013

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Harvard Business School

Advice for First Years from the Class of 2013

What a difference a year makes!

Last spring, the Harvard Business School Class of 2013 was packing up and headed off to their jobs. They were balls of fatigue, ambition, relief, and hope. It had been a remarkable two years. They’d arrived on campus to the usual scrutiny and hoopla. Their class was comprised of students from 68 countries, with The Wall Street Journal gushing that it’d admitted its highest percentage of women (nearly 40%). Like any group, the class of 2013 inevitably defied labels. They challenged conventions and followed their passions. Often, the most disparate classmates were the ones who bonded over trips, projects, and clubs.

In the end, half would end up in consulting and finance, holding the usual understated titles that belied their six figure salaries. Over a third remained out east, while another quarter struck out west in the quintessentially American search of wealth and meaning. Others found their place in Europe and Asia, as expats looking to leave their mark or native sons and daughters returning home to make good.

This spring, many members of the 2013 class returned for their one year reunion, using words like “reassuring,” ‘inspiring,” “overwhelming,” “community,” and “perfect timing” to describe their homecoming. They’d had a year to process their Harvard experience and apply its lessons to their work. And maybe that’s why the class of 2013 has the most to say to Harvard’s incoming class of 2016.

And their messages were simple and timeless. Slow down when you feel overwhelmed. Take advantage of what’s available. Don’t take people for granted. And remain open and bold – you never know where this journey will lead. In particular, here was their advice to first years:

“First, take a big deep breath and relax because everything is going to be just fine.”

“Try to take advantage of all the resources you have here. It’s an amazing place. We have so much.”

“Just soak it all in here. It’s one of the most intense and enjoyable experiences you’ll have.”

“Really treat this place like a candy store. I mean, it’s full of opportunities, full of options. Put your hand in every jar. Try something that excites you. Try something that you’re scared of. Meet someone you don’t normally meet.”

“Take it one day at a time. It can be very overwhelming. Realize that everyone else is worried about the same things too”

“Take advantage of everything. This is one of the most exciting times of your life. You’re about to go on this two year ride.”

“Just try to let go of who you were before HBS and give it a chance to redefine yourself.”

“It really just comes down to the relationships you make and I think it is very easy to meet a lot of people but not get to know a lot of people and not get to know them very genuinely. So I would focus on doing that.”

“Be open to surprises that may change the course of your career or your personal life.”

“Build strong relationships to the faculty. They are really dedicated to your progress. They will make sure, even when you’re done with your MBA, that you can still utilize them as a resource.”

“HBS is a wonderful experience. It’ll be full of ups-and-downs. But at the end of it, you will be closer and more connected with a wonderful and amazing group of people.”

“So enjoy it. There’s no one right way to enjoy it. But however you enjoy it, just enjoy it.”

As the class of 2016 wraps up orientation, these timeless messages should serve as a reminder. The dream job will eventually come. But it’s the here-and-now that truly matters. If you want the biggest return on your schooling, focus on your classmates and your personal growth. That’s what you’ll remember. In three years, that’s the same message you’ll be delivering to the next crop of MBAs.

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Source: Harvard Business School