Best Lessons From The MBA Class of 2016

Duke University's Jessica Davlin

Duke University’s Jessica Davlin


“Maybe it’s the over-the-road touring musician in me, but I have come to believe that the scarcest resource on Earth is someone else’s attention. Business school’s biggest lesson has been what to do with that attention once you have it.”  Peter Mathias, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth

“Know your weaknesses and surround yourself with those who excel in those areas.”   Jennifer Thomas, University of Texas, McCombs School of Business

“I’ve learned so much during the past two years, but the biggest lesson I’ve gained is the importance of the ‘soft’ skill set, specifically teamwork. During our first year we are assigned to small teams and work on every case, assignment, and presentation with that team. In order to be effective, team members need to have good relationships, understand each other, and trust each other. This may seem obvious, but taking the time to get to know your teammates pays dividends and the investment in cultivating relationships early on can often be overlooked. As we get ready to re-enter the workforce, the vast majority of us will be working on teams for the remainder of our career. Knowing how to relate to others, how to work well with others, and how to create an environment of trust will be critical to our success.”  Jessica Davlin, Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

“I learned how to better coach and lead incredibly talented people. I was a relatively young manager at Grant Thornton. One of the skills I knew I needed to work on in business school was learning how to manage high-performing teams, especially when something goes wrong. Working with my peers in student groups and coaching others through consulting and tech recruiting, I’ve grown much more comfortable giving difficult feedback, giving up ownership of tasks, and trusting my teams.”   Emily Ruff, University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

“It’s all about networking. I think networking gets a bad rap sometimes because it makes people think of cronyism or something along those lines. But it really is important to know a wide variety of people both personally and professionally. Towards the end of my first year, I had been working part time in Columbus but really wanted to spend my summer with an NGO in Africa. I wasn’t sure where to start but a casual conversation with a staff member in the Office of Global Business led to a connection that led to a phone call that led to me spending the summer in Africa! Networking and making connections is so important to get to the places you want to go.”  John Petersen, Ohio State University, Fisher College of Business

Emily Claire Palmer, University of Washington

Emily Claire Palmer, University of Washington

“The more authentic I can be, the more valuable I become. For a while, I thought I needed to become someone else to make the switch from music to business. Now I realize that my background gives me a unique set of experiences that informs the way I see the world. And the same is true for every one else on the planet. In business, as in life, it is good to have people around you with different perspectives. If we all saw everything the same way, we’d all have the same blind spots, and we’d never find a solution to our problems.”  Emily Claire Palmer, University of Washington, Foster School of Business

“Through all my classes and experiences at Berkeley-Haas, I have learned what it takes for me to be an effective and authentic leader. It has been a very personal journey. The two years have been like an ongoing and intensive experiment where I was able to constantly take risks and make mistakes. It was hard going at times, but it provided so many worthwhile adventures. All of it has laid the groundwork for me to achieve my ultimate career ambitions.”  Jen Fischer, UC-Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“I think the biggest lesson I learned in business school is that everyone has a strong background and has most likely learned more from their past experiences than they ever give themselves credit for. While working with students on their resumes who were preparing to answer that all-important first interview question of ‘Tell me about yourself,’ I continually had students come to me who said they wanted to go into consulting but didn’t feel like their background would suit them for it. An equal number of students took it one step further and said they thought their backgrounds, such as work in human resources or the clergy, would in fact be contra-indicators to firms that were reviewing their resumes. What really hit home for me is that we frequently end up getting so caught up in our positions that we focus on only the big picture perspectives and forget what we’re actually doing — we forget that though we may be working at a big firm doing a job we didn’t want to be doing, we are gaining a multitude of skills, from communication to leadership to innovation. That led me to even further understand the strengths people bring with them to a team even if, at first glance, their backgrounds do not seem to support it.”  Austin Ayres, Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business

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