Adcoms’ Must-Reads For Incoming MBAs

 How Will You Measure Your Life?

Ross’ Soojin Kwan

Clayton M. Christensen

Christensen’s book examines questions that every future MBA student will/should contemplate:

  • How can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career?
  • How can I be sure that my personal relationships become enduring sources of happiness?
  • How can I live a life of integrity?

It becomes all-too-easy for MBA students to get caught up in the whirlwind of MBA-life: choosing career paths that are well-trodden, focusing on achievements, succumbing to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Christensen’s book provides a useful approach for making the many tough choices students will face during business school and beyond – from finding your career passion to determining how to balance career and family.

Soojin Kwon

Director of Admissions

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business


Vanderbilt’sTami Fassinger

12 Bad Habits That Hold Good People Back

Jams Waldroop and Timothy Butler

The First 90 Days

Michael D. Watkins

I say the best books for B School students are in two phases, one before you start school and the other before you start your B School internship or first job after graduation.

1) Everyone should read The 12 Bad Habits that Hold Good People Back by Waldroop and Butler. A big part of B-School is about self-awareness and LDP programming. The book addresses behaviors that stop people from maximizes their effectiveness on teams and on the job. The truth is, people generally aren’t fired for a lack of technical skills, but for a lack of ability to work with others effectively. B-Schools, management, and leadership are all about optimizing effectiveness in teams. This book will help you recognize patterns in yourself that could potentially derail your path to success. It also provides insight on what to do when you recognize these patterns in your co-workers. Why not practice this in B-School rather than when your job performance is on the line?  (I suggest you don’t leave this book on your spouse’s nightstand as I did…my husband thought I was editorializing or getting back at him for when he bought me “911 eye gel.” I had gotten so much use from this book that I wanted him to read it too!)

2) Everyone should read The First 90 Days by Watkins – MBAs before their internship, and specialized masters’ students before their job. It’s the best book I’ve read on career transitions, and all B-school students are making career transitions, be it enhancing or switching. It’s best to read this book before you onboard in any new job. If you’ve been promoted to a new role, read it again. Why? Most people graduating today will change jobs every few years, which means they are starting at zero to rebuild networks and credibility. Everyone remembers you for two things: how you started and how you finished. The First 90 Days will keep you on track to protect the reputation you want.

Tami Fassinger

Chief Recruiting Officer, Admissions

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management


Kenan-Flagler’s Sridhar Balasubramanian

It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy

Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

This is a compelling story about how Captain Abrashoff took change of the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold and led its transformation into a productive and innovative war machine. There are many management and leadership lessons to be learned here, including the importance of leading from the front, listening and communicating well, relentlessly pushing the boundaries on innovation, paying attention to the details, building a sense of trust and purpose, and empowering every individual in the organization.

Sridhar Balasubramanian

Senior Associate Dean for MBA Programs

Professor of Marketing and Roy & Alice H. Richards Bicentennial Distinguished Scholar

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School


Cornell’s Judi Byers

Give and Take

Adam Grant

One of my favorites – Give and Take is an insightful glimpse into the work place and society as we know it. Understanding objectives and what others hope to gain from and through their interactions – this book will remind new MBAs to be mindful of differences and to think intentionally about how they plan to approach their future classmates. As Professor Grant goes on to describe each  – Takers are individuals who try to gain as much as possible from others while contributing as little as they can as they believe doing so is the shortest and most direct pathway to achieving their goals. Matchers are those who seek to “keep score” of exchanges. Givers, on the other hand, when meeting someone new, will try to figure out, “How can I add value to this person’s life, and what could I possibly contribute that might benefit this person?” I think this is an important question that all MBAs should be asking themselves as it will not only influence the experience you have during b-school, but as you cultivate new skills, help you to identify and adapt your own style to find future success.

Judi Byers

Executive Director of Admissions & Financial Aid

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management


Go to next page for suggestions from Texas, Northwestern, and Notre Dame.

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