Business school is packed with acronyms. What’s on a P&L? It’s your ROI, ROE, and ROA, silly! Need to calculate your COG? Meet the twins: FIFO and LIFO. If you want to scare people into action, just speak in acronyms. FWIW: We need to rush that USP to our CMO by COB or our PTD will be DOA. Of course, one acronym stands above all others in the MBA world. It’s not KPI, either.
“It’s always FOMO — the fear of what you’ve missed out on,” admits Dr. Nick Deakin, a 2017 graduate of the London Business School. “Every time my friends go on a trek, I worry that they’ll come back and say it was the best thing ever.”
FOMO is paralyzing. It really is. Think of business school as Candyland for passionate professionals. Pent up in the rat race, they’re brimming with ideas and hungering to leave a mark. Is it any wonder that they gorge on the sign up sheets? There are so many opportunities! In that first week fog, it’s near impossible to know which clubs and activities will bring out your best or just act as another time suck.
LEARN TO SAY NO
This fear can also lead to regret. That was the case for Matthew Nordman, a 2017 Best & Brightest MBA whose peers at Ohio State voted him as the Outstanding Full Time MBA Student. Despite earning admiration from classmates and faculty alike, he still looks back at his prolific involvement with a tinge of remorse. “I wish I hadn’t overcommitted to things at Fisher,” he explains. “The small class size means there are so many opportunities to lead here, but I wish that I had pared back my involvement to just a few areas so I could take more time to reflect on what I was learning about leadership and apply it more intentionally, rather than being blinded by doing.”
Nordman wasn’t alone among this year’s Best & Brightest in wishing they’d scaled back early on. Just ask the University of Toronto’s David St. Bernard, a decathlete who earned a law degree alongside his MBA. That pedigree aside, St. Bernard confesses that he didn’t fully appreciate the value of having an overarching goal to direct his MBA studies. That sidetracked him to an extent.
“Given how broad the experience can be and how quickly time moves, it is impossible to be involved in everything,” he argues. Instead, I think I could have spent more time early on making more deliberate choices with where to expend my time and energy.” However, his early decisions also cemented a lesson that he’ll never forget. “The MBA experience has really altered my approach to life, as I always evaluate my choices before engaging to determine if they actually contribute to my goals.”
TAKE TIME TO EXPLORE BEFORE YOU COMMIT
At Georgetown, Tahira Taylor’s big regret didn’t stem from biting off more than she could chew. Rather, she laments committing to her internship in September, long before she really knew what she wanted. She may have saved herself some time and stress, but her bargain came with a steep price.
“Don’t get me wrong, I loved my internship,” she explains. “I wish I had taken more time to explore all the opportunities that were out there in order to get a better sense of what other MBA internships had to offer. I wish I had been patient enough to really evaluate other internships and how my knowledge would have been used at other companies. I also wish I had evaluated internships opportunities with full-time prospects in mind. It would have given me more clarity when understanding what skills I actually needed to gain from an internship.”
It wasn’t just activities and career development where the Class of 2017 fears they may have missed out. The MBA experience also took a toll on their personal lives. For MIT’s Sally Lambert, that meant a skewed school-life balance. A world class Ultimate Frisbee competitor, Lambert notes that she was better able to identify what had value and carve out time for herself as the program went on. It wasn’t easy, however. “My regret is that I wasn’t able to find the balance that worked for me sooner, because of the pain it caused in my personal relationships and in my ability to excel for my sports team,” she laments.
STAY IN TOUCH WITH OLD CHUMS OR FIND NEW ONES?
Sometimes, business school can turn into a bubble, where the rest of the world simply fades away. “It was difficult to break away to engage the world outside of Booth simply because there were so many things going on and so many people at Booth who demanded my time,” says the University of Chicago’s Victor Ojeleye. As a result, he found himself increasingly losing touch with friends and loved ones, despite making them a priority. “It’s safe to say that business school students cannot be everywhere at one time,” he quips. “I wish I could have engaged my friends more to keep up with what they were doing during the past two years. My goal is to actively reconnect with my friends during my summer break before I start working again.”
Alex Walker Turner, a Forte Fellow and McKinsey hire, encountered the opposite issue at the University of Toronto. “At first, two years seems like a long time, but in practice it flies,” she cautions. “I spent a lot of time trying to maintain pre-existing friendships and relationships in the beginning, and almost missed the boat on building new relationships with my cohort. I’ve largely made up for that in the second year, but I regret not getting to know more people sooner!”
Indeed, you’ll find several “Best & Brightest” MBAs who are kicking themselves by graduation for not casting a wider net. If Nathan Spence could turn back the clock, the Melbourne Business School grad would’ve built deeper relationships by scheduling one-on-one lunches with every member of his class. “In the one-year program, it all goes by so quickly and you spend so much time studying and job hunting,” he points out. “If you blink, you’ll miss it.”
DON’T TURN DOWN THOSE SOCIAL INVITES
At two-year programs, some “Best & Brightest MBAs wish they’d invested in networking with the class ahead of them. “There were some amazing people who graduated a year ahead of me,” adds the University of Wisconsin’s Jessie Wright. “I think my first year back at school was so focused on the work and my immediate classmates, I missed an opportunity to extend my network even further.”
Those networks aren’t always forged during morning case team reviews or afternoon club meetings. That was one takeaway from Caitlin Goodrich, a University of Texas MBA who joined Deloitte Consulting after graduating this spring. An astrophysicist by trade and an introvert by nature, Goodrich’s big regret was declining those early invitations to social events. “The big group hangouts at bars aren’t the way I prefer to enjoy people’s company,” she concedes, “but I think it signaled I wasn’t interested in hanging out with people at all. Though I certainly did and have made wonderful business school friends, I could have been more available socially in the first semester.”
Some members of the Class of 2017 braved a path less traveled. While these niche experiences enabled them to pursue their passions — and become irresistible to select employers — they also came with a tradeoff. Namely, such students missed out on the “large shared experiences” of their classmates, says the University of Virginia’s Buzz Becker, who took home the school’s top academic honor while specializing in energy. “Whether it is management consulting, investment banking, or some other route, the majority of my class has a collective bond with some portion of our program through the trials and tribulations of recruitment,” he observes. “As excited as I am about my next journey, it is these memories that I most covet.”