As a spring graduate, I will soon move my tassel from right to left from the comfort of my couch (which is also my desk and dining table). But first, I want to wrap things up. For the past academic year, I have offered you advice and insight into my MBA experience. For this final chapter, let’ me return to the beginning.
Class of 2022, you are about to make an important transition in the most challenging of circumstances. Though your MBA coursework will not begin until the fall, the key to your overall success starts now. Sure, you’re weren’t planning to get started until August, but it’s not like anyone knows what day it is, anyway!
There are plenty of things to do while you await orientation. You can complete a prep class in an area of interest, explore a new functional role, or simply take inventory of your previous experience. The only certainty is what NOT to do. Given both today’s economic climate and the evergreen necessity of networking, you absolutely should not – under any circumstance – burn the bridges you’ve worked hard to build. Despite the frustration, boredom, or outright trauma that might have led to the MBA, take the high road on your way out of town.
Take it from the girl who typed out eight – eight – pages of feedback for an exit interview, you can certainly stand on the bridge waving a match. However, rather than setting the past ablaze, use that energy to fuel the positive start to your next phase.
TAKE A CLASS
When I was in your place two years ago, I had become accustomed to dedicating part of each week on GMAT and interview prep. After being admitted, I had a time and energy void, and it felt more productive to fill it with pre-MBA activities instead of more seasons Top Chef. To feel more confident about the technical classes I intended to pursue, I completed a few coding modules in Data Camp and an online statistics class through Ohio State. Come fall, I was so grateful for that decision and the bolstered skillset it gave me because the first semester was B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
My classmate Marta Gaia Bras recalled the same feeling. “I looked around in our core IT management class and saw classmates completely lost in programming,” she told me. Given her tech entrepreneur ambitions, Marta had spent the previous summer completing a three-month full-stack web development boot camp to help accelerate her MBA pivot away from finance. “If it hadn’t been for my boot camp, many of the MBA class concepts—from database architecture and coding to design thinking and innovation strategy—would have been brand new for me.”
For those hoping to make a hard pivot in business school, getting early exposure to your new area of expertise is critical. One upside of the current quarantine lifestyle is the wide availability of free or low-cost distance learning. Whether it’s a workshop, boot camp, crash course, or deep dive, sign up for something and get your MBA education started early.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
If you’re more of a “learn by doing” student, then use your summer to try out a desired post-MBA role. Given the current job market and remote work conditions, it may be a big ask to land a formal internship at this stage. However, think creatively and seek out your current network to explore adjacent functions or industries, so you can inform and refine your intended MBA trajectory before it begins. “Cast a wide net in your professional network for the type of role you’re looking for and be open-minded when discussing terms and options of employment,” my classmate Michael Luo advised.
Michael’s pre-MBA internship at Uber helped solidify his interest in the West Coast tech. With a short-term role, he explained, “You can get invaluable hands-on experience in a company or focus area that’s outside your current area of expertise, and you can develop a professional network that can be leveraged come MBA recruiting and beyond.”
Even if you can’t depart your company until late summer, take advantage of your current time and resources. If you’ve always been curious about other business units, reach out! Specifically, seek out those who have also made career transitions through an MBA or otherwise. Trusted colleagues and clients can advise you on how their functions are evolving and what skills will be valuable two years from now.
REFLECT ON EXPERIENCE
Even without the time to pursue these first two endeavors, there’s one last activity that everyone can—and should—complete. Before you move on from your pre-MBA position, take the time to reflect on your experience, inventory your achievements, and thank your mentors for their help in getting you to this point.
For advice on this critical step, I called up Dave Deiters, Executive Director of the Jones MBA Career Center at Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business. His team of career advisors is busy preparing our own Class of 2022 for their transition. He told me, “For our newest students, there’s no such thing as ‘too early.’ They will start hearing from MBA employers very soon, and it’s important to take those opportunities seriously.”
My own MBA recruiting adventure began in June 2018 at the Forte Conference, which was quickly followed by an early opportunity at Delta Air Lines and networking with school alumni at orientation. All of a sudden, it was September – and I was in the swarm at National Black desperately wishing I’d done more prep work.
You need your resume clean, your interview stories crisp, and your elevator pitch slick. Now. While you’re still working, export the data needed to quantify your impact, scroll through your files for reminders of past accomplishments, and sit down with colleagues to review details of your big wins, or “the dragons you collectively slayed,” as Dave vividly described. And then, finally, schedule time in your final days to personally thank the people who have helped your springboard into the MBA.
IT’S A SMALL WORLD
As made clear through recent pandemic modeling and economic fallout, we’re all highly connected and dependent on each other’s actions. Once you get into your MBA program, the world gets even smaller. However, if you take great care in maintaining your pre-MBA relationships, you can take the same road out that you walked in on. After my classmate Nona Black’s original full-time role was deferred to February 2021, she quickly leveraged her old connections and her new MBA skills to return to her previous company in an elevated role. You never know how your actions now will inform your options later, so keep your friends close—and don’t make enemies.
Thanks for reading!
Jasmine Howard, a Tennessee native and marketing strategist, is a second-year MBA candidate at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business. Each month, she offers advice, pro tips, and life hacks for the emerging challenges of today’s evolving MBA world.
DON’T MISS: MEET GEORGIA TECH’S MBA CLASS OF 2020