This time of the year, business school students are asking, How can I achieve success with my MBA?
I was asking myself this question four years ago. I had completed my MBA from Brooklyn College when I was 21. I had enjoyed my time on Wall Street, but I found my true purpose in academics. Consequently, I earned a Doctor in Business Administration (DBA) and currently serve as a faculty associate at Columbia University.
Throughout my career, the most important lessons were cultivated from my tangible experience rather than my textbooks. I was recently approached by a group of MBA students for advice on optimizing their education. As I reflect on my past experiences, there were five important lessons that I’ve embraced after graduating with my DBA:
1. Career Diversification
I quickly realized that I have to diversify my skills in order to protect myself from unforeseeable events like an unemployment notice or even worse, a global pandemic. Through career diversification, my occupation varies depending on the time of the day and the day of the week.
How is that possible?
I am primarily a faculty member at Columbia University and Queens College, teaching finance, economics, and statistics-related courses. After graduating with DBA, I spent six weeks of training at a medical center to obtain a certificate in Phlebotomy. This program led me to become a business partner at Quest Diagnostics, ExamOne (a Quest Diagnostics Company), and the American Paraprofessional Services (APPS).
As a business partner and medical examiner, I am responsible for collecting a variety of a client’s medical information. This information may include physical measurements, vital signs, urine samples, paramedical questionnaires, blood samples and/or saliva samples. I work with major insurance firms like AIG, Prudential, Northwestern Mutual, John Hancock, New York Life, and MetLife. After collecting such information, I am responsible for processing and transporting certain specimens to the clinical laboratories.
With more than five streams of income, my skills allow me to generate revenue in a variety of sectors. As an MBA graduate, you can teach at the college level, write books, seek out speaking engagements, or even code. I encourage MBA students to generate additional income by exploring different proficiencies that can complement their finance and managerial consulting skills.
2. Time Management
My time management skills play an important factor in optimizing my productivity. In a typical week, I am scheduled to teach three courses at my respective institutions. Furthermore, I am simultaneously scheduled to complete a total of 60-70 paramedical cases on behalf of my respective clinical laboratories. What does my typical workday look like?
I divide my workdays into segments. I normally teach at my respective institutions during the morning hours between 10 AM to 2 PM. I subsequently devote the rest of the workday meeting with 7-10 clients between 3 PM and 7 PM. Without discounting the miscellaneous responsibilities that may arise on any given day, every moment of the day presents different challenges. However, the efficient ability to execute my short-term goals enables me to work smarter throughout the week.
While everyone has 168 hours in a week, most professionals worry about their careers between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM. I encourage MBA students to effectively manage their careers from sunrise to sunset. The additional hours of productivity will increase your output while reducing stress.
3. Cultivate Advisors, Mentors, and Sponsors
My networking skills play an important factor in “entering and staying in the room”. There are three main elements of my network: advisors, mentors, and sponsors.
My advisors are 3rd-degree supporters who are willing to offer professional guidance of any kind. One of my notable advisors was Dr. John H. Conway (Princeton Emeritus Professor), who was one of my professors in college. After receiving an A- in his course, I stayed in touch with him to soak up knowledge about the world of academia. He also advised me to publish a TEDx talk on the topic of Game Theory. He served as an influential figure in my academic career.
My mentors are more selective. My doctoral advisor Dr. David Turi is the most notable mentor in my network. He was able to offer discrete support for my goals when I was in the room. He also provides quality referrals for job requisitions on my behalf.
My sponsors are highly selective. Dr. Mark Ritzmann (Lecturer, Columbia University) is one of my notable sponsors in my network. He advocated for me when I am not in the room. He ultimately played an influential role in bringing me on board to Columbia University.
The connections on and off campus will benefit your search for exclusive opportunities in the future. Institutions are partially responsible for what you know. But your rapport with other people is largely responsible for who you know and who knows you.
4. Market Your Profile
I did not graduate with an MBA nor DBA from a top-tier institution. However, I market myself by collectively sharing introspective trinkets on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. I consistently provide different methods on how I finessed my way into exclusive opportunities.
For instance, I never thought I would have become a college professor at age 22. But I used my social media platforms to share some research projects before teaching. I also shared some footage of my animated mock lessons and speaking engagements related to finance. With support from my content, I used savvy emailing methods to avoid the traditional application process.
The first approach involves timing. The best times to reach out are in mid-July, early August (Fall), and mid- December, early January (Spring) between 11 AM and 3 PM. The second approach involves sharing your interest with the right people. I emailed the program directors and department chairs because they designated the courses to respective faculty members. The third approach involved preparation – checking the school’s course and preparing a list of courses that you may be comfortable teaching in that department.
Although my communication tactics avoided the regular application process, my prior social media campaigns grabbed the attention of other professionals. Marketing serves as a catalyst to promote my profile. I implore MBA students to establish a presence on social media so they can drive successfully their professional message.
5. Embrace Adversity
My resilience skills play an important role in being able to adapt to challenging situations in my career. Developing such skills over time can also improve my emotional intelligence.
As a graduate student, we tend to have this “ideal” notion that everything will fall into place after graduation. In reality, we struggled in some areas and fail to reach certain goals throughout our journey. Prior to graduating with my bachelor’s degree from Queens College, I’d failed two required courses. Throughout my studies, I sent thousands of different job applications to prominent firms, only to be rejected by each and every one of them.
How did I respond to failing two courses in undergraduate studies? I sacrificed my summer vacation by re-taking these courses at a different institution. I hang tough and successfully passed both courses before officially graduating in Summer 2015.
I was given my first teaching opportunity because of an emergency. Two weeks into the Spring 2017 semester, a business faculty member fractured his hip bone while shoveling snow. Therefore, the chair of the business management department needed an immediate faculty member to fill in for the disabled professor. With gratitude, I took full advantage of the opportunity and started my career in higher education.
My perseverance converted my mishaps into reasons to keep pushing. As the unfortunate events continued to pile up, I continue to give myself additional reasons to embrace the struggle. Even though adversity is inevitable, grit is required to succeed.
The lessons of career diversification, time management, networking, marketing, and resilience come a long way in our career development. As we all strive for success in our lives, we can always learn from our mistakes.
What are some of the biggest lessons that you have learned since receiving your MBA?
Eli Joseph is an academic who currently serves as a faculty member at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies and Queens College, The City University of New York. Since working on Wall Street, Joseph has been recognized as a Two-time Forbes Under 30 Scholar, TEDx speaker, an alumnus of the Harvard Business Online program, and a finalist in the Morgan Stanley Quantitative Finance Prize for Excellence.