Curating your strategy to maximize the business school environment is both an art and a science. The goal is to ensure you do not leave any stone unturned. As T. Boone Pickens famously said, “A fool with a plan is better than a genius without a plan”.
So, what is your plan? There is no one-size-fits-all strategy, but there are intentional approaches that MBA students can take to maximize every experience. Two years feels like five minutes in the MBA bubble, and you do not want to be that person at graduation who says, “I didn’t even know this opportunity or student club existed.”
The business school environment is comparable to an opportunity utopia; the opportunities for learning and development are endless. The onus is on MBA students to ask questions, connect with second-year students and program faculty, and seek out resources that align with their goals. There is a unique pathway to achieve your dreams and intentionality is the key to manifesting your MBA priorities. At a high level, I pursued my MBA/MA to improve my strategic thinking, learn to manage profit-and-loss, and work in marketing and communications in Africa. It wasn’t until I was on campus that I started to tactically break down the small steps needed to achieve those goals.
I am reminded that oak trees do not grow tall and wide overnight; all trees start as seeds. Similarly, in the MBA program, consider your dreams and priorities as seeds. In this context, it is important to leverage the resources available to refine your dreams into abundant trees. In the future, these “trees” will produce fruit and eventually evolve into a robust skillset for you to add value in any environment. How can you do that? Here are three ways to produce a thoughtful approach that boosts the ROI on your time.
1) Organize Your MBA Goals Reflect on the skills that you want to develop or refine for your professional and personal acumen. I started an outline during the pre-term period, and I created a simple chart that was organized by the following categories: Academic, Career, and Leadership. From there, I indicated a timeline element for the first or second semester and the desired priority ranking. I have attached a template of this guide and please be honest with yourself during this exercise. Remember you will always reap what you sow!
By articulating your goals, you have started a conscious flow of thoughts that should reflect how you spend your time each semester. Pre-MBA, I worked for the same company for seven years and I felt professionally underexposed. I needed to put myself out there to learn more about new careers. I created a goal to hold weekly coffee chats with classmates in different industries who performed the marketing function. In doing so, I could evaluate transferrable skills, work-life balance, and career trajectory. As a result, I learned to tailor my resume and cover letters accordingly for different interviews and companies. For example, I frame my experience and skillset differently when I connect with recruiters from a telecommunications company than a logistics-focused company. I have two resumes, one for each targeted industry. I even have a Lauder classmate who translated her resume to Chinese, since she is recruiting in the US and China.
As I recruit for bold marketing roles, I am better prepared to emphasize and position my professional experiences as competitive advantages for specific companies. I am also empowered by classmates who are experts in that industry or have worked for those companies because they can share inside information to enable me to achieve my goals.
I am also passionate about building a diverse talent pipeline to ensure I inspire and mentor prospective students to access MBA opportunities. After identifying many avenues, I aligned myself with organizations on campus that work closely with admissions on marketing and communications that attract diverse talent. As a student leader, I connect with diversity programs and set up school-sponsored informational sessions for prospective candidates.
This is extremely rewarding, and I have connected with over 100 students! Most recently, I coordinated the Wharton School and Lauder Institute focused informational session for students in the Management Leadership for Tomorrow program. I also host prospective student chats through Wharton’s Student Admission Program. Additionally, I have served as a panelist for Admit Me and the Riordan MBA Fellows Program to promote MBA opportunities within Black, Hispanic, and other diverse communities. I also serve as the VP for prospective students for two student-led organizations on campus. On top of that, I host individual sessions to give feedback on student admission essays, share my application journey, and discuss my approach to manage my competing priorities.