5 Tips For First-Year MBA Students:

by on August 17th, 2009

Many of our instructors have MBAs and we asked them what they wish they had known before they started b-school themselves. Below is a “top 5″ list of their recommendations for those of you who are just heading to b-school this fall.

1. Networking: Depth as well as Breadth.

The message about networking is ubiquitous in business school, and for good reason.  Chances are you’ve already witnessed how important it is to build relationships and make connections in the world of business.  A good portion of your classmates will be movers and shakers in their respective industries, so it’s a wise investment to network with them at every opportunity.  But one thing to keep in mind is that effective networking is not about collecting a stack of business cards during orientation weekend and accruing hundreds of connections on LinkedIn.  It’s okay to have a fair number of “weak ties” in your network, but also strive to cultivate strong, meaningful relationships along the way.  Ask yourself, “Could I really call this person a couple of years from now and have them lend me a hand?” These types of relationships take time to develop, so start early and make it a priority.

2. Make use of Clubs and Groups.

Maybe you weren’t a big club person in college, and you made friends in other ways. Business school groups ought to be a different story. This is especially true if you’re interested in switching careers and/or industries. Clubs can often be a crossroads for cutting-edge ideas, speaker events with industry leaders, and job opportunities. Listing significant involvement in one or two clubs on your resume can make all the difference in your job search.  Also, participating in groups is a great way to build networks outside of your graduating class.

3. Stay Current

The case method employed by most b-schools is about looking into the past to discuss key dilemmas and decisions that managers have faced, but that does not allow you to lose sight of the present business landscape.  Consider your daily business newspaper/periodical/website reading a critical part of your coursework.  Not only will it contextualize and enhance your coursework, but it’ll help you understand the environment when you’re looking for a job.

4. Step Outside of the Box

You probably crafted an articulate and convincing argument about your short- and long-term career goals in your application essays. But rest assured that no one will hold you accountable to the specifics you wrote or said during the admissions process. Don’t be afraid to deviate from the path you envisioned for yourself. Take some electives outside your comfort zone and try new things, even consider registering for a course in one of the non-business schools of the university (e.g. law, public policy, etc.).  And while you’re branching out with your course schedule, also avoid grouping up with the same three or four people project after project.  It would be a shame to miss out on the different talents and backgrounds of your classmates, and you could make a new friend or two.

5. Explore your business ideas

There are not that many times when you’ll be free of the demands of a full-time job and surrounded by smart people with a natural interest in helping you flesh out that business idea you’ve had rattling around your head. Business school is a fantastic opportunity to give an idea a try in a supportive, relatively risk-free environment. Enlist support from classmates. Ask a professor what he or she thinks. Build or join a team. Think of it as yet another part of your education. At a minimum, it’ll make a great story for your job interviews down the road.

Good luck and have fun while making the most of your b-school experience!

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