BY NATHAN ADELMAN
As I approach the home stretch of my Anderson MBA, I have had some time to reflect on some of the most meaningful lessons that I have learned as both a student and as a TA. I believe the following ideas apply to most Anderson students, regardless of your career track. Here is my list of the top five things to help you make the most of your time at Anderson.
1.The difference between a good MBA experience and a great one is about $10,000
Business school is expensive, no doubt about it. Even after paying tuition and living expenses there are many other things taking money from our wallets: clubs, trips, social events, and more. Making it even tougher is the fact that most of us are not currently working, so living on a budget is important too. However, trying to conserve too much money could actually be counterproductive to maximizing the Anderson experience.
I believe it costs roughly $10,000 to take a good Anderson experience and turn it into a great one. $10,000 is about the cost of 2-3 international trips plus the cost of participating in social events throughout the year. These experiences will impart to you a global perspective, lifelong friends, and a strong business network that will benefit you for the next 40 years of your career. So if you spread that money out over your 40-year career, it comes out to about $250 per year to significantly improve the lasting impact of your MBA. I’m no banker but even I know that’s a pretty good ROI.
2. Not studying for a test is actually harder than studying for the test
Getting good grades has been a chief priority of mine for my entire academic life leading up to business school. But business school is different than any of my previous academic pursuits because for my career path getting straight A’s does not open any more doors than would getting B’s. For many of us career switchers, business school is all about landing that elusive first job in a new industry or function.
With that goal in mind, we are forced to re-prioritize the amount of time and effort we can afford to the many demands on our time. Between class, clubs, recruiting events, and social events, I determined that, while I am here to learn, classes are actually the activity in business school that has the smallest influence on me landing my dream job.
Armed with this realization, I no longer feel the pressure to set the Anderson GPA record. However, dealing with the feeling of not being as prepared as possible the night before the first quarter accounting final was far more difficult than studying for that final would have been if I had nothing else on my plate.
Now that I am comfortable with that feeling, it has enabled me to better manage my time and prioritize my commitments which in turn has allowed me to get the most out of my business school experience, inside and outside of the classroom.
3. Greater career focus yields more career opportunities
As a first year and also as a Parker Series TA this year, I have seen many students at Anderson who come to school undecided about what they want to do after school. Without too much thought, they recruit for multiple industries and job functions, hoping to keep their options open while optimistically searching for something that they like.
I have learned that it is the opposite approach that in fact creates more opportunities: be as focused as possible. Although this seems counterintuitive, the reasons actually make a lot of sense.
First, the more focused you are the easier it is to avoid the time-suck of attending the many company information sessions, writing extra cover letters, and applying to jobs that you are not very excited about. All this extra time allows you to focus on specializing in your specific area of interest. This means you actually have the time to do industry research, network with people in the industry, and get to know the companies intimately – all things that you will actually talk about in your interview!
Further, when you can articulate exactly what you want, our supportive classmates and Parker Advisors will think of you first when they come across relevant opportunities. After all, it’s much easier to help the “Restaurant Girl” or the “The Pharma Guy” than it is to help the “Maybe consulting, maybe marketing, maybe tech Guy.”
So take the time to think about it and pick something that gets you excited, and then go for it!
4. Don’t budget your class bidding points
Class bidding strategy is always a popular debate – bid a lot of points now or save them for that special class in the future? Well, from my experience the answer is simple: SPEND ‘EM!
There are very few classes that actually require more than a single point to get. After all, if the class doesn’t sell out in that round, then bidding just one point gets you into the class. If there are multiple classes that you want to take that each ‘cost’ a lot of points, odds are that the one you don’t rank first will sell out in the first round anyway, so it doesn’t matter how many points you have left if it’s sold out by round two.
But what if you absolutely need to take “People in Organizations” or Dean Olian’s class? Well, luckily the amount of points that you are budgeted each quarter is enough to get those classes if you prioritize them.
Lastly, the points have zero redeemable cash value once you graduate but taking a good class does… so use ‘em or lose ‘em!
5. Mentors cannot be assigned, they must be found
Anderson loves setting up students with mentors. In fact, it starts right away with the admissions “buddies” you get just after being accepted. And once you make the smart decision to come to Anderson, just about every club also has a mentorship program where they pair a student with someone experienced in the field. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Not so fast. I have yet to find a single ‘assigned mentorship’ that was truly meaningful for either party. I‘m not saying that it’s not possible or has never happened, but it is very rare. I have seen that forcing – errr, assigning two people to each other rarely creates the true connection that a mentorship is supposed to have.
In my experience a genuine mentorship always starts and develops organically. They are not assigned or forced, but rather they grow from an authentic connection on both a professional and personal level. The relationship starts with similar goals and interests and is deepened through shared values and ambitions.
It is this personal connection that really separates an “advisor” from a “mentor”, and also it cannot be faked. So don’t be afraid to seek out those people whom you admire and want to emulate – odds are one of them will see something in you as well.