Well done. You made it. You made the tough decision to undertake an MBA and potentially moved continents to secure a place on your MBA program of choice. You hopefully will have been supported by family, friends, colleagues and admissions advisors in your journey. So what next? With your MBA journey about to start, how can you get the most from your experience as you join a cohort of strangers? Here are some thoughts to help you get the most from your time.
Read. Read. Read. You should have lots of information sent to you ahead of starting your MBA which informs you of key services available from the University and the School. This may not sound exciting, but knowing from day 1 the wealth of help, support and guidance available will ensure you can quickly access services when you need them. If I had to pick the two key services to know in particular, it would be your careers service and the administrative team that will support you on the MBA journey. Both teams will be working closely with you until and beyond your graduation, as you secure your post-MBA career. They will be your key advocates so building relationships with them will be to your long-term advantage.
It’s not The Apprentice. With determination, energy and drive to start your MBA remember that you are not in competition with your fellow class mates so harness your enthusiasm to build positive and supportive networks early. The depth and breadth of your MBA network will be a true life-long asset and securing friends and allies early will be far more rewarding than securing competitors and even enemies! Building collaborative networks will work for you. I promise.
Embrace the difference. The breadth of your new network will bring you into contact with people from different professional, cultural and religious backgrounds. Every single one of you will have your own unique views and this is a true strength of your new cohort. As part of this there will be times when you and your ideas will face challenge, critique and opposing ways of seeing the world. When you’re tired and working on a group presentation in the early hours, deal with this challenge as you would in a professional workspace. Being combative and determined to be ‘right’ no matter what the cost may not be the best course of action. Actively seek resolution which means you will have to compromise. That is a personal strength and not a weakness.
Stuck? Help is there. Universities are brilliantly unique life changing organisations and their core aim is to help you to be the best version of yourself which includes helping you when you need it the most. Whatever issues you are facing (personal, academic, health, career dilemmas) there will always be someone there who can help you.
Giving back. As an MBA student, you have a lot to offer to the undergraduate students in your School. Some of these will be first in their family to attend higher education and the breadth of their network will be much smaller than yours. Some will have no professional network at all. Think about what guidance you wanted as an ambitious 19 year old. You might excel in your career and be the brightest mind in your class. However, that doesn’t make you a compassionate leader. You have the ability and opportunity to help others during your MBA. Take this opportunity and help others who may not have had the same opportunities as you.
About the author
Ian Hamley has spent his 26-year career in higher education in the UK. He has experience of leading operational, logistical and administrative service delivery across a diverse range of universities in the United Kingdom including 4 ½ years working at Warwick Business School as a Programme Manager and Operations Director for executive programmes including full-time and executive MBAs.
Ian is a graduate of the University of Warwick, Warwick Business School and Loughborough University. He is a Fellow of the Association of University Administrators and a member of the Professional Managers’ Committee at the Chartered Association of Business Schools.