Getting the Most Out of B-School, Starting with Orienation
First year of B-school life passed so quickly. Without a real relaxation break, I have already begun my Internship at Fenwick & West, a Silicon Valley law-firm, conducting research about Venture Capital-backed companies and companies that have recent IPOs in the U.S.
Looking back, I can tell you about the change that the first year MBA training brought to me. I am very satisfied and happy about the first year B-school life. But there still space for improvement. And if I had that chance to do it again, I would change my actions in this way:
1. BEGIN YOUR INTERNSHIP SEARCH EARLY
The internship search should begin on the first day. The #1 purpose of the MBA for most of us is to get a better career, and summer internship is a very important step in working towards this goal. Time goes by very quickly. Intensive classes, networking opportunities, club activities, and all your personal life will occupy your calendar. So if you don’t think about internship search from the very beginning, you may miss it.
Siamac, one of our classmates, attended national career fairs right after orientation and he is the first person who got several offers and took an internship with a well-known, large company. All your efforts will be paid back, and you can see it as all of our classmates who got internship offers early began their searches early. I began my internship search a little late and I felt the growing pressure later. I may have the best excuse in the world – I gave birth to my second baby during the first quarter, all while keeping very good academic performance – but when I faced the reality that I wanted a good internship to prepare for the full time job search, there is no excuse. So: prepare for internship search as early as possible. How do you do that? Pay attention to Career Development’s workshops and seminars to start; there is lots to learn.
2. PREPARE FOR YOUR COURSES
MBA studying is very intensive, lots of reading, projects, and papers, which cover a broad range of topics. So spending some time to preview the course materials is necessary (at least for me). Some people think studying is not important for MBA student; I don’t agree. Of course, job research, networking, and building leadership skills through activities is all important. But as MBA students, we are expected to deal with certain issues, for example, reading and analysis financial statements, writing a business plan, conducting quantities researches and understanding terminologies about finance, marketing, strategy, etc. While the title of MBA may good enough to get you in the door for an interview, I believe sooner or later the knowledge and skill of MBA education will matter. Think another way that you have invested your time and money in this two year program, why not gain knowledge and skill back as return. We are a business school, we should be able to calculate ROI. For me what I learned in the classroom has been extremely helpful in my internship. The first week I arrived at Fenwick, I was given a VC survey to edit, without the knowledge I learned from finance class (Professor Barber) and VC class (Professor Yasuda), I wouldn’t have even been able to understand the VC survey. And the research methodology I learned from Professor Tsai’s statistic classes gave me guidelines to the research I am doing, although I don’t need to use those fancy and sophisticated statistic models (not that I didn’t enjoy every minute of them, Professor Tsai!).
3. LEARN FROM NOT ONLY YOUR AWESOME PROFESSORS, BUT ALSO YOUR CLASSMATES
Our professors are so fantastic. Professor Barber’s is amazing because he made Finance class easy to understand and relevant to our lives. Many of us wish we could have him teach more classes. I asked him several very fundamental questions, and he explained to me patiently. Hint: don’t be shy to ask questions, as long as you are showing your willingness and effort to learn. Professor Tsai is GSM treasure; he has won so many awards. He was stern with us when we didn’t meet his expectations, but he smiled sincerely when he saw our true improvement. He let us know what teaching with heart and soul means and what holding yourself and your team to the highest standard can help you achieve. As he said many times during the year, we can all be good, but we are not here to be good, we are here to be great. His class is absolutely not an easy class and requires more time and effort than any other, but if you do want to learn some solid quantitative and analytical skills, 203B and 285 are very good choices. Professor Elsbach’s Organizational Behavior teaches us softer skills about people and about organizations. It is fun and inspiring. And I love Professor Dokko’s Strategy because I can understand Michael Porter’s books now…
Our classmates are treasure too. Our diverse background, from high-tech to healthcare, from campaign office to the U.S. Navy, from the Big Four to non-profit, and from consulting to investment banking, is hard to find elsewhere. There is so much to learn from each other.
4. BE OPEN TO TRANSFORMATION
Using the two-week orientation to transform from where ever you are now to being a full-time formal MBA student. Several small things can help:
Get used to wearing suit. A suit is the uniform of MBA student. It’s not so comfortable compared to a T-shirt and jeans, but it’s the icon of an MBA. So get familiar with the suit and make yourself look great and professional.
Familiarize yourself with some efficiency management applications, for example, Google calendar, Google doc, Dropbox, etc. These tools will be lifesavers balancing your busy schedule and working in teams through out your time in the program.
Prepare a professional photo and use it update all your online profiles, especially LinkedIn.
Accept and learn from the massive amounts of teamwork. The first year is filled with team work assignments, papers, and projects. Whether your team is assigned or your pick your team, get to know everyone and be open to the experience. Learn the pattern of teamwork and your skills and areas that need improvement. Identify your roles your can play to contribute most, for example, be a leader, contributor, completer, consul, or coordinator. And contribute as much as you possibly can, reputations are built from the first day and team recommendations carry great weight in the school and the business world.
Overall, have an incredible experience! Seize every moment you can – explore, dream, discover.