Many incoming MBA students think they have a good idea of what to anticipate in business school, and for a good reason. During the application process, many attend school-affiliated events, talk to current students, and form real connections with their program’s admissions team. The process not only ups their chances of acceptance, but also helps them get a feel for their program and school.
Despite their preparation, there’s always something about business school that takes students by surprise. The thing is, business students associate surprise less with balloons and streamers than they do a massive paradigm shift on their path to the c-suite. So, what can they do to reduce risk? By getting as complete a picture of business school as possible, including the unexpected circumstances they may face in it.
In her 1952 book, “The Folks at Home,” Margaret Halsey writes, “In a business society, the emotional economy is an economy of scarcity.” Decades later, that notion is changing fast. Emotional intelligence, or “EQ,” is making the rounds as the latest b-school buzzword, with business programs at schools like New York University and Yale University evaluating and recruiting EQ talent.
Your emotional intelligence is your ability to understand other people, what motivates them, and how to work cooperatively with them. Business experts say a solid EQ is crucial for future business professionals since it allows them to drive a team to work toward a shared goal.
What will it mean for your time in business school? For one, you’ll likely encounter soft leadership courses that focus on communication, self-awareness, and teamwork to help you better understand the importance of EQ and the self-awareness required to improve it. Schools also cultivate student EQs by sporadically changing up teams of first-year students who work together across all core curricula, which encourages them to recognize and implement ideas from a variety of perspectives.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers predicted an average starting salary for 2019 MBA graduates of $84,580—provided those graduates found jobs in computer science, engineering, science, or business. (
Students considering an MBA or graduate business degree can choose from varied career paths, including those focused on financial management, data analytics, market research, healthcare management, and operations management. The analytical skills and problem-solving techniques gained from graduate level business degrees are in high demand across business sectors. ( )
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Each of your classmates will have specific strengths. Some may have ample experience in accounting and finance, while others will be quick-witted power networkers, always ready with a handshake and a pat on the back. Turn to them for inspiration and advice. How do they manage their time? What tools do they use? Are they considering any jobs or emerging opportunities in the field that you haven’t considered?
Additionally, connecting with classmates who share your academic and professional interests is a fail-safe approach to growing your business network in a lasting and presumably fruitful way. After all, these are people who will eventually become your future customers, business partners, and colleagues. They could even be your boss—or your boss’s boss down the line.
Although grades can serve as a benchmark for your achievements and hold you accountable in business school, they shouldn’t be a focal point. The hiring managers you’ll connect with after graduation care about your passions and accomplishments over your b-school GPA. And chances are, you won’t be applying to another grad program in the near future.
Your program should be transformative whether you’re in it to learn a specific skill, grow your network, or zero in on the niche you’re most passionate about. It’s natural to want to do well, but your experience will be so much more worthwhile if you use it to focus on the aspect of learning that’s most important to you.
The first year your program will essentially be an academic playground. You’ll have the opportunity to challenge yourself, find out what your weaknesses are, and explore areas that would be out of the question in a professional setting. Best of all, you’re free to fail.
Whether you botched an exam or slipped up on an essay, failure will be an opportunity for you to receive constructive feedback on what you’re good at and what you can improve on. You’ll learn that success doesn’t happen continuously and experience as many b-school victories as moments of frustration. It may be painful to admit to or address a setback at first, but you’ll quickly realize it’s where you’ll develop the techniques for confronting adversity that you’ll use throughout your career.
While many people think that MBA degree holders probably look like someone in a custom-tailored suit rising through the ranks of a top consulting firm, the reality of life after graduation can be drastically different. Many graduates get so caught up with trying to meet traditional expectations of what their career and lives should look like with an MBA, that their degree starts to feel more like an obligation than an opportunity.
While even the most esteemed MBA programs won’t guarantee you’ll immediately land your dream job or a significant salary bump upon graduating, your degree can positively affect your life. You’ll have razor-sharp interviewing skills and an awareness of where your passions lie in the field, and you’ll know how to deal (and benefit) from not being the smartest person in the room. Dream jobs and cushy paychecks will happen with time. Before stressing your next move, take some time to let the magnitude of your accomplishment sink in.
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