Newly enrolled MBA students learn very quickly that not all of their MBA peers exhibit the same behaviors. While some differences are expected, others are surprising. It is these differences that make individuals interesting or that give a class its personality. From an individual standpoint, if properly managed, these differences can make you a standout among your classmates. More importantly, when classmates and faculty members view these behavioral differences positively, they become differentiators.
I believe the following behaviors, if properly handled, can become differentiators for most MBA students:
1. Punctual – The assumption is that MBA students will show up on time for team meetings and class. My experience is this is not the case. Not showing up or being late occasionally is acceptable; doing so habitually is not. Consistently being the first to arrive and last to leave creates a positive impression that will likely differentiate you from your peers.
2. Prepared – It is easy to identify the unprepared student or team member once a team meeting or class starts. Usually, behaviors of the unprepared are obvious. Preparation not only reinforces learning, it helps build confidence, which is a desired outcome of most MBA programs. Striving to be the most prepared will likely differentiate you from your MBA peers.
3. Service – Service can take many forms during the MBA program. Examples include volunteering to schedule a conference room for a team meeting, arranging a company visit for the class or attending program-recruiting open houses. Taking advantage of service opportunities, when presented, can be a differentiator, especially when done on a consistent basis.
4. Questioning – Knowing when to ask a question, knowing how to ask a question and knowing what question to ask are skills that few MBA students master. In most group settings, too many questions go unasked. Being the one to ask the unasked question appropriately and at the right time certainly causes others to take notice.
5. Positive – Positive attitudes are contagious. However, there are many opportunities in an MBA program for you to exhibit negative behaviors—a poor lecture, an ill-conceived assignment or bad behavior of a classmate, to mention a few. The challenge is to find the positive aspects of any given situation. If you do so, you will very quickly differentiate yourself from those that do not.
6. Respectful – In the context of an MBA program, being respectful of your MBA peers is more about being considerate or thoughtful than it is concerned with admiration or deference. The latter two may evolve during the program, while the former is appropriate throughout the program—and especially at the start of the program. While, at times, it may be difficult to be respectful, doing so can influence the perception others have of you.
7. Balanced – There are many parts of the MBA program where balance applies. However, two that can become issues are asking and answering questions during class or team meetings. It is important not to dominate either question asking or answering in either meeting setting. Doing so can be a differentiator in a negative way.
8. Engaged – Maintaining team, class and program engagement is a challenge, given the abundance of distractions that are possible. However, the greatest challenge to engagement is multitasking, especially with the vast array of mobile technologies that are available. Therefore, engaged MBA students do differentiate themselves in a positive way.
9. Dependable – MBA students, particularly at the team level, are prone to overcommit. It is easier to agree to do something than it is getting it done. Making commitments wisely and actually following through with quality results is much better for the team and your reputation.
10. Acknowledgeable – Not everyone gets the credit he or she deserves for contributions to a team project or the professional development of others. Periodically acknowledging a team or class member’s effort in an honest and sincere way can set you apart from your MBA peers.
MBA students are high achievers with much potential and are competitive by their very nature. As such, most MBA students try to set themselves apart from their peers. Sometimes, the most obvious behaviors— the ones we take for granted—that can make a difference and set you apart. Properly managing any or all of the above behaviors can be that difference.
Are there other behaviors that you think are differentiators? Please share your answers with the MyeEMBA readers by making a comment below.
Rodney G. Alsup, D.B.A., CPA, CITP
Professor of Accounting
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