MBA programs provide significant learning opportunities for students. Yet, not all MBA students graduate from their program having had the same learning experience as their peers. One explanation is that not all MBA students know what to do to have a quality learning experience – both in and out of the classroom. While there are many things MBA students can do to get more out of their programs, I think the following eight items are worthy of consideration.
1. Minimize Conflicts – Enrollment in an MBA program adds to the activities of daily living, which means more work and demands on a student’s time. Unless proactively managed, these competing demands can lead to conflicts – at home, at work or socially. Conflict is distracting and takes time to address, time that could be devoted to the MBA program. Identifying and eliminating as many sources of conflict as possible can help students get more out of their programs. The following MyeEMBA articles describe in detail ways of addressing some sources of potential conflict.
- Work-Life Balance: Career Wellbeing While Earning My MBA
- Action Planning – Mitigate Sacrifices of Earning an MBA
- MBA Work-Life Balance: Meet with My MBA Team Members
- Manage Co-Worker/Direct Report Expectations During Your MBA
- MBA Students Need to Meet with Their Family Members
2. Research Classmates – Learning about classmates helps establish a foundation for networking. A simple way to start is by reviewing the student bios provided by the MBA program or just a simple Internet search by name or by a student’s employer-company’s name. Research can identify common interests, experiences or areas of expertise that can be helpful in establishing a relationship. Keeping research current is easy with Google Alerts, an Internet search tool that monitors topics or people of interest and automatically provides an alert when there is a new finding. Learning something new about a classmate provides an opportunity for connecting during the program or reconnecting after graduation.
3. Leverage Social Media – Most MBA students are users of social media. Unfortunately, these same students often fail to consider the benefits of these applications as communication tools during their programs or for a single class. Social media applications provide useful ways of communicating with classmates during the program and staying connected after graduation. For example, creating a closed Facebook page or a private Twitter account for a class or course is easy and can facilitate communications with other students.
4. Build Win-Win Relationships – MBA programs provide excellent opportunities for establishing win-win relationships with classmates and program faculty members. Regrettably, not all MBA students take advantage of these opportunities. Don’t wait for relationships to establish serendipitously; instead, take the initiative and seek out classmates. Using the information gleaned from researching classmates can help identify opportunities for building a relationship. In most cases, it is easier to establish a relationship during the program than after graduation.
5. Strengthen Your Personal Brand – The “you” described in your MBA program application is likely a different “you” than the one you want your classmates and faculty to know. During the application process, you are trying to show that you are a match for the program. Now, you want to differentiate yourself from your peers. Take the time to compare yourself to your peers and identify what distinguishes you from them. Emphasize the positives and work to eliminate the negatives during your MBA program.
6. Revise Your Resume – Typically, you tailor or revise your resume with a specific purpose in mind – applying for a job or promotion, demonstrating qualifications to a potential client, etc. Therefore, the resume you used for your MBA program application will need some reworking. The revision process should start immediately, especially when your program’s curriculum does not include placement-related activities. Start with your program’s career services office. Take advantage of the resources they provide, one of which is almost certainly resume-writing assistance.
7. Identify Learning Goals – Learning goals relate directly to your professional-development needs. Furthermore, they will likely change as you go through your program – not because the program helps you achieve these goals, but because you are introduced to topics and concepts that you identify as some things you need to master in order to achieve your career goals. For example, you become convinced during a lecture that learning to give quality feedback to employees is critical for your career. While your program does not help you master this skill, you know that at some point in the future you will have to develop mastery. Therefore, so you make it a learning goal for the future. After your MBA program, these goals become focal points for your professional development.
8. Invest in Being Found – LinkedIn, an online application, helps you create an online identity that allows you to connect with others, to find others and helps others to find you. Many MBAs use LinkedIn. However, their profile pages lack the qualities that help to differentiate them from their peers. While enrolled in your MBA program, you have an opportunity to improve your profile and to add connections. One approach is to send classmates invitations to connect. When they accept the invitation, study their profile page and compare it to yours. Identify the good, the bad and the ugly from both and modify your page as appropriate. Investing time for improving a profile page and adding connections will pay off, especially after graduation.
These eight keys provide a starting point for helping MBA students get more out of their MBA program. The appropriateness of each item depends on the individual student’s needs. Moreover, the MyeEMBA readers are likely to have other things students can do, as well. Please take a few minutes and share them by adding a comment below.
About the Author:
Dr. Rodney Alsup is the creator of the MyeEMBA blog. His goal is to help MBAs live and work smarter.