It’s hard to believe it’s only been a year since I started my MBA. In some respects, it’s a positive as I’ve gained new skills, confidence, and friends. I have also lost two close family members and moved cross country in that same 12-month period. To say the least, it hasn’t been easy.
Going back to school is also different as we are all separated. Last year, I spent 10-12 hours with the same ~60 or so people at least 5 days a week. Even the “days off’ were filled with networking events, treks, and group projects with my class. Now, everyone is more or less knows what they want and is going in their own direction.
This can be great–classes in specific topics can go to a deeper level and you are around “your people” who also like those subjects for most of the day. That said, if you are recruiting on campus, it’s likely you will be facing the same people for the same jobs you want. Here are some things I learned from the past year:
-Protect your heart. You don’t need to be shady about what you’re applying to, but you also don’t need to tell everyone the status of each application you submit as it happens. Even with the best of intentions, your classmates may ask you about the interview call you never got, or the follow up round email that never existed. Try as much as possible to keep your own counsel. Remember: it’s not over until the fat lady sings (or you have a written letter signed and accepted).
-Practice interview questions (and cases) with either BFF+ friends or near-strangers. These are literally the only two scenarios I’ve seen work out well for interviewing. A true best friend can give it you straight about exactly what you are doing wrong, and a near stranger also doesn’t feel awkward about giving constructive feedback. Unfortunately, the other 95% of people who are ready to help you on cases are not likely to be super helpful. If you are on four group projects with someone, a person is unlikely to tell you anything that will upset you.
–Be gracious about opportunities you don’t want. If you find out from an interview that the job would be a poor fit, still show up and do your best to represent your school well. If you get an offer for a job you don’t want, also try not to criticize it. Every job has drawbacks. Frame it as an opportunity that didn’t work for your life or (even better) keep it to yourself. Would you want to hear that another classmate had rejected your prized job offer? Probably not. Seems basic but it bears repeating.
Finally, know when to listen and when to help. If someone is complaining about the 10th application of the day, they may just want to blow off steam…rather than hear about your amazing cover letter and autofill form technique. Keep the conversation positive and switch to a new topic!