My name is Chris Meyering and I am set to begin my second year of the MBA program at the University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business. Over the next few weeks “first-year” MBA students will begin orientation at their chosen program and identify how they plan to spend the next two years of life. The world is full of professionals significantly wiser than I, but there was one piece of advice that I hoped to pass on to incoming MBA students. I discreetly put that singular piece of advice in the title in case you're pressed for time...this article is also the first I've ever written, so please go easy on me!
Over the past year I've met MBA students from across the country through my program, conferences, case competitions and internships with FEI Company and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. An interesting facet to these introductions has been the variety of reasons a professional may have to pursue an MBA. There are those who see it as a route to promotion, some who seek a career change and even a few who view it as respite to a challenging work environment.
The reason behind enrolling will be specific to your situation, but I would highly recommend identifying your “strategic vision” upon enrollment. This vision should underline the specific reasons for enrolling in your chosen MBA program. Once you have come up with your vision I would suggest running through these questions whenever you plan to make a major decision. The three questions below are meant to guide you in how you spend time over the next two years, but should by no means be solely responsible for your decision-making.
What factors contribute directly to achieving my strategic vision?
This can vary greatly by area of concentration and motivation for attendance, but I know for me it was more valuable to balance my time between school and an internship than it was to concentrate on a 4.0 GPA. When attempting to change careers, good grades alone may not be enough to make you a desirable candidate if you have no experience in that field. It is vital to think “What trends in technology or the labor force are occurring across the globe? What skills do I have right now that will allow me to contribute to a team immediately? Can I volunteer to address gap areas in my experience?”
Am I creating quality connections that will assist me in the pursuit of my strategic vision?
If you are in a “Full-Time” program there is a good chance that you are limiting your work hours/week, so in that case you should identify ways to be productive in hours between and after classes. Meet with professors, alumni, the career center and other students in your "off" hours. Things like informational interviews and coffee chats can help immensely if spent with the right people.
Am I positioning myself as a viable candidate in a _________ career?
This one is particularly hard to ask if you have trouble being honest with yourself. If you are like me and are enrolled at a program outside of the Top 10 MBA programs, you must find other ways to differentiate yourself. There is no exact formula to positioning, but some examples are to participate in a well-respected organization on campus, get involved with a national organization (NAWMBA, NBMBAA, or NSHMBA) or assisting a start-up for experience in-lieu of pay.
These certainly are not the only things you should worry about in your MBA program this fall, but they can provide a good starting point. It is important to make lasting friendships, learn from different perspectives and have fun as well. The MBA has been a great experience for me so far and if you have gotten this far into the article let me offer you a warm conclusion....WELCOME BACK TO SCHOOL!