An MBA is Overwhelming: Here's how to Start Strong

Starting your MBA is an exciting and nerve-racking experience. All of a sudden you step into a whirlwind of new opportunities, responsibilities, and relationships. There are a variety of professional organizations to join, a lot of new people to meet and get to know, not to mention class and studying that needs to be done. It’s easy to see how a person could be easily overwhelmed; I know I was.

Lucky for me, I met a friend early on, Alejandro Sanoja, who gave me critical advice on how to organize myself to maximize my time and effort to maximize my  success. I met with him after class one day in the building where all of the MBA students get together to study, and told him that I felt overwhelmed.

Before the first week of class, I had decided to start a blog for my MBA cohort, began attending regular events held by professional organizations both on and off campus, and became the vice-president of recruiting for an organization called the SURE Incubator (and that doesn’t include helping out my family business as well as a start-up I used to work for full-time in New York).

How would I ever manage all of this?

Sanoja and I discussed three things. First, I would have to collaborate with students in my class to get the most out of the time that I had. In an MBA program your peers are as much a resource as your professors or career center and we are all truly in it together. Due to a diverse set of backgrounds, some of us are experienced in finance while others are experienced in supply-chain or the energy sector including much more.

The key is knowing that you do not have to be the best at everything. Use your strengths to help those around you and rely on the strengths of others to help you in the areas in which you are not as strong. Personally, I have little background in accounting or finance, so it is no mystery why I spend much of the time I allot to these subjects asking questions and collaborating with my peers that do have that background.

Second, it is important to have a clear image of what you are trying to accomplish through your participation in the MBA program. If you know what you want to get out of the program then it is much easier to choose the areas that will give you the most for the effort that you put in. My 20-year BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is to start my own venture-capital firm and I know that after I complete my program at the C.T. Bauer College of Business I want to work for a consulting firm to gain experience helping companies achieve their goals.

So, whenever I take on a project, go to an event, or join an organization I need to ask myself: How will this help me get where I want to be? If there is a clear link between what I am considering doing and my short and long-term goals, then I should go for it. If not, then it is likely that the energy and effort that project or activity would take would be better spent elsewhere. Remember there is only one of you and that means that there is a limited amount of time and energy that is at your disposal. Make sure to use it wisely.

Third, anything that can be done within 5 minutes should be done immediately. Don’t wait a day to add an event to your calendar that you have already committed to. Don’t wait a day to add the recruiter that you met from X company on LinkedIn. Waiting is how things can begin to fall through the cracks. The little things can quickly begin to pile up and you do not want to realize that you had a meeting with a classmate, a professor, or a recruiter an hour after that meeting should have taken place.

By maintaining your organizational habits in this way you will save yourself the stress of remembering the hundreds of little things that must be done every week by allowing you to focus on the larger, more complex issues at hand.

Finally, I want to add that mistakes do happen. I have forgotten to add events to my calendar. I have waited to add that great recruiter I met to my LinkedIn. I also know that I am not the only one. Make sure to learn from your mistakes, but do not beat yourself up about them. The program is long, life is long, and no one is perfect. As in any venture, the most important thing is to put in your absolute best effort. In the MBA program, similar to life, you only get out what you put in.

Good Luck!

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and reach out for any questions.

Alejandro Esquino