An Introvert’s Guide to the MBA

Here’s what I’ve heard about business school: it’s amazing. Sloan is amazing. The MBA program is amazing. The activities are amazing. The opportunities are amazing. The travel is amazing. And, perhaps most importantly, the people are amazing, the friendships are amazing, and the social life is amazing.

And this is why I am actually kind of scared of business school.

In the purest, most Jungian sense of the word, I am about as introverted as it gets. I love being alone, I prefer writing to talking, and I do not like voicing a thought that hasn’t been fully organized and developed in my mind beforehand. I once went an entire weekend without a substantial face-to-face conversation and it was the best weekend ever. According to the Internet, I’d make an excellent forester, museum archivist, or petroleum engineer.

While I may require solitude for energy and sanity, I am every bit as opinionated, charismatic, and adventurous as everyone I met at AdMIT Weekend. My classmates and I also share the same broad goals: solve problems, generate ideas, grow the mind, have impact. These objectives are what led me to an MBA, and these classmates are what led me to Sloan. So really, I can’t imagine a better (or more fun!) place to challenge myself to come out of my shell.

So how will I stay emotionally and mentally balanced in the midst of so much activity and social excitement? How can I protect my quiet time, but also be an active participant in all the great business school experiences? And how can I guarantee that I make MY time at Sloan as good as it can be? Here’s where my mind’s at:

  • Understand that everyone’s FOMO is different. One of the most oft-heard summaries of business school is “you will not have enough time to do everything you want to do”. Amen! I get overwhelmed just looking at my email, and I haven’t even arrived on campus. The thing is, “everything” means something different to each student, and the things that I will choose to do, or not do, just need to be right for me. I can predict my own brand of FOMO (or “fear of missing out”): fear of missing out on alone time, maybe, or voluntarily missing out on someone else’s favorite experience because I just needed a night with my book. While I’m hoping to limit the latter, I do think it will be important for me to keep in mind that my time at Sloan is my own time, and as long as I’m learning and growing and engaging, I’m doing it right. No two business school experiences are alike.
  • Take advantage of the safe space to grow. Some of the most incredible people I know operate with one simple rule: “never say no”. This is a completely unrealistic strategy for me, but I think an adjusted version, maybe “say yes for every two nos”, will actually challenge me in all the right ways. Part of the joy of business school is the encouragement to take risks and learn from the results. There will be times when saying “yes” to an activity might be an incredible opportunity to meet new friends or develop a new skill, and these outcomes will last a lot longer than the jolt of energy from sitting alone at home. Likewise, as uncomfortable as I am in large groups of strangers or in front of a crowd, putting myself in those situations at Sloan will prepare me for the inevitably higher-stakes equivalents down the road in my career. At the very least, I know I’ll have built-in refueling time with all that accounting studying I’ll need to do.
  • Remember what makes me happy, and do that. This should probably be a guiding principle for everyone, but it’s a lot easier said than done. I’m thrilled that some of my passions will be easy to explore at Sloan: travel, social impact, optimizing efficiency, wine. That’ll make things like club sign-ups or weekend plans a no-brainer. Some of my other favorite things, however, will require me to carve out time independent of my Sloan calendar, and also probably make some sacrifices. Rather than risk procrastinating on my own self-fulfillment, I plan to schedule these non-optional “happy activities” early and often (bonus: they’ll count for introvert time!) Regular trips to SF to see my boyfriend, struggling through barre classes, working on my watercolors, and loitering at the local animal shelter will just become part of my own Sloan experience.

I’m a socially anxious and highly analytical introvert, yes, but after writing this blog post, I’m more excited than ever to make the move to Cambridge and get started on this next stage of my life. MIT and my classmates have already done an incredible job creating a welcoming and nonjudgmental environment, and I know we’re in for a great couple years. I look forward to sharing my introvert perspective on the business school experience: the academic, the social, the extracurricular, and the solo, of course.

Anna Thomas

Anna is pursuing an MBA from Sloan and an MPP from Harvard, graduating in 2018. In a previous life, she was an international strategy and operations consultant at McKinsey & Company and a strategic initiatives fellow at Khan Academy. Anna is an avid traveler, food and wine consumer, modern literature reader, Arabic learner, and rescue dog advocate. Anna dreams of one day working at the intersection of labor productivity, vocational education, retail, and emerging markets - any ideas?

4 Comments

  1. I am glad to hear of your exciting step forward. Good luck with your studies and personal growth.

  2. Hi Anna,

    I wish you Good Luck with your study in this amazing MBA program

  3. I’m an electrical engineer working at an oil & gas company for the last 5 years. I want to do MBA, previously I thought that my social anxiety would hamper my growth at the university. But, after reading this I’ve decided to give it a go. Thank you so much for writing this. It will not only help me achieve my goals, but also challenge me to treat my anxiety around people.

  4. I was thinking for taking admission for mba and this post cleared my doubt. Thanks a lot

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