3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting Business School

It’s taken me well into my MBA summer internship to fully come to terms with the fact that my b-school experience is halfway over. And, it feels strange – so strange – to reflect on how much has happened over the past year. If you had told me in July 2014 what lay in store for me over the next 365 days, I would have laughed in disbelief. But now, a year wiser, here’s what I wish I’d known before going into the experience:

(1) There is never enough time. Be strategic with it.

The number of things you could spend your time on while in B-School is insane: clubs, classes, conferences, entrepreneurial ventures, volunteering, hackathons, travel, coffee chats, partying, research, recruiting events, etc. etc. Unfortunately, there are simply not enough hours in the day to do everything. We were warned about this at B-School orientation. We were told to prioritize, but unfortunately – there was no aid in figuring out how to do so…

Mid-way through my third week at Sloan, I began to feel the pressure and inundation of opportunities. That weekend, I carved out an hour and brainstormed a framework for myself. I drew 4-quadrants and asked myself, what are the four overarching things that were important to me while at school? Within each quadrant, I set out 2-3 specific semester and year-long goals.

Tadaa! After that exercise, every time I got an email blast or text about a new opportunity – I started consulting my framework and asking myself if the opportunity fit into one of my quadrants, and if it helped with achieving a goal it was even better. This made saying “no” easier to opportunities that, while enticing, were just not a great use of the limited time that I had.

I wish I had spent the summer before school thinking about that and coming in with the framework in mind. I highly, highly recommend anyone in the class of 2017 (and beyond!) to do a similar exercise.

(2) Everyone is coming into B-School with differing desires and expectations. Understand (and respect) theirs; know (and be true to) yours.

Depending on where you came from, where you are, and where you are going – you will have very different approaches to business school.

I had never had any formal business education (engineering undergrad), and I came to school eager seize every new interesting experience and ready to learn. Everything. As a result, I took the academic portion of the B-School experience a bit more seriously than some (but still balanced in the fun!). To me, B-School was not only a self-incubation period but an opportunity to explore what my future career might look like.

There were certainly many individuals, alternatively, that had studied, lived and breathed the business world for years prior to school. And, some saw the next 2-years more like a mental vacation and the MBA as a way to go higher up the ranks at their previous employer. While #GDM (“Grades Don’t Matter”) was thrown around quite a lot, grades mattered to me – predominantly as an indicator of whether or not I was fully grasping the material.

Being slightly more focused academically was my choice. And, being daily partiers was theirs. The thing to note though is that neither choice is the “right choice” or “wrong choice”, because each choice will be right for someone. The only thing wrong in the situation is if you cast your choice on other people.

(3) Nobody will hold your hand through recruiting. Come into school with specific options you want to dive into or explore. 

I had this notion that because Sloan prohibited companies from summer internship recruiting on campus until January – that that meant that I would have the entire fall semester to figure out what exactly I wanted to recruit for. I was told by the career counselors in October that I was in good shape because I had narrowed down to 3 different types of roles and an industry. This was, of course…

False.

Everything ended up working relatively smoothly for me in the end (thankfully). But, many of my classmates were still frantically recruiting at the end of the spring semester due to poor pre-planning/strategizing. Many, for example, had presumed that given the MIT brand and their desire to go into tech – that it would be super easy recruiting, especially when compared to the competitive recruiting cycles for banking or consulting. But unfortunately, competition is a lot tougher than people realized across all of the top business schools for all jobs.

Life would have been so much easier if we had spent the summer before having conversations with alumni at the companies/holding roles that we were considering (instead of trying to balance that as yet another thing during the semester). And instead of trying to do so much company research during [non-existent] spare time during the semester or winter holidays, I wished I had come into school having a pre-thought out list of the roles PLUS the companies that I was interested in interning at (and how that may play into full-time recruiting).

Ankita Kaul

Trained electrical engineer turned business strategist - with experience in venture-backed startups (product marketing & user experience design) and management consulting. Lover of disruptive technologies, wearable computing, travel, cooking, and random acts of kindness. MIT Sloan MBA 2016.

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4 Comments

  1. This is super helpful. Thank you for writing this.

  2. Thanks for this Ankita! While I am very excited to start school, I also feel a bit overwhelmed at times thinking about the different opportunities that are ahead of us. This definitely gave me a good starting point to think and strategize my b-school plan.

  3. I really enjoy the valuable insight you provide for future Sloanies or B-shoolers in general through your crisp writing! Great job!

  4. Pingback: MIT Sloan Student Blogs: Let the Journey Begin | MIT Sloan School of Management

  5. Perfectly agree what you’ve recommend for future MBA. It is very helpful. Thank you!

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