Saving the best for last (semester): resolutions for a final term at MIT Sloan

I often tell people that business school is the college experience I never had, academically, personally, and professionally. As an undergraduate, my academic life was overly tied to my GPA, my social life largely circumscribed to the people I sang with or who shared my meal plan, and my would-be professional life an ostensible failure since neither Goldman Sachs nor Google cared for my “quirky” background.

In business school–or at least since the core ended–I’ve thrown three sheets to the wind regarding the letters I’ve received for my “performance,” I’ve gone out more times in the past 1.5 years than I did all through college (though I’m definitely on the lower end on the socializing spectrum), and when the tendency to compare myself to others kicked in during the job search, I did my best to listen to voice that said, “You deserve to feel excited about your job 4 out of 5 days a week and working at [insert any major company that recruits at a top MBA program that burns out b-schoolers within 2 years] won’t make you feel that way.”

Part of my problem with college was I didn’t really start embracing the college experience until after I submitted my thesis, finished my departmental exams, and sang in my last a cappella show. I woke up on May 11, 2012, the day after that show, shaken by the realization that I had about three weeks until graduation to seize nearly four lost years.

While I think I’ve been far better at taking advantage of my graduate school experience, there are still things I want to do to make sure my time as a Sloanie, MIT student, and MBA, more broadly, to feel as if my time here was worth it. I want to walk past the Dome on June 3 having seized every opportunity that I could: because save for being a perpetual student of life, unless I go for a PhD at the end of the road, this will be my last time as a full-time student.

So in the same way people have “New Year’s Resolutions,” I’m making New Semester resolutions for living my last months here at MIT to their absolute fullest, again: academically, personally, and professionally.

Academically: In previous semesters, I’ve settled for classes I’m not totally in love with for the sake of having a stable schedule. This semester, I resolve to add and drop until I’m only taking courses I’m excited about–even if it means my schedule isn’t totally clear by the end of week one, and even if it means taking a class that meets on a Friday and dashes my dreams of four-day weekends all semester. I’ve already cross-registered for one course I adore, so I’m off to a good start, and the more I can tie in my academic work into my personal and professional ambitions below, the better!

Personally: Beyond having as much fun as possible with all the people I already know well, I resolve to get coffee/drinks/a meal with at least one person I don’t know very well per week–first year, second year, professor, whoever. My stance is that the value of a MBA is the people in the program with you more than the classes you take with them. Every time I’ve taken the risk to spend my time with someone new, I’m categorically impressed by what I hear. If I had a “regret” about my time at Sloan so far, it’s that I didn’t approach getting to know my peers with a greater sense of structure or deliberateness. Luckily, it’s not too late. My life at Sloan has revolved around storytelling and I intend hear many more, tell many more, and create many more stories before my time here is through, both with the existing friends and “untapped” potential ones.

Professionally: My MBA allowed me to achieve my goal of transitioning industries and it’s now official–I won’t be a professional casewriter/research lackey after graduation. But it was a really bumpy road to get to where I did last summer and to where I’m going after graduation, and while I’m sure I wasn’t the only one feeling this way, the recruiting journey from “Sick and tired” to “Wait, I’m hired?” felt unnecessarily desperate, unsupported, and solitary. My professional goal this semester isn’t around my career so much as the careers of others: to do whatever I can to help peers in their process, offer kindness, perspective, and interview prep, where needed. I want the talented and capable people in this community to never settle, to hold onto the “do great things, change the world” vision that got them here, and to never feel as hopeless or lost as I felt last year if I can help it. This is part of why my cohost and I got started with our podcast (and essentially startup) “The Business of Being Awesome.” Even if we don’t reach celebrity status, I hope we have already encouraged at least one person to keep chasing fulfilling work even when an unconventional post-MBA path seems highly improbable, seriously impractical, or downright ridiculous. That’s where the magic happens, after all.

To my fellow 2016s: here’s to a final semester full of joy, replete with stories, and without regrets. Carpe Sloanem!

Erica Zendell

Erica Zendell is a MBA Candidate in the MIT Sloan Class of 2016. A former HBS case writer and researcher of contemporary China, she aspires to work as a Product Manager at the crossroads of the real and digital worlds of retail. When not hitting the books, she hosts a podcast with a classmate called "The Business of Being Awesome" focused on inspiring MBAs to find work they love after business school, even if it means going off the beaten path (

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