So you did all the prep, filled out the applications, aced an interview and now you’re about to embark upon the first semester of your MBA program. You’re likely feeling both excited and nervous (especially if it’s been a while since those golden days of college). You want to make the most of the incredible opportunities an MBA can afford you, so here are our seven top tips for getting off to a flying start in that all important first semester.
1. Get out and meet people
From the moment you arrive on campus, you’ll be invited to a ton of ‘meet and greet’ sessions and networking events. If you’re something of an introvert, it might be more appealing to shut yourself away with a pile of textbooks, but try to make the effort to go along and try to get to know people, especially your classmates.
“There were so many times that I tried to make excuses using homework, readings, or being too tired. I realized that while what you learn in class is beneficial, what you learn from your classmates can be even more insightful,” explains one now MBA grad. These are the people who can support you through those early few weeks where you’re acclimatizing to a whole new set-up.
Talk to students in the year above and your professors too: they might just turn out to be a future business partner, an advisor or even a friend for life.
2. Manage your time effectively
You are always going to have too much to actually do. This is a fact of MBA life that’s worth getting your head around from the get-go. But rather than letting that get you down, set to work on organizing your time efficiently so that you can maximize productivity.
Get into the habit of making a daily schedule for yourself, factoring in time for breaks and some time away from your desk to recharge. Look at your to-do list, prioritize the most pressing tasks and do your best to stick to the plan. Reach out to other classmates to see if you can work together and divide the load: the discussions you’ll have about what you’re learning may be just as useful as the reading you’ve done alone.
3. Be strategic when it comes to recruiters
It may only be the first semester, but recruiters will be contacting you from day one so it’s a good idea to think strategically about your interests, your career goals and the kind of internship that will best help you achieve them. Don’t feel you have to say yes to every recruiter who gets in touch.
“Find a group of friends looking for the same kind of opportunities and prepare with them, engage second-years and seek their advice and support, use the career center and professional club resources,” advises Rohan Rajiv, a Kellogg graduate. Seek out contacts in the roles or industries you’re interested in with whom you can set up informational interviews to get the inside track on the skills you need to hone and potential career paths to pursue.
4. Get your house in order
With so much to take in, it’s easy to let the ‘everyday’ stuff slide, but it’s really important to stay on top of your life admin as well as your studies. Now that you no longer need it for application purposes, make sure your professional resume is up to speed, because this is what recruiters will be looking at. Equally, check your social media profiles to make sure they’re presenting you in a positive, professional light.
Be sure to keep an eye on your finances, try to budget monthly where you can and devise a system for storing valuable contact details for people you meet at social and networking events. They may prove extremely handy at a later date.
5. Look after your physical health…
There’s a real risk of burnout for MBA students, especially in the first few semesters, so be sure to take care of yourself physically. Solo activities, like yoga and swimming, can give you some much-needed alone time. Equally, if you prefer to exercise with a friend or play team sports, these can provide great ways for meeting new people at your program. .
Whatever it is that gets your heart pounding, factor in the time for exercise. Try to eat well and stay hydrated too. You’ll not only feel more energised but you’ll also likely sleep better.
6. … and your mental health too
In the same vein, take some time out for rest and relaxation too. First-semester MBA students often admit to feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of reading, reports and presentations, so if you feel that way, you’re almost certainly not alone. Even just spending 30 minutes a day doing something you enjoy can make a real difference to your mental wellbeing, from watching a favorite show or cooking a nice meal to connecting with your family and friends.
Reach out to other classmates you feel comfortable talking to, and don’t be afraid to contact the support services available on campus, or even online.
7. Be creative with your learning
Last but not least, it’s not all about hitting the books. Mix it up from the start: give your eyes a break and delve into some of the best podcasts out there for MBA students to listen to; go to lectures, seminars and workshops; watch TED talks and take advantage of online learning resources. Explore as many different learning streams as possible so you’ve armed yourself with knowledge from a diverse range of sources and then decide on your take on things.
This means that in interviews with recruiters (or indeed employers) you’ll have a wealth of insights at your disposal and be able to demonstrate an impressive breadth of knowledge. Technology has never made learning more engaging, so make the most of all it has to offer.