After completing the first year of my full-time MBA program at the U of A, I have listed a few tips for getting the most out of your MBA program. As I will be entering my second year this fall, my advice is directly related to those that are starting their first year of the MBA program!
- Get organized
Get out your agenda, google calendar, ical or whatever you use to stay organized. During the program you want to stay organized with all of your assignments, group meetings and extracurricular activities. When I first started the program, I thought that I could remember all of my appointments or rely on my peers at school to remind me about upcoming meetings and events until I almost missed a few! I finally decided to use the calendar on my smartphone to keep track of all of my tasks. For group work, I suggest that you use google drive and WhatsApp to facilitate communication and avoid sending emails back and forth between group members.
- Get things done
After completing the first month, you might think that the program is going to be easy. Orientation is fun, and during the month of September there are plenty of events to attend. On the nights that you do not have classes or there are no events to attend, you might be inclined to watch a movie or relax. You might think that there is always time to study later. From my experience, take the opportunity to study whenever you have some free time! Don’t push studying back to the week before the exam date, otherwise, you will miss out on events that are also important.
- Learn how to prioritize
How are you supposed to get A’s, volunteer, network, eat healthy, run for leadership positions and participate in numerous student organizations all at the same time? It’s impossible! The day only has 24 hours, and you also need to get some sleep and exercise to function. You might meet some fellow students along the way who seem to be doing all of these things so well. Their secret is simply that they know how to prioritize. The key to the MBA program is finding balance in all aspects of the program including academics, extracurricular activities, student organizations, and your personal life.
- Be flexible and open to change
You will meet plenty of students from all around the world and each of them has a different way of thinking. You will be confronted with many different points of view, especially during group assignments. First, acknowledge another person’s point of view and try to build on it. You will be amazed by the results when a number of MBA students are in a room and put their heads together. Accept that other group members have their own approach to completing work. Don’t try to force how you work on other group members as this will only create conflicts. Everyone will have to adapt in order to make the team function well and achieve the task at hand.
Although the academic side of the program is important, the network you build is truly invaluable. Get involved in the things that you are interested in and that you have time for. You might meet someone that will hire you after your graduation or with whom you will start a business. You might also make connections with people that will become lifelong friends!
- Make friends for life
Build a large network but make friends for life. During my first year at the U of A, I built exceptional relationships with some of my peers. I know I can trust them and we help keep each other motivated throughout the program. Some of you are probably not from Edmonton, which is why it important to put yourself out there and build a new family in Edmonton. As an aside, I am already thinking about beginning a startup at some point in the future with a few of my good friends from the program!
- Put your ego aside
You are not the only one who previously worked as a manager, built a business, had straight A’s, speaks several languages, etc. If you enter the program and believe that you are the best, you will be met with many challenges. Nobody wants to work with or hire someone who thinks that he or she is better than everyone else. Put your ego aside and accept that you can still learn a lot from your peers and professors. While the experiences you bring to the program are valuable, the things you can learn from your peers are equally important.
- Be positive
There will be times when you will feel overwhelmed by all of the assignments, exams, group meetings, and extracurricular activities. Surround yourself with friends and help one another succeed. Don’t forget to go for a walk or get some exercise to release some stress and re-energize by getting a good night’s rest. All of these things will help you successfully complete your first year.
- Do your best
Following all the advice above is easier said than done. Looking back on my first year of the MBA program, I made many mistakes and I wish that I could go back and relive the year and change a few things. Do your best in everything you are involved in and push yourself to do things that are outside of your comfort zone. Practice public speaking, run for a leadership position, or simply try to schedule a coffee meeting with one of the many U of A alumni!
- Enjoy the time
However, most importantly… enjoy the ride! Your time in the program will be over before you know it. I encourage you to make the most out of the amazing experience you are about to take part in.
Written by Sebastian Hammacher