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Getting Ready to Start Your MBA Program

This post was written by our resident Career Coach, Elissa Harris. To sign up for a free 30-minute career consultation with Elissa, please click here.

With years of experience coaching students on how to maximize their success during the first year of their MBA program, we, at mbaMission, previously consolidated our advice into five easy-to-follow action items. We believe those steps along with our list of qualities of an effective job seeker remain best practices for MBA students—even in the current environment of uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and new government regulations. That said, we do recognize some things have changed, so we offer these additional tips for success: 

  • Show true leadership. Given the complexity involved in delivering the full MBA experience while keeping students and faculty safe, you will likely experience some unexpected or less-than-ideal circumstances in your MBA journey. Demonstrating resiliency, flexibility, and kindness in the face of this adversity will bring you personal and professional growth. 
      • Get involved! Join student clubs/committees, engage with your school’s career management office and professors, plan/attend speaker series, and learn from classmates with different life experiences. 
      • Be part of the solution. Offer ideas and suggestions; do not just raise problems or concerns to the administration. 
      • Expose yourself to new and diverse ideas and concepts. One resource is The “Well-Balanced Meal” MBA Reading List from Laura Huang, a professor at Harvard Business School, which shares “voices and perspectives that go beyond just [those of] white males.”

  • Understand changing employer needs. As the world is being transformed by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, new business models are emerging and customers’ needs are changing. 
        • Research how your target industry and the MBAs in it have been impacted. Understand the challenges the industry now faces and how its talent needs and recruiting strategies may have changed. 
        • Think about your personal experiences from the last four months and identify specific examples of how you have risen to the challenge and delivered results despite ambiguity.  
        • Create a roadmap for achieving your career goals. Include specific deadlines, accountability partners, and campus resources.   
        • Sign up for all career management workshops—especially those specific to your industry areas of focus and to recruiting in a virtual world. 
  • Prepare for virtual engagement. Depending on your MBA program, you are likely to have some (or even a lot of) virtual learning and engagement with classmates, professors, administrators, and recruiters. Find ways to build your executive presence and show your personality (in appropriate ways) during small and large group virtual interactions.
      • Leverage recent work-from-home best practices from your former employer and learn the norms from your MBA program. 
      • Experiment with a variety of video platforms, and then set up your workspace for optimal visual presentation. 
      • Be active on communication channels such as Slack and other student- and administration-sponsored platforms. 

Finally, remember you have a lot of control over your MBA experience—whether you are attending in person or not—so commit to making the most of it! 




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