MBA Life

"The Two-Year Vacation"

"The MBA is like a two year vacation."  That phrase is commonly uttered by aspiring MBAs everywhere.  The vision is idyllic: get into a top MBA program, go to a few classes a week in which you learn what business is really about, party with newfound friends as often as you like, and pick your choice of internship and full-time career after school by simply accepting offers that are thrown at your feet.  Life is easy, travel is frequent, and the time is simply lots of fun.

The Secret Truth

Now, for the secret truth: that vision is really only true during your second year, and, in most cases, during the second half of your second year.  When you enter your first year, you are probably going to be stunned at how busy your life is.  You will be consistently busy through at least the spring.  Yes, this is true for even you bankers and private equity people who worked consistent 100+ hours/week prior to school.  Without fail, every single person I have talked to has felt this same way during the first 75% of their first year.

How can this be?  Well, think of the MBA this way: you are working in 3 part time, 10-25 hour/week jobs all at once:

  1. Classes and homework
  2. Professional and social clubs and groups – meetings, presentations and other work
  3. Socializing/networking/partying
  4. Finding a job: presentations, information sessions, dinners, and, ultimately, interviews

It is the diversity of activities that make the MBA so time-consuming initially.  Most corporate jobs before business school, no matter how many hours they require, are pretty straightforward.  You are expected to work on one or at most two deliverables at once.  The MBA is different – you are working on four or more of these part-time jobs all at once, and only you are responsible for completing them.

Think about this busyness as it relates to your path to consulting.  You will be incredibly busy with the MBA in general.  If you are not ready, item 4 in that list above, "finding a job", will easily slip by the wayside.

How to Prepare

How do you prepare for this?  Consider these methods.

  1. Be organized, and fast!  Get yourself a planner, and use it.  This can be a Palm/PocketPC, personal organization software such as Microsoft Outlook, or if you are daring enough, pen and paper. I have personally used Palm handhelds for several years. One of the latest, the PalmOne Tungsten E Handheld, is an amazing productivity tool. Consider it if you are looking to purchase a new handheld.
  2. Never let anything pass you.  If you get an email with an event or a date on it (and, believe me, you will be flooded with these), write it down in your organizer immediately.
  3. Plan, plan, plan.  Bi-weekly, sit down and consider what you want to accomplish in the next two weeks towards getting that job in consulting.  This can range anywhere from "attend presentations for company X, Y, and Z" to "do 20 cases, talk to recruiting managers, send thank-you notes, …" and so on.
  4. Talk it out.  Discuss scheduling with your friends, second years and alumni to see what do to cope.  You may even learn of events that you would have otherwise missed.

Believe me, it gets easier.  You will learn to visualize your schedule far better as time goes on.  You will become more efficient at everything you.  You will earn your free time to relax, travel, and party as you see fit.  Do your due diligence now, and the MBA will turn into the extended vacation you are looking for.

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