THE WISDOM OF ALUMS


WSA Blog

Last week the WSA hosted 5 recent alums, from the MBA classes of ‘13, ‘14, ‘15. An enlightening discussion ensued, here we share our takeaways:

1. It’s fine to not know what you’re doing

Much angst is spent on recruiting decisions, particularly for ECs planning their first post-MBA step. Recognize that this will be one of many steps. And importantly, while it feels like everyone else has worked out what they’re doing for their internship or post-MBA job – it’s not everyone. You are in the majority if you get to Spring semester and haven’t locked in a job. You are also in good company if you haven’t locked in a job in May. Don’t stress.

2. Intense experiences makes the heart grow fonder

The alums all advised to focus on quality of relationships over quantity. And asked how they went about forming those relationships, the alums shared stories of intense experiences; from traveling with a small group in close quarters, to running a conference or directing the HBS show. These were the moments that they got to know classmates in close quarters, vulnerabilities and all. Seek out those opportunities and invest yourself.

3. Make opposites attract

Often we make friends with those with common interests. Don’t miss the opportunity at HBS to really get to know people who are different from you. One alums advice was: Find the two to three people who you think are most different to you, invite them to meet for a coffee or share a room at section retreat, and make the effort to have a real conversation with them. It may not be a friendship that develops, but we have on good advice that it could be one of the most meaningful conversations you have at HBS.

4. Internship test case

To get into HBS you reflected on who you are and built your story of what you want to do with you one precious life. Chances are some of that story has to do with professional pursuits. Use the internship to test that story. You may find you nailed your aspiration, or you may find that actually what you thought you wanted to do is not really for you. And that is a great thing to know early. You can recalibrate and explore other options. If the next thing you try isn’t quite right either, that’s okay too (see point 1).

 

5. Know the difference between scary and dangerous

There are decisions that are scary because the path will be hard and you don’t know what the outcome will be. Then there are decisions that are dangerous because the risk is too great. The insight from the alums was that sometimes what appears to be the safe option, is actually the dangerous option. Will you not do what you really want to do because the alternate is scary? Will you get wrapped up in a promotion cycle that you can’t get out of? Embrace scary, avoid danger.

 

6. Return for the right reasons 

This one goes out to our sponsored classmates. Sponsorship is a huge privilege and advantage in attending business school. Then comes the decision point of returning, which is particularly conflicted for those students who come in with every intention of returning to their employer but after two years of self-reflection and industry experimentation, find that maybe they want to do something else. One alum’s advice: do not return just for loan forgiveness – the price is too high for two years of your life, especially this two years where there are so many options. Understand that if you have already done a few years in consulting, you have learned the basic toolkit, so to enjoy and benefit from further experience your objective will be different. Is it managing a team? Is it getting on partner/principal track? Is it getting deep industry experience across multiple institutions? These, and many more reasons, are enormously valuable. If your only objective is loan forgiveness then think about how much two years is worth.