Whether you’re looking to enhance your business savvy, increase your career flexibility, or just get a fatter paycheck, the benefits of obtaining an MBA are numerous.
But it’s not just having the degree that counts. What you do with your time and energy while in school can make a critical difference to how your career unfolds after graduation. It’s advice Care.com CEO Sheila Marcelo gives to all business school students, whether they’re getting ready to matriculate or are a semester away from graduation.
In a recent interview with Fortune Magazine, Marcelo outlines five ways students should take advantage of the resources and connections provided by MBA programs in order to set themselves up for greater financial and career success down the road:
1. Step outside your comfort zone. “People fear finance courses or marketing courses or anything they’re not already exposed to,” Marcelo says. But the key to surviving market crashes or a company restructuring is having an array of skills to draw on so you can adapt and be effective in a variety of roles. “Embrace being a generalist,” Marcelo urges. “Don’t underestimate the value of skills learned in those classes.”
2. Go to a lot of cocktail parties. While it may feel awkward and forced at first, networking is essential to building a strong foundation of long-term mutually beneficial relationships. “Be comfortable with networking and selling,” Marcelo says. “Try not to think of them as bad words.”
3. Join a study group. Being able to work with and lead a team with diverse personalities, opinions, and work styles is a critical skill, especially in client-facing roles. “Study groups outweigh classroom participation,” Marcelo says. “Learn to work with a team.”
4. Find a mentor. Actively reach out to alumni in your field and begin to cultivate mentors who can help you navigate job offers, salary negotiations, and unforeseen academic and career setbacks. “It’s better to do this as a student because when you’re out in the real world, there’s a sense that you have an agenda,” says Marcelo. “As a student, your agenda is to ask for help and advice.”
5. Let go of your default perception of success. “I offer this advice all the time,” says Marcelo, “but it’s especially true in a tough job market: Set goals and create plans that work for you and what you want from your life, not what someone else dictates.”
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