Unbelievably the class of 2016 is already one-third of the way through the Illinois eMBA program and we are seeing our second-year friends graduate soon. They said it would fly by quickly and it sure does. However, after reflecting on the journey so far, here are some things no one really tells you before you start earning your MBA.
- You are going to be uncomfortable at times. For me, more of a right brain (creative) thinker, the last two modules have been challenging and simply uncomfortable at times. Statistics and Financial Accounting felt like learning a different language and I looked like dear Jim Halpert below. Yes, shaking my head because I had no idea what I just read or where to start. The good news is not only did I survive (and pass) both statistics and accounting, but I learned valuable knowledge along the way. The reality is I’m never going to be a statistician nor an accountant, and that’s OK. I now understand these subjects for the first time in my life and looking at financial statements feels less intimidating. That’s progress.
2. You are going to need to ask for help—A LOT. Asking for help is difficult for most people. I think mainly because you are openly saying, “I don’t know,” and feel a little shy or stupid doing so. I sometimes have difficulty asking for help because I don’t want to appear incompetent. But earning my MBA has made me face this struggle head on. You have to ask for help and support to be successful. Further, understanding your weaknesses and asking for help can be of tremendous value for your life and career. I learned feeling like you are hanging by a thread like this cute kitten below is way more unsettling than asking for help. So, let’s all try to learn better ways to ask for and receive assistance or help others.
3. Networking is a key part of the curriculum. Although networking isn’t going to be listed on your final transcripts, it should be. Make sure you treat each and every networking opportunity as an opportunity to grow, learn and expand your professional connections. Your personal network is one of the most important things you can do to support your professional advancement.
4. Use your team projects as a way to address issues at your current employer. Last module my team used my current employer for our Designing and Managing Organizations final project. It was not only a valuable experience in terms of what we learned but because of the access we got to the executive leadership team. We were able to meet directly with the CEO and COO of the company to discuss its current organizational issues and challenges. And we will be presenting our final recommendations to them this month. It is important to remember that significant opportunities can present themselves when we are least expecting them. Sometimes we just need to ask or share, as I did with my employer. They were not only willing to help my team on the project but welcoming of our analysis and recommendations.
5. You are going to sleep a lot less. The good news is somehow you make it through and learn how to function without it. Perhaps it is all the new business know-how bouncing around in your head that masks the sleep deprivation. So, here’s some sage advice.