“Join Our Club! It Will Change Your Life…”

We’ve all been there, trying to hold our bags, papers and other freebies as we are shuffled along a never-ending line to visit the booths of all the exciting, fantastic, and world-famous student organizations at your school. “Join Our Club! It Will Change Your Life, and All of Your Wildest Dreams Will Come True. Today!”

An MBA is all about networking, right? A good way to meet and interact with your fellow MBAs is to get involved on campus through organizations. But how do you choose your organization? Where will you pour those hard, countless hours of event planning, wine tasting, and schmoozing with professionals…?

Okay – MBA clubs are more than just a party (but also, a lot of fun). Choosing to get involved now actually can help you out in the long run. You might want to learn as much as you can about all the groups available before deciding, or you can always default and sign up for whatever your orientation group is joining (in order to get a free pen or t-shirt). Regardless of your method (or lack thereof), here are some quick tips to help you decide what organization to join in your MBA program:

What are your short-term goals?

This is an important question to ask yourself; this is not asking you to cut and paste your application essay responses. Clearly, you are in the MBA program because you are trying to advance your studies and career. What are you studying? Are you “majoring” in anything? Are you focusing on one business sector? Do you want to venture into non-profit organizations? Do this now: figure out your goals. Give yourself a chance to diversify your MBA experience, but also recognize that you want to make the most of your time – do not spend all your time with the accounting club if you want a career in marketing.

(*Note:┬áSome of the best learning (and job training) experiences in undergrad were those that came with my membership in organizations that had absolutely nothing to do with my major or career path. Do not exclude yourself from what could be a great opportunity, but if you are short on time and want to network effectively [and efficiently], focus on the reasons you came to business school. Just a little disclaimer – carry on!)

Be realistic with your time.

If you are a part-time student with a spouse and children, you probably do not want to sign up to be editor-in-chief of the weekly student newspaper. Be realistic about what you can commit to as a member of your org. While you may be able to balance it all, often times something can fall by the wayside.┬áTry not to over-extend yourself – especially at the beginning of the semester. Your first week of your MBA program might not be the best time to sign up for a leadership role in a small organization, because you have no idea how the rest of your schedule will fill up. I put myself in a sticky situation by applying for a position on an executive board and got it. I was excited to be a part of the club, but when I found a new job, I was forced to make some tough changes to my new, fully-booked schedule. (that included stepping back from some things to ensure that I could give what I committed to give to that org).

The point here is: be realistic and give yourself some free time. When life gets crazy, or when finals week comes around, you will be thankful for some free time to do what you want (or just zone out on the couch for some quiet, golden moments of relaxation).

Don’t get caught up in the “brand” of the organization.

If you are looking to network, you may be looking to join the largest, most important (and nicely-funded) organizations on campus. While that is a good approach, don’t neglect the club you would really love to join but won’t because they are “inactive” this year. Sometimes, being part of a larger organization does not allow you the leadership roles or experiences that you might want because there are so many people competing for the time and attention (and available board positions) of the group. Stepping into a smaller organization and completely revamping how things are done actually can be a more rewarding experience because of how much you will learn and do. At the same time, you can still network as a general member of the larger organization, and you might turn a few heads with how great you made your once “inactive” club. Focus on how you can make your involvement meaningful, and how that will translate to life after your MBA.

Make sure you have fun!

You are working hard. Whether you are a full-time student juggling a heavy course load and trying to apply for your next internship or a part-timer trying to balance work, school and the remnants of a social life (just kidding), you are logging some serious time. Make sure that your organization does not feel like a second (third?) job. Your time there should be fun and rewarding. And regardless of everything mentioned in this article, you want to make sure that whatever you join is going to make you happy. Plain and simple. This may be your last time as a student, so enjoy it. Try something new – diversify your MBA experience.

Have you been a part of any organization that has truly impacted your career/life? I joined the club for women in business, and so far it has been a great networking opportunity. …What are your recommendations? Your experiences?

{ Photo credit: http://www.remaxcedarrapids.com/join_us/index.cfm }

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2 Responses

  1. 8 July 2011

    […] clubs…more than just a party — MBAChic offers some tips to help orient first-years feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer number of […]

  2. 8 July 2011

    […] School clubs…more than just a party — MBAChic offers some tips to help orient first-years feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer number of […]

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