Happy 2012: Thanks

Happy New Year!

I hope you enjoyed a great holiday season with loved ones, and that your 2012 has gotten off to a fantastic start.

Looking back, I have to say: 2011 was great. I started writing for MBAchic and had the chance to meet many people who either find themselves, plan to be, or once were in my shoes as an MBA student. It’s been great to connect and share with each other over the past few months, and I’ve learned so much. Through social media channels (Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook), I also found a completely new world, full of bloggers, thought leaders and contributors who discuss technology, women in business, management and more. I’ve had the chance to interview and work with some awesome people, and cannot wait to share more of these interviews and features in 2012.

Some of you offered your thoughts and experiences through a guest blog. Some came by to comment on an article. Some shared MBAchic through tweets, reblogs and Facebook likes. Some are reading MBAchic for the first time, right now. I hope you are enjoying, and I want to say: thank you. Thanks for making 2011 great.

If you are an MBA student: best of luck in your job and internship searches, and I hope you are enjoying some time off before the spring term. If you are applying to business school: good luck! I hope you wind up where you truly belong, and that you have a great experience. If you’ve done all of this before, I hope you will consider sharing some of your experiences with us here.

Thanks again, everyone. Here’s to a great year!

[Guest Blog] How to Juggle Work and School

Two years ago, I made the decision to get my MBA while continuing to work a full time job. Although the past two years have been a whirlwind, I am very happy I made the choice to continue my education. I have found that although I currently have a job I love, I am now performing even better and also finding new opportunities that better match my interests and skills. I have also been fortunate enough to be able to keep my income and not have to worry about finding a job when I graduate.

Before starting grad school I tried to mentally prepare myself for this juggling act. But, the truth is I really had no idea what to expect. Here is what I wish someone would have told me before I made the leap:

1. Learn to Say No. You do not have to attend every networking event. Just go to as many as possible.

2. You will have to work extra hard to maintain your social life and previous friendships. But, the important friendships are worth it to maintain even if you only have an hour of free time every week.

3. Your management will take notice of how hard you are working and the knowledge that you are bringing to your job. I was promoted in my current company after only a year in school.

4. Technology makes the juggling act easier. Having access to my school email on my phone while I work allows me to stay connected with my group and make changes to projects at the last minute. With all of my classmates juggling so many responsibilities, it is almost impossible to get us all together in one location. Fortunately, Skype allows us to hold group meetings virtually. Also, don’t worry if you have to travel frequently for your job. Professors are very understanding of work travel and my school even videotapes classes for us so we can watch them online when we return.

5. Schedule time out for a break because the to-do list will never end. Don’t be afraid to take a day off from work or skip a class if you have to. It is impossible to get an A+ at both work and school, just do the best you can. Schedule a vacation, a day with no work or even a night to just enjoy a movie with your family.

6. Grad school consists of way too many group projects. I have learned that other people juggle their responsibilities differently than I do. I try to get work done as early as possible but others in my group wait until an hour before a paper is due to finish. I have learned to respect others juggling habits which has allowed me to be a better manager.

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“Sorry, I can’t… I have to study.”

How many times do you have to skip out on fun with friends or family gatherings because your MBA homework and studying is out of control?

I turn down invites and disappoint friends and family members more times than I would like, but as I move further along in my MBA coursework, I realize that the academic work does not have to completely control my schedule. It’s more about being smart about how I study and plan for each semester. The point is: you can be strategic in your approach and enjoy your grad school years (and come on, MBAs love strategy):

Manage your courseload.

When course registration time rolls around, you should be thinking about how next semester is going to play out, and how you can make it easier for yourself. I understand that sometimes you don’t have an option to choose what is next in the course sequence, but take advantage of any freedom you have in this department. Think about what kind of courses you can take, and what kind of semester you will have. If you know investment analysis is going to be tough, why not balance that out with marketing or business ethics? Do what makes sense for you. When midterms come around, you [hopefully] won’t be freaking out about what you have on your plate, because you took time to balance out your courseload.

Check that syllabus.

Once you start, check your syllabus. In some programs, I’ve heard of professors working with each other to ensure students do not have multiple exams in one day – how amazing is that? For everyone else: once you get access, take that course calendar and start mapping out your deliverables and exam dates. Taking fifteen minutes to jot down key dates for school will help you figure out what weeks will be hectic, and when you might be able to plan a weekend trip. A lot of the “coursework” posts on MBAchic recommend doing some planning in the beginning, but it does help: in one semester, I had four weddings happening over three consecutive weekends (yes, that means two weddings in one weekend)…. it. was. ridiculous. In order to pass my classes, I had to plan ahead.

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[Guest Blog] 10 Questions to Ask Yourself: How To Choose The Right Grad School Program for You and Your Career

When I began my pursuit of grad school, I did all of the right stuff you’re supposed to do to get into an MBA program. I filled out admissions cards at MBA fairs, talked to admissions reps and alumni grads about their B-school experiences, and toured business schools across the country. I stocked my bookshelf with purple Kaplan guides to study for GMATs, and read books like Richard Montauk’s How to Get Into Top MBA Programs and Robert Miller’s Business School Confidential.

Then I started to question myself. Was an MBA what I really wanted, or was it what others expected of me? Why did I REALLY want the degree?

The truth is, something in my gut kept holding me back. I had networked with and met so many accomplished and amazing MBA graduates and visited beautiful campuses. But I couldn’t relate to their ambitions such as making a lot of money, and didn’t see myself working for top investment banks or climbing the ranks at management consulting firms.

Getting an MBA was the next logical step in my career. It was supposed to teach me about more areas of business, open new doors in the corporate world, and give me better career opportunities.

But for some inexplicable reason, it just didn’t feel right.

Be Honest with Yourself

When I put my MBA pursuit on hold and really thought about what I wanted to do and what I was passionate about, I realized that it actually had nothing to do with getting an MBA. Continue reading