Whether you’re nearing the end of your MBA program or you’re still considering if it’s the right degree to pursue, you’ll want to make sure you know how to take full advantage of the experience.
Earning an MBA is a rewarding whirlwind that encompasses more than just business classes. To help students and future students learn how to get the most out of their MBA, we’ve compiled advice from recent graduates.
Build a Personal Network
“Find a support group within your MBA who will be your biggest cheerleaders. One of my best friends from my program was recruiting for finance/strategy in entertainment, and I was recruiting for marketing/strategy in entertainment. There were some things that overlapped – but mostly we would try to find opportunities for each other. We prepped for interviews, reviewed emails, and worked together through the process. I couldn’t have done it without her!”
– Sarah Rubin (@sarahkrubin), NYU Stern MBA
“Your classmates are incredible. You have people who have been managers mixed with people who have had very little experience, but everybody brings a wealth of information and experience to the table.”
– Leonie Badger, Wharton MBA
“Start planning now how you’re going to see people as alums. The solid friend groups hang out constantly.”
– Becki Berumen (@beckileela), UCLA Anderson
“Build a network with which you can share your feelings. Networking is thrown around a ton in business school. Coming out of school – I feel satisfied to have built a “network” of close friends with whom I can share life’s ups and downs (recruiting, personal life, etc). That has ended up being profoundly more impactful for my overall happiness than being able to create a network of people within my chosen career (technology). Professional connections happen naturally, normally through evidencing good work – we’re given a rare opportunity during the MBA to create deep friendships that might last a lifetime, try to take advantage of that by bringing your true self to the experience.”
– Mariam Waqar, Wharton & Lauder MBA/MA
“Surround yourself with folks who really believe in you and are there for you to cheer you on like the MBAchic community.”
– Laura Gallardo (@laurag), Texas McCombs MBA
Work, Work, Work
“Don’t underestimate the potential of doing part-time or consulting-based work during school. I supported a woman on some of her independent business projects, really got some good exposure to the fashion industry, and got to practice building out business plans. Then when I went to start my business, I had someone who I had been working with who really knew the industry and became a mentor.
– Melina Flabiano, Wharton MBA
“Lean in to the hard work. It’s only temporary and you’ll be surprised by what you can do!”
– Emily Royall (@emilyroyall), Pepperdine Graziadio MBA
Don’t Forget Alumni
When COVID-19 shut down the world, I suddenly had the opportunity to explore who I wanted to be outside of my typical 9-5. I decided to move to London since they were reopening, and I could stay for a few months without needing a visa. I reached out to the USC Alumni in hopes I might connect with one or two people while I was in the city. Five and a half months later, I have a dozen new friends in London and two even referred me to opportunities within their company in case I wanted to make the move more permanent.
– Olivia McDonnell (@oliviamcdonnell), USC Marshall MBA
“I found that alumni were extremely responsive about chatting with me, so I talked to alumni at companies like Lola, Away, Glossier and a lot of other brands that I was really excited about. I got to understand what the different functional groups look like and then after I got to know them, I was able to plug in when they started looking for interns.”
– Melina Flabiano, Wharton MBA
Balancing it All
“As a part-time MBA, it’s a challenge because you have work and school…I tend to take days off if when I’m in the recruitment process or maybe even when I’m doing exams or in preparation for exams and big projects. I prefer to be fully focused especially when you have so many things that are important for you.”
– Andrea Gonzalez (@andreagc), UCLA Anderson
“Club leadership positions are something you can really use to demonstrate your interest and commitment to a certain field, especially if you’re switching careers. My advice on clubs – pick a few select ones that you’re really excited about because it’s really easy to sign up for everything and then get a little bit overwhelmed when you have five events to choose from every single weekend.”
– Melina Flabiano, Wharton MBA
“Make time for you. For me that was taking exercise classes, cooking, going for walks, or simply zoning out and watching Schitt’s Creek with a glass of wine. Working full-time and studying part-time is intense so plan your time so you can work and relax.”
– Chilufya Mulenga (@chilli841), MAcc, Cambridge Judge Business School.
“So far (as a first-year), I’ve been surprised by the toll this environment can have on my mental health. Your classmates will be incredibly inspiring–their goals and journeys can be very enticing to follow, compounding the constant FOMO you’ll experience. Two recommendations come to mind:
- Come in with two targets in mind, allow for some flexibility, but stay true to your values and your ambitions.
- Carve out time for consistent self-care!”
– Alice Li (@always_hungry_alli), Chicago Booth
“Treasure each moment. Enjoy each day because it’s over in a blink of an eye.”
– Laura Sandoval, Harvard MBA
Are you an MBA graduate with more advice to add to this list? Or are you a student/prospective who wants to join a supportive community of MBA women? Apply to join the free MBAchic community, which includes courses, forums, and exclusive content on navigating the MBA and careers in business.
Photo by Andre Hunter
About the author
Shernay is a mom, entrepreneur, and lifelong learner who's been fortunate to spend her entire professional career telling stories. She has more than a decade of experience as a TV, print, and radio journalist for local and national news outlets. In 2016, she launched a content firm to help nonprofits and businesses tell their stories more strategically. Her passions: mom empowerment, entrepreneurship, and self-development.
She lives outside of Baltimore with her two sons.