By Alexa Gavin
Many don’t realize what a big decision going back to school can be. Besides the financial commitment, it’s a serious lifestyle change whether you go full-time or part-time. After graduation from undergrad, MLA becomes as extinct as a T.rex and your writing skills have been reduced to short-form email. Needless to say, that first paper you have to write in graduate school will certainly come as a shock. Below I outline the top lessons I took away, which hopefully helps you through your journey at school or supports your decision to go back.
- Don’t be Afraid to Speak Up
When I started, I definitely felt like I was out of my element. When you go to undergrad, it’s a level playing field and everyone is just a scared freshman. Yet at business school, you get a wide range of people at all different levels of their careers. At the start of each new course it felt like that scene in “American Psycho” where each person is trying to one up the other with who has the better business card.
Everyone would go around the room introducing themselves saying what they did for a living. It was incredibly intimidating. It felt like every other person was “Vice President of Mergers & Acquisitions at XYZ Corporation.” However, this was one of the most important and applicable things I learned. In a work setting, you can’t be afraid to speak up — no matter how anxious and outranked you may feel.
- Network over Netflix
We hear this word again and again whether in the workplace or at school. I would even say that many people attend business school for the networking aspect of it, whether it’s to find people to help you launch your business or meet someone that helps advance your career. Even though sometimes you desperately just want to go home to relax and watch Netflix, make time to network! Besides the business aspect of it, you can get valuable information, like ideas for classes to sign up for and tips on professors.
- Learn to “Be Successful” at Group Projects
Group projects and I have a love-hate (mostly hate) relationship. At business school, professors will exclaim with near religious fervor the importance of the “group project” as a business student. These so-called groups will teach you how to communicate and collaborate while working together to meet a deadline. To some degree, they’re right. You will encounter all kinds of personalities in the workplace and being able to work efficiently with someone who has different perspectives and work habits than you is a very important skill to have.
However, in a school setting, finding the time to work with your teammates is like trying to set up a meeting with a co-worker who lives in a time zone twelve hours ahead. Additionally, to some classmates, grades don’t matter as much at the graduate level so the effort they’re willing to put in is minimal — meaning you end up picking up the slack. Although this happens a lot in the workplace too, it’s much less rare because everyone has something on the line. No one wants to look bad in front of their boss.
- It’s Okay to Say No
As mentioned, maintaining a busy schedule is a delicate system and often times I found myself neglecting either friends, family or a boyfriend in order to prioritize school work. With this came guilt that I was neglecting a loved one. From this I learned it’s okay to choose one over the other. Sometimes it was important to say, “I am not going to have time this week to read this article by class time and that is totally fine. This person in my life needs me more at this moment. I am not going to fail this class nor am I a slacker for not being able to read something on time.”
On the other hand, it was important to remind myself that it was okay to miss so and so’s dinner in order to do school work. Although FOMO came often during this time, I reminded myself that it’s only temporary and this is my priority right now.
- Time Management
I decided to go to business school part-time, meaning I worked during the day Monday to Friday and either took classes in the evening or online. Although overall manageable, come midterms and finals life always felt like roller coaster. Work doesn’t know or care that you have a final exam that week or a 12-page paper due at midnight. Inevitably something in your busy schedule will suffer, whether that be sleep, fitness or your social life.
What is key here is knowing what works best for you and acknowledging if you’re a midnight owl or an early bird. Use that trait to your advantage. I found that waking up early before work was a productive way for me to work on school projects. Plus, it’s a great time to do laundry since no one is up that early!
Yes, during my time at school I learned many interesting economic theories, business strategies, marketing techniques and etc. However, the above items are what I find to be the ones that have influenced my life almost daily.