Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 12am

Kicking off the New Year: MBA Student 2014 Resolutions

Kicking off the New Year: MBA Student 2014 Resolutions  main image

Here are the New Year's resolutions every MBA student should follow, according to Alyssa Wiseman.

Happy New Year everyone! It’s back to the daily grind for us all but remember that the New Year wouldn’t really be the same without a little ‘reflection’. So, here it goes...

On December 31st, I found myself thinking about my past year – my successes, my failures, my relationships, my priorities and my choices. I don’t believe in regret, or, at least, I don’t personally practice it. I believe in the old adage: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but also, perhaps more importantly, I believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you wiser – hence, I come to the concept of the New Year’s resolution. There is something about a whole year passing by that makes us reconsider our lives, not to self-loathe but rather to self-love; a time to really think about where you are, where you’re heading and what you personally need to help you get there and feel fulfilled.

So this begs the question, where am I? I am presently a law/MBA student at McGill University. Having completed two years of law school, I am now immersed in the first year of my MBA at the Desautels Faculty of Management. And this academic year, which runs from September to May, I have had the pleasure of taking both law and business classes. I have passed all my classes up to this point and have even done quite well in some. At the end of term it was clear that I was ‘handling’ school but on the last day of the year, I thought to myself that therein lies the problem: I don’t want to just ‘handle’ school, but rather I want to make the most of it, even love it. The question then became, what could I do to make my experience more meaningful in 2014? For myself and for all MBA students in general, I came up with the following three resolutions:

1. Establish some balance in your life as an MBA student.

This may seem clichéd but it is really one of the most important things I’ve learned over the last year. Notice how I didn’t say ‘work-life’ balance – after all, is your work not part of your life? The work-life dichotomy establishes work as something burdensome but it doesn’t need to be. In my opinion, work only becomes burdensome when it starts preventing you from seeing your friends or going to the gym or watching that new movie you’ve been dying to see. That’s when the resentment ensues and the dichotomy solidifies.

We all want to do well in school but I cannot stress enough the importance of taking a step away from the books. Like most things in life, the longer you do something, the more tired you become of it. I’m not saying “if at first you don’t succeed, give up” but rather I am saying, “if at first you don’t succeed, try again, then take a Netflix break and then try again some more.” Persistence is key but if you are an MBA student, as I am, at some point you begin experiencing diminishing returns. Part of being a disciplined student is about recognizing that moment. I would say that most of my best work has come from my taking a step back from it for an hour or two and then approaching it later with fresh eyes and a little more drive. You’ll also find the work more enjoyable – personally, I’m more creative when I don’t feel forced. So unless you are in a time-crunching three-hour take-home exam situation, invest in some “balance.” It yields a higher NPV every time!

2. Get Organized!

This resolution stems from the first resolution and can go a long way in enabling its successful implementation. This is my own personal creed, or commandment if you will: “He or she who writeth stuff down, gets said stuff doneth.” In other words, buy a weekly planner or actually make proper use of your iCal or Google Calendar.  While this is something I already practice, for me, resolutions are also about evaluating what you did well and recommitting yourself to that activity in the upcoming year.

I am a doer. During my undergraduate degree, also at McGill University, my friends would joke that I had a ‘club problem’ – no, I wasn’t partying too much, I was just joining tons of clubs. Why? Because I was interested in each and every one of them! Importantly, despite their joking, I was truly committed to each and every one of these groups while still dedicating time to my family, my friends and my schoolwork. While I have recently scaled back my involvement in some groups as a law/MBA student in order to pursue other endeavours (remember resolution one: balance), the thread that runs through it all has been my planner. Something you learn: everyone is busy but not everyone manages his or her business appropriately. A bunch of jumbled thoughts in your head is a lot more overwhelming than a bunch of organized thoughts on a piece of paper.

On a Sunday night, sit down and open your calendar and work at getting organized. Take an hour and think about all the things you want to do that week – see your grandmother, pick up your items from the drycleaners or have a date night with your significant other. This may seem all so robotic, especially when it comes to penciling your friends in, but, at its core, it isn’t that at all. When I ‘pencil’ in lunch with a friend, I’m saying: “During this time, you are my only priority.” Once I finalize my weekly schedule, I fit items into the empty slots as they arise or I write them down on a separate list of items that can be pushed to the following week.

The bottom line is that you can be wholeheartedly committed to many groups and people if you plan accordingly. Properly getting organized enables balance and alleviates the stress that ensues from disorganization.

3. Networking events.

This is perhaps what I have the most trouble with. As a law/MBA student who knows she wants to be a lawyer in the long run, I had, in my first semester, shied away from offered networking events, speaker series and cocktails. Why? It’s hard for me to admit but the honest answer is because I figured that if I didn’t want a job or internship from the people I would be meeting, it was not necessary to meet them at all.

I am sure I didn’t always think this way – I consider myself a friendly person rather than a scheming opportunist. I’d like to think this sentiment spurred from what the word ‘network’ has come to mean or be associated with. ‘Networking’ is a symptom of the ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ culture. And so, it’s become synonymous with ‘getting your foot in the door.’ Some readers may find this naïve and a little idealistic of me, and, looking back on my year, I recognize I squandered many opportunities to learn from others due to my career tunnel vision. But isn’t realizing your mistakes and learning from them what graduate school is all about? Long gone are the days you fought with your professor to elevate your B to a B+, now it should all be about sharing knowledge amongst peers in pursuit of higher learning and innovation.

While I maintain that career focus is important, it is wrong to think that those who follow different career paths or whose interests don’t necessarily align with your own have nothing to offer. So much transcends fields, programs and occupations, such as drive, commitment, creativity and respect. Attend networking events for the sake of hearing a different perspective and I have no doubt, you will be inspired.

About Alyssa Wiseman

Alyssa Wiseman received her BA in Psychology from McGill University in 2011. She is presently pursuing joint law and MBA degrees at McGill University. She is also a legal researcher for Define the Line, an interdisciplinary research project at McGill University exploring several issues surrounding cyberbullying, including legal literacy and digital citizenship, as well as a volunteer for Pro Bono Students Canada.

 

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