Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at 12am

Think Outside the Classroom as an MBA Student

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Looking to make the most of your MBA experience? A McGill MBA student shares three things all students should do outside the classroom.

Quite often, I think back to my time in high school or undergrad, and all of the great memories I have from those periods in my life. What makes me smile the most are not necessarily memories from inside the classroom, learning history or calculus (for what it’s worth, I was always terrible at both of those subjects) but, rather, memories made with my fellow students outside of the four walls of the class.

Going into my MBA, my goals were twofold. First and foremost, I wanted to further my education and advance my career. I think that is a fairly standard goal for almost anybody entering an MBA program, and countless articles are written on the subject. Secondly, I wanted to truly enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience and everything the program had to offer, both inside and outside of the classroom. It is this second goal that I feel goes unfulfilled by too many MBA students. For this reason, I have decided to share the three things I urge every MBA student to do, beyond the walls of classroom, in the hopes of showing that there’s more to an MBA program than just academics and career advancement.

1. Get the most out of the city itself

I admit this really only applies to students doing their MBAs in cities they did not grow up in, which is the case for me and most of my peers. I grew up in Toronto and am doing my MBA in Montreal, a city which I had only visited a handful of times before beginning the program. It is unlikely that I will live in Montreal in the future (as my family is in Toronto and mon Français n'est pas excellente). Thus, I knew it was important to make the most of the time I had here. Now, every city is different of course, but Montreal has world-class restaurants, professional sports teams with fanatical followings, a beautiful Old City, and a spectacular nightlife. When I look back on my MBA, I will relish the times spent exploring the various corners of the city and attending the unique events only Montreal could offer. I would strongly urge every MBA student to truly immerse himself or herself in everything the city of study has to offer. You never know when you’ll be back again, and it likely won't be for this length of time. I know it’s tough, but don't miss this opportunity by being too bogged down by the program itself, as you will be doing yourself a disservice.

2. Get involved as an MBA student in at least one extracurricular activity you’re truly passionate about

When I was in undergrad, I readily admit that I likely spent too much time at the campus pub. Although I do look fondly upon many of those afternoons (and am still good buddies with Samuel Adams to this day), it is clear to me that I missed out on some more rewarding opportunities to get involved in extracurricular activities. As I entered the MBA program, I made myself a vow not to let this happen again. Whether it be a student club, a community service initiative, an intramural sports team or something else, come together with fellow likeminded students and get to know them better while doing something you share as an interest. For me, this was joining the student government, but in an MBA program, the opportunities are endless. Not only will you become much closer with your peers, but you will do so in an environment that lets you all showcase your talents and passions. It is important to supplement your academic schedule with a nice dose of extracurricular participation, as the latter will more likely stand out when you look back and reflect, several years down the road.

3. Be social and make genuine connections during your MBA program

I know this comes more naturally to some than to others, but it’s worth putting in the effort. There may never be another time in your life where you’re surrounded by such an ambitious, intelligent and tight-knit group of people. Your MBA graduating class will almost certainly go on to extremely diverse and successful careers. Most importantly, being social and getting to know people on a deeper level will genuinely enrich your experience while you are in the program. Also, years later, when you need some business advice that is outside your area of expertise, it will pay dividends to have a network of good friends (not just acquaintances) spread out across various industries across the country (and likely even the globe) that are more than happy to lend a hand. So, even though it may initially seem as though it’s every MBA student for him or herself, I suggest shaking off that mentality and going in with an open mind and friendly disposition. You may just find that on the very first day of Introduction to E-Commerce, you’re sitting next to your future lifelong best friend who may also happen to go on to be Canada’s most powerful CEO under 40.

Just about every student entering an MBA program wants to get the most out of the academic experience and brighten his or her future career prospects. This is a given, as it absolutely should be. After reading this article, though, I hope you will not allow yourself to be a prisoner in the four walls of the classroom, but will pursue the most fulfilling and well-rounded MBA experience possible.

I was watching A&E’s Duck Dynasty last night as I was writing this piece, and as the closing credits rolled, Willie Robertson, the very successful CEO of Duck Commander, said the following: “Life can't be all about work. And sometimes the best way to get people to work hard is to let them have a little fun first. Because even though hard work is important, everybody deserves a little fun now and then.” I though it was rather fitting. Good luck to everyone as they undertake the one-in-a-lifetime experience that is the MBA.

About Jay Mintz

Jay Mintz is currently pursuing his MBA in Finance at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management in Montreal. He holds a Bachelor of Management and Organizational Studies from the University of Western Ontario, where he majored in finance and minored in ethics. Throughout his career, Jay has worked in capital markets, asset-based lending and the high-flying world of day trading. Jay has travelled to more than 30 countries around the world and when he’s not on the go, loves spending time with his family and friends. He also enjoys golfing and playing soccer, and has a long-standing passion for fine dining.

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