Best Tips for Second-Year MBA Students Taking on Campus Leadership Roles |

Best Tips for Second-Year MBA Students Taking on Campus Leadership Roles

By Francesca Di

Updated February 22, 2019 Updated February 22, 2019


Second-year MBA students have the opportunity to take on campus leadership roles, providing the opportunity to lead student organizations and gain insight about management, networking, and their future career. Seizing upon the opportunity is the first step. The second is realizing one’s full potential and recognizing how this could translate to finding the right career path

Hoyt Ng, senior director of Coaching and Programming at the MBA at the UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business says, “The easiest and most limiting trap to fall into is not staying open and recognizing the change and growth you've had through the program. By challenging your beliefs, you actually strengthen the ones you want to keep and discard the ones that hold you back. When you do that, you can create multiple paths to pursue your goals.”

Indeed, trying on different roles and seeing if they’re a good fit is a big part of most top MBA programs. It’s a safe zone, where you can make mistakes and learn from them. QS recently asked current leaders at top MBA programs to share their best advice for getting the most out of these leadership experiences:

Widen the network

No leaders stand alone. They need support systems and teams to carry out their visions and help them succeed. Student leaders have a chance to network with various groups, including other student leaders and organization members, leaders in the community, and even professors and administrators at the school.

Ben Lauing, a Haas MBA candidate and vice president of finance in the MBA Association and vice president of communications for [email protected] (LGBTQ affinity and ally group) says, “My advice for future MBAs in leadership roles is not to focus so myopically on the work that you miss the opportunity to build relationships with your peer leaders. Working with other people who share your interests is itself an opportunity - both professionally and socially.”

Learn to delegate

Dela Gbordzoe, co-president of the Black Business Students Association at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, says he had to learn to trust people in the organization to get things done. This way, he could focus on his own priorities and passions.

“Our organization has a shared vision to create a community of inclusion and togetherness, and by sharing the workload, we can each work hard on contributing to our parts of the shared vision and make meaningful contributions without feeling stretched thin,” says Gbordzoe.

Certainly, the skill of delegation will serve these future leaders well, says Gbordzoe. After all, true leaders need to know how to get the best out of the entire group.

“Successful managers know when and how to delegate meaningful work to direct reports so that they feel they too are making meaningful contributions to the team and growing their careers,” Gbordzoe adds. “A cohesive team is collaborative, and I believe collaboration starts with successful delegation.”

Think of the future

MBA programs provide an opportunity to prepare yourself for the next chapter in your career and life. Choosing organizations that will translate into whatever an MBA wants to do after graduation is a way to get an edge in the job hunt.

For instance, Youssef Aroub, a dual MBA and masters of science in mechanical engineering candidate and chair of the MIT Africa Innovate Conference at the MIT Sloan school wants to build a career in Africa, he says. As chair of the conference, he has been able to learn more about conducting business in the continent and to network with players there. Working with people who have similar interests is quite rewarding, he adds.

“Together, we are gaining a deeper understanding of the continent – the successes, challenges, and regional dynamics – which we can apply in our future endeavors to help build a more equal and sustainable future,” says Aroub. “As well, we are building networks, we are speaking to CEOs or startup founders on the ground.”

Nurture the next generation

Most leaders lack the foresight to think about who will take over when they’re not there anymore. Don’t be that guy. Instead, practice motivating others and paying mind to the first-year students and what they need to know to be successful. It’s a way for current leaders to ensure their legacy remains intact and the group thrives long after they’re gone.

“I entered my second year with a few big ideas but limited time left on campus,” says Elizabeth McKean, vice president of finance for the Sloan Women in Management group and vice president of partnerships for the Hispanic Business Club at the MIT Sloan School. “I needed to make sure I was working closely with first-years who can continue what we started. Part of this was advocating in the beginning of the year for creation of specific roles that could increase the impact of our club. In the professional context, I believe this translates into two things: first, thinking about the functional roles that can support initiatives, and second, how to effectively transfer information and ideas.”

Walk in someone else’s shoes

In classes about theory and technical skills, the message about leadership and empathy sometimes gets lost. But it’s almost always front and center in student organizations. They provide an opportunity for people to see firsthand how they connect to others.

Taylor Donner, co-president of The Duke MBA Association at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business says, “In my pre-MBA role, I worked for a small software development company, where many of the decisions I made came from the perspective of a software developer rather than a business manager. In my role at Fuqua, I needed to take a big-picture view of how any decision we made would affect an entire community and how outcomes would be interpreted and accepted. My ability to actively seek out and empathize with the viewpoints of many different stakeholders will be essential when I become a product manager for a company that serves millions of businesses.”

Second-year MBA students can take advantage of student leadership opportunities to practice the types of leadership and teamwork skills they will need in their future careers. It’s a safe space to stretch those muscles and make mistakes ahead of re-joining the real world.

This article was originally published in February 2019 .

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Written by

Francesca Di Meglio has written about higher education for two decades. She covered business schools and all aspects of management education for what became Bloomberg Businessweek from May 2004 to December 2013. Di Meglio was the consultant editor for the book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program (85 Broads Publishing, 2011), which was written by admissions consultant Betsy Massar. In addition, she is a family travel and parenting blogger at the Italian Mamma website


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