Dear future Full-Time MBA class of 2020-21,
We hope you are staying healthy and safe, and a big congratulations on your upcoming MBA journey.
You’ve probably got your final day of work highlighted and underlined several times in your diary and you cannot WAIT to email your notice to your boss. You’re likely itching to get started but also anxious about this whole MBA thing during the pandemic. Can you remember how to write essays?
Will all your classmates be super-competitive? What is Corporate Finance?
Don’t worry. We’ve got your back. First things first, it is important to know that it’s all going to be fine and all pandemics will end. We’ve also come up with a few top tips to help get you prepared, and some insights that might be useful to keep in mind during your time on the programme, especially during the pandemic.
We hope you find it useful!
From the Full-Time MBA class of 2020
10 things we wish someone had told us at the start
(or we wish we had listened to when someone did tell us…because they probably did)
1. You get out what you put in so get involved as early as possible
Invest in your project work, Imperial life, social events and sports (following government guidelines, of course), competitions (these are great) and in your cohort. It’s so easy to fill your time with the MBA content, but you will regret it if you don’t partake in some extra activities during the year and things like case competitions are great for your CV. Be proactive, particularly early in the year before coursework takes over, as opportunities only come to those who actively seek them out.
Keep a look out across Imperial’s different departments and institutions and be strategic. Your time will become your most precious resource so find and commit to the things you are most interested in.
2. Focus on your career from day one
Balancing your studies, social life and career search can be hard but always keep in mind that securing a job is your ultimate goal. Use your Careers Consultant wisely to help you with applications and prepare for interviews. Clubs can be a good way to find out about employers and job opportunities, but use your time wisely.
If you’re interested in entrepreneurship check out the Imperial Enterprise Lab, incubators and competitions early and engage with professors for advice on your business plans. There are so many events related to entrepreneurship in London to choose from so be focused. Talk to startups and network like mad. Also have a plan b – this has proven to be extremely important during the pandemic when job offers were rescinded or internships postponed, etc. Review your back-up plan regularly and be prepared to adjust accordingly.
3. Network and go beyond your comfort zone
Despite the challenges of not being able to meet face-to-face, use the alumni, cohort, other MBA programmes and Careers service to build your network and use the fact that you’re an MBA student to get to know people in the areas you’re interested in. You can reach out externally to people in business easier than you usually can and, in general, you can network more easily.
The ‘Interview a Leader’ assignment in the second term is a great way to speak to people, particularly if they are outside your network. The Careers section of the Hub has more information on this e.g. template emails to use - start finding/emailing people ASAP before things get too busy.
4. Don’t underestimate your peers
Everyone has the power to surprise you at any point in time and you only have a limited time to network with your peers. Keep an open mind, your classmates are as awesome as you are, if not more. Take the time to get to know them and make sure to appreciate and celebrate everyone’s differences.
When the situation permits, class trips are a great way to do this but try to get to know people before then via Zoom or Skype if possible. Don’t just choose to work with your close friends on projects, use these as an opportunity to get to know more people.
5. Get involved in things outside of the programme
When you come to London, there’s more to life than South Kensington. It’s easy to get trapped in the South Kensington bubble but remember there’s the whole of London to explore.
A few general tips:
- Know what’s going on at Imperial, check out the Imperial events website and newsfeed often, there are some really interesting talks and events, maybe you’ll find a team doing exactly what you wish to do, and they need you! Don’t be afraid to go events alone
- Use discounts. Imperial has discounts at various restaurants nearby, such as the V&A café, and the library at V&A museum is wonderful to check out as well. Some of the museums have a late night opening every month – you can drink next to the dinosaurs
- Take the time to go to talks, workshops, book launches, science festivals, incubator workshops, Createlab events, pitches, language classes (one course free for MBA students with enough attendance), exchanges and show case business exhibitions (e.g. those at Excel)
6. Be a good team member
Syndicate work and teamwork is important. You will learn so much from these assignments and it makes up over half of your grade. Working in teams is also one of the best ways to build social connections and your reputation (good or bad) in the cohort.
Set ground rules early in teams and then stick to them. Provide positive input and always find a way to pull your weight, even if the assignment isn’t your area of expertise. Be respectful and understanding of everyone’s backgrounds, experiences, strengths and weaknesses, and give everyone an opportunity to contribute. The teams have been created to be as diverse as possible so make full use of this.
7. Help each other out
This year is a total roller coaster, and in the time of pandemic, it is going to be even wilder; you will experience absolute highs and perhaps even more lows. One week you may have aced a test and got a job interview, the next week you might feel tired and overwhelmed and struggle with your next assignment, trying to coordinate with your team across multiple time zones.
Firstly, know that this is normal, and we all feel low from time to time. Secondly, look out for each other and help each other through the rough patches. That’s the best way to form deeper, lasting friendships and it is also part of what makes Imperial’s culture so special.
8. It’s a marathon, not a sprint
The year goes fast but you will feel like you’ve squeezed three years into one. We spend most of the time thinking that the next week/month will be quieter, but it never happens, not even during pandemic when all teaching was remote.
Take breaks when you can and recognise when you need one, so you don’t burn out. Spend the December break doing something relaxing and factor in some time at the end of the second term (April) to do the same.
9. Don’t be afraid to speak up in lectures
You can learn just as much from each other as you do from the lecturers so definitely speak up with your point of view and respect others who give theirs. This is how you will get the most out of lectures.
Do ask ‘stupid’ questions; this is your chance to learn in a safe space, and it’s likely that everyone else is thinking the same thing anyway.
10. You won’t be the best at everything, and that’s ok
You’ve decided to do a Full-Time MBA during the pandemic, so that must mean you are determined and extremely ambitious. So is everyone else on the programme and that can be hard to get used to.
Don’t expect to be the best at everything but do give everything a try. Use this year to practice. You don’t have the time to do everything and it will make you miserable. Instead, focus on your strengths and get help with your weaknesses when you need to.