5 More Things I Wish I Knew At The Start Of My MBA

Andy ForbesAndy Forbes is a current Adelaide MBA student and the IT Manager at Cavendish Superannuation. Andy is also the author of the blog MBANights.com and contributes a monthly post to the Adelaide MBA blog on general business issues and his MBA study. [Read all of Andy’s posts] Andy can be reached on his website and LinkedIn.

In November last year I wrote a post titled, 5 Things I wish I knew at the start of my MBA.  At the time, someone pointed out on the Adelaide MBA Alumni LinkedIn Group that I was doing well to only have five things. They were right, my list was originally ten but could have easily been many more.

The first five were:

  1. Don’t hand in safe assignments, be bold
  2. Group Assignments – Allocate someone just to do the editing
  3. Worry less about definitions and more about applying them
  4. Group Assignments – Don’t be afraid to use your company
  5. Read a wide range of business books and biographies

Here are the ‘5 More things I wish I knew at the start of my MBA’, to make the original list of 10:

6. Attend events, make sure people know who you are and that you know who they are

The university runs a number of events, such as the networking breakfasts, end of trimester celebrations and guest speaker seminars. Attend as many as you can, meet people, try to understand who they are and what they are about. Try to make it easy for them to understand what you are about too.

The other side of this networking is being able to debate issues and get advice from managers outside your organisation who may have seen or experienced similar management challenges before.

7. Make notes in your books

Traditionally I have always disliked making notes or marks in my books. I like to keep them in good condition. Perhaps it’s a reflection of my mum being a librarian and her troubles with kids drawing in books. Either way, a book in unmarked condition is not helpful. Make notes all over your books. As you read, underline any important quotes, draw vertical lines next to important paragraphs and don’t be afraid to write your own thoughts or enquiries in the margins. Then later when you refer back to the book, you will be able to immediately jump to what is important. If you use electronic books, make use of the highlighting and notes features.

8. Get an ultra-portable laptop or tablet for comprehensive notes

A few subjects back, I started using my iPad and wireless keyboard for lecture notes. I wish I had this system from the start. My lecture notes are now awesome, searchable, printable, spell-checked and even have drawings in them. The biggest benefit of this approach is that I can type much faster than I can write, which gives me more time to pay attention to what is being said. A solid note taking system will help your assignments and exam revision. Typed up notes pay dividends in open book exams.

Note of caution – if you take this advice on, then make sure you know how to paste drawings, charts etc into your lecture notes before trying to do it in class. It can have its challenges.

9. Really, truly understand the commitment you’ve made. Make sure your loved ones understand it and support you too

Doing an MBA is a big commitment. It requires much more work than I thought it would. I heard a joke once that MBA stands for Married-But-Absent and it certainly feels this way at times. To do well and absorb the most from the course, try to make sure that those around you are supportive of your efforts. You’ll need to sustain motivation for a few years, – the more support and encouragement you have the better.

10. Start a blog or a journal to record your journey

One of the unfortunate facts of learning is that it can be hard to remember course material once a subject is finished. There is too much quality in an MBA to let that happen. Make lots of notes, start a blog or journal, or just have a management folder that you put interesting things into. I can’t recommend starting a blog enough. It becomes a useful resource for you and is a great way network and market yourself, both inside your company and outside.

However you do it, find a way to not lose what you have learnt.

So there you have it, that’s my top ten things I wish I knew at the start of my MBA journey.

I hope it’s a helpful list and, if you have any of your own to add, post it in the comments below!

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