6 Small Lessons for Big MBA Success

Getting your MBA is an admirable, daunting education milestone, and there are many ways to fail—but even more ways to succeed. Follow these 6 tips for MBA success. 

Tiffany Rowe, Seek Visibility (Partner)
3-minute read
image of business man walking up stair books

If you are young and ambitious—if you want to reach a c-suite position by your mid-thirties—you need an MBA. There is no better way to gain management knowledge and skill fast and formally than participating in an MBA program; plus, hiring managers will drool over your advanced credentials.

However, you shouldn’t assume that it will be easy to earn your MBA. There are more than 250,000 students enrolled in U.S. MBA programs, but only about 100,000 MBA degrees are awarded every year. That means a sizeable chunk of MBA-seekers quit, take a break, or otherwise neglect to complete their studies. “MBA dropout” is not a credential you want to list on your resume, so if you are committed to earning your MBA, you should do everything in your power to see your program through.

MBA benefits are undeniable—access to better positions, higher pay, and prestigious perks—but you won’t earn them unless you graduate with your degree and useful contacts. Here are a few tips to ensure you make it through your MBA program alive and thriving.

1. Don’t Compare Yourself to Anyone in Your Program

Competition is fierce in any graduate program, but it is especially cutthroat in business school, where everyone is hoping to become the next Fortune 500 CEO. However, you should resist the urge to compare your performance against your classmates’. All of you got into the program, which means the school thinks you are all equally capable of learning the material and succeeding after graduation.

Instead of focusing on your peers’ performance, pay attention to your own. When you start your MBA, set a baseline for yourself and compare your progress against it as you complete assignments and gain skills. Then you won’t be wasting energy on other people; you’ll only be bettering yourself.

2. Seek Progress in Your Knowledge and Skill, Not Perfection

Often, high-performing professionals have perfectionism problems. On one hand, your desire to do everything perfectly helps you excel; on the other hand, it can drive you sick with anxiety and fear. During your MBA—and afterwards, for that matter—you should use “Progress, not perfection” as your mantra. Any time you are tempted to pull an all-nighter proofreading the group project you’ve already rewritten twice—any time you want to quibble with your professor over half a point on an exam you already got an A on—chant “progress, not perfection.” As long as you are learning and improving your business skill, you are succeeding in your MBA program.

3. Learn as Much as You Can From Industry Insiders

Something you can do to boost the effectiveness of your MBA is to interact as much as possible with professionals currently succeeding in your desired industry. Often, programs will invite professionals to visit to give guest lectures or otherwise meet and greet students. You should take advantage of these opportunities to form connections.

You can also reach out to potential future employers and set up “informational interviews.” In these meetings, you can ask industry professionals questions about their business and work. These can help guide your career-building decisions, allowing you to avoid paths that you find to be uninteresting or non-lucrative.


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