Bschool Life

MBA Journal: Accepting Imperfection


MBA Journal: Accepting Imperfection

Photograph by Steve Goodwin/Getty Images

Everyone told me the first year of business school would fly by. In the beginning, I thought they couldn’t be more wrong. As fun and exciting as it has been, as you may recall from my earlier post, that first semester was tough. Figuring out how to cram in school, studying, networking, and my leadership positions took a lot of energy.

Thankfully, second semester was considerably less stressful. There are a lot of reasons for that: For starters—and I know HBS will hate to hear it—but second semester we all start to realize that you don’t have to devote quite so much time to reading cases. And by that I mean, a solid 15-minute skim will aptly prepare you for most case discussions. For those of you starting business school this fall, I would not suggest going in with this mindset, as part of the learning process is actually figuring out how best to read a case. But the truth is, once you’ve figured it out, it’s easy to spot the more important parts. That’s great, because as I am learning in my consulting internship, spotting (and analyzing) the important information quickly is a skill worth strengthening.

What else have I learned this year? One of the most important lessons I’ll take with me is how to work, and how not to work, with different types of people. The reality is, if real estate is location, location, location, then business is people, people, people. At HBS we were given the opportunity to work with every manner of personality in dozens of different scenarios: negotiations, global consulting projects, startups, even simulated mountain climbs.

There were moments when I thrived, and more than a few when I didn’t. Each experience taught me something new and valuable about myself: I’m good at making informed decisions quickly, making newcomers feel at ease, and organizing large-scale events. At the same time, there were several instances when I didn’t take all the relevant information into account or didn’t listen to a good suggestion in my rush to get to the answer.

Coming face to face with my faults over and over (and over … seriously, Harvard) wasn’t easy, but I’m so glad I did. Because of this experience, I am better at slowing down, weighing my options, and then making a decision. I’m also better at admitting when there is something I’m simply not good at—chances are, there’s someone on the team who can do it better, so why spin my wheels?

Importantly, I’ve also learned that no matter how great a job I land, work will never be the most important thing in my life. That title will always remain with the people I love. I enjoy working hard, leading teams, and solving problems, but I have finally figured out that I’ll never be the person who lives to work and instead will be the woman who works to live. That doesn’t mean I won’t love what I do or that I won’t do it well. What it does mean, and what I thank HBS for reinforcing for me, is that I’m bigger than my career, and I’m more valuable than my skillset. I can excel in all these things without being defined by any of them. In short, I can be a whole, fulfilled person regardless of the career path I choose. I’d say that realization alone was worth the tuition fee.

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Jones is a first-year MBA at Harvard Business School.

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