Get The Most Out of Your MBA

So here we are, half way through our Duke Cross Continent journey, and at this point we know what to expect when The Box comes or what Finals week looks like during a busy work week.  We know how much we enjoy Residencies and team meetings during Distance.  So we have been posed with a question from other MBA hopefuls to find out what are some ways to get the most out of your program.  Here are a few tips that our Duke CC-MBA 2012 class has compiled and my best attempt to give some advice on how to put them into practice.

Tip #1 – Always say YES when faced with a new opportunity. – from Debbie Barabe – Throughout the MBA process and in your career you’ll often be presented with the chance to do something different and out of your comfort zone.  When you signed up for an MBA you more than likely signed up to add a skill set to your résumé.  So when opportunities come along to do something that is out of the norm for you, take them.  If you’re a CPA volunteer to do a Marketing case.  If you’re a Marketer, volunteer to do an Accounting assignment.  It’s only by saying “Yes” to a new opportunity that the new skill sets you’re aiming for with an MBA will be obtained.

Tip #2 – Gain perspective. Be open to new and different ideas. – from Kevin Wakefield – The Duke CCMBA program takes us to new and exciting locations, but if you go into each place looking to embrace the similarities you still only walk away with one angle.  By being open to new and different ideas you get to look at the same place with a new slant.  That same philosophy can apply to an organization.  If you only look at an organization from your team’s point of view or are only interested in following your processes you will not be able to approach the issues in the bigger picture.  Instead, try to put yourself into a “foreign land” and look at each issue from the perspective of another team or even from your customers point of view.  By learning to think like this in your MBA program you can grow leaps and bounds in the work place.

Tip #3 – Make the most of the time spent with your classmates! – from Tyler Roehm – When we wrote our entrance essay we were asked to share what about our backgrounds would benefit other students.  One hundred fifty of us wrote an essay on that and Duke thought the answer was pretty good.  So when meeting your classmates and talking to them, make the most of that time and find out what some of those reasons are.  A conversation you have today about someone else’s work may be something that becomes a door to another possibility later on.  If nothing else you’ve gained another great friend in your MBA program.

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Never say ‘Never’? Well, I’m saying it!

Never say Never.  An expression often spoken by optimists, to diffuse the pessimism espoused by those of us with a more cynical (or, “analytical” as I like to think about it) nature.  The irony, of course, is that by using that phrase you say ‘never’ twice.  Regardless, I’m going to bend the common meaning of the phrase, to make it feel optimistic:

There will NEVER be another exam as hard as the Decision Models exam we just took.

I realize this is a funny and rather bold statement in light of my comments about last semester’s Accounting exam.  In retrospect, that exam was difficult, but only due to the sheer volume of material and the generally complex, and often perverse, “logic” of Accounting.  But for that exam, at least there were examples that we could refer to from the notes and the textbook.  I may not have understood why you write the journal entry for operating leases the way you do, but I was confident that I could at least mimic an answer based on a previous class example.

Decision models afforded no such luxury.  Knowing how to use Crystal Ball, Solver, or TreePlan was a necessary, but not sufficient condition to doing well on this exam.  Heck, I’d even go as far as saying that besides getting practice on the types of problems you needed to solve, none of the homework or case studies really gave too much insight on how to solve this set of questions.

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