I am doing this with a few years separation so I am sure I am missing some of the intricacies but that should also help keep this more directional. A few background notes:
– I lived in Chicago prior to school, and therefore didn’t live in the “dorms” where many students end up living
– I didn’t go after a traditional on-campus recruiting job
– I prefer to have 1:1 or 1:few in-person meetings versus mass get-togethers and do my best thinking after listening for a while and going off on my own to process and formalize my thought process. I generally hate big room gatherings and the idea of clusters of people
With that, here are my lessons
1) Know your strengths and weaknesses and put yourself in a position to succeed on the job search front. This will mean saying no to many, many things and being patient as many others around you converge towards the latest on-campus event. There will always be something to do and somewhere to be and if you expend your energy in distracting areas, you will naturally reduce your ability to focus on the path of your main target.
2) Expand your reach socially. It is unlikely you will ever be in a place where you will have such an expansive set of stories and experiences from people who have absolutely no similarities to you. Get curious and, if possible, form working groups outside of your comfort zone. Look for social events that are new to you and go on a few trips to different parts of the world with people from the area. Learn from a local – it will make the experience more rewarding. These relationships will help develop your breadth of thought as well as your empathy and fascination towards initially foreign cultures. You will learn new questions to ask and new ways to approach problems and develop solutions.
3) Make friends with the faculty and engage them to uncover their experiences and motivations. Many students forget that our professors are more than just teachers. They have their own careers, their own stories and their own aspirations. This isn’t undergrad – you are more of an adult now and if you can connect with a professor as a professional and not just a teacher, the experience will expand your learning experience dramatically. But don’t do this for the grades – do this if you have genuine curiosity in their story. Professors see hundreds of students a year – they have great BS meters. Any fake intentions will be discovered immediately.
4) Take the best classes you can as early as possible in your 2 year stint. This way you will get access to the best professors early on (see part 3) and you will take those learnings and bring them to other classes within the curriculum and your job search outside of the curriculum. And do well in those classes. In general, this is one of the great parts of Chicago Booth- a supremely flexible curriculum that you can develop to your own aspirations.
5) Forget the hierarchy of first and second year. Everyone is there as a student looking to better themselves. Treat everyone the same: with respect, and continue to give forward any advice you have obtained. The higher your network (friends, school) reaches, the higher you will reach. Give even when there isn’t a certainty of reciprocation. And, this holds true beyond the walls of your b-school: engage with the community and if you are lucky, with other business school students at other schools. Your career is young and paths tend to cross un the unlikeliest of ways.
6) Use your spare time to improve yourself outside of the classroom as well! You wont have two years this “free” for a while… so tackle a new sport, get a pet, try an instrument, learn a new language or cooking technique. Whatever it is, just surprise yourself and go with it.