February 11, 2015

Duke MBA Insights: The Best Time to Get the MBA (Reader Request)

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I've been getting quite a few questions from readers on when the best time to do the MBA is. Usually the question is around how much work experience would be competitive as an applicant. Some prospective students are concerned that they do not have as much work experience as others. If you look around, the Duke MBA and similar MBA programs usually have a median work experience of 5 years in their incoming class. Here I'd like to offer my perspective as someone who only had 3 years of work experience prior to starting the MBA at Duke Fuqua.
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January 25, 2015

Duke MBA Business Improv Course

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A year ago when I was still a first year Fuqua MBA student, I saw "Business Improv" when registering for classes and had no idea how it may be useful, so I went back to preparing for my summer internship interviews. Fast forward to the end of the summer, and I was given feedback from my internship's final presentation that I needed to improve my speaking skills.
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January 13, 2015

Is Getting An MBA Worth It?

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Yes, that age-old question: is the $120,000 MBA worth it? Successful business people have both advocated and renounced the degree for reasons you've probably already read or heard about. Now that I'm almost done with my MBA, I figured it would be a good time to start thinking about this question. After all, any investor would want to know what return their getting on their investments. Education should be no different.
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December 9, 2014

Advice to First Years: Take Lots of Risks to Expose Your Weaknesses

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One reason for doing the MBA is to have the freedom to try things that you would be too risk-averse or time-limited to do working full time. It's like buying time - you can pay $50,000 a year for the freedom to learn and explore things about the world that would not be possible with a day job. It would be a waste to not fully utilize this opportunity to genuinely improve yourself during the two year degree.
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November 23, 2014

Advice to First Year MBAs: Get Functional Experience

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One thing I did not know when recruiting for the MBA summer internship was the following: just how important prior experience in the function that you're recruiting for was. For example, I recruited for marketing and the one thing I didn't have was strong functional experience in marketing prior to the MBA. What I did do was leverage the opportunities in the first year of the MBA to help build that functional skill set in marketing.
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November 12, 2014

Informational Interview Sample Questions

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Informational interviews are the basic building blocks of career development. It allows you to quickly gain insights from people who have the jobs that you may (or may not) want. During the internship, it is essential to have as many informational interviews with people in the organization as possible. Not only can you learn the culture, but it also allows you to learn how career development happens and also gains you exposure in the company. Informational interviews are also something MBA students do on a routine basis during the program, to learn more about the various career opportunities.
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October 19, 2014

Advice to First Year MBAs: Get Good at Presenting and Communicating

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Not all good communicators are leaders, but all leaders are good communicators. Communication is an essential tool that leaders need to use in order to get anything done. Almost every post-MBA function that MBAs are hired into will heavily depend on communication skills. Whether its presentations to senior leadership, convincing your team to align with your vision during meetings, or interviewing a customer, you want to make sure your audience is crystal clear about your intentions.
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October 6, 2014

MBA Case Competition Learnings

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One popular event with MBA students are case competitions. It's a great way to practice analytics and presentation skills, which are key for consulting roles. In addition, teams are under tremendous time pressure because of the short time frame of the competitions. It's a great way to practice leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. In March 2014, I formed a team and participated in the Wake Forest Biotech Case Competition.

My Advice to First Year MBAs Series will continue after this post. A reader and classmate had asked about case competitions so thought I'd post this now.
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September 28, 2014

Advice to First Year MBAs: Focus On Leadership Development

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As all first year MBAs probably know by now, there are a lot of ways to develop as a leader in the first year. There's the first year teams (C-LEAD teams at Duke Fuqua), first year club leadership positions, admissions coordinators, and the list goes on. However, leadership development can be de-prioritized given how overwhelming the first year is.

I'll be the first to admit that when I was a first year MBA, I didn't spend much time on leadership development. It just felt so distant. I had immediate fires to put out - cases to read, exams to study for, group projects to do, recruiting, etc. I'm sure many of you may already feel the same way.
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