By: C. Elise Watson, Crosby MBA/MA Journalism Candidate- May 2018
Since I can remember I have considered myself to be a “busy” person with a hectic schedule. In fact, I am notorious for overloading myself with different activities and responsibilities; yet I thrive in times when I am juggling multiple projects while still maintaining a balance with my personal life. As an MBA student, it becomes very easy to find yourself overwhelmed with assignment deadlines, expectations for group projects and student organizations, and upcoming examinations, often while holding down a job or an assistantship that takes up anywhere from 10 to 20 hours of your week (or more). While I had considered myself an organized student during my undergraduate career, I quickly discovered that my skills in this area needed to be taken to the next level as I commenced my time in the Crosby MBA program and the Missouri School of Journalism. Here are some of the key takeaways I have developed over the last year with regard to how to best handle the stresses of time and project management that can accompany taking on graduate school:
- Make Your Planner Your Best Friend– Whether this means using your smartphone or having a notebook that you carry around with you throughout the week. Writing down what you are expected to do for your classes, projects, organizations, work and personal life is a lifesaver in order to be able to keep up with your obligations. With multiple assignments due weekly, random meetings consistently being scheduled, and large projects requiring attention throughout the course of a semester, it is very easy for one to overlook a responsibility or double-book himself/herself as a result of not seeing a snapshot of the larger picture. Not only has it been proven that writing things down will help commit information to memory, which will assist in allowing for recollection of one’s commitments, but also careful planning allows one to realize the extent of what is expected of them in the coming day, week, month and beyond. This is an invaluable investment of time and money that can facilitate a less stressful and more orderly approach to life.
- Know How to Best Communicate with Yourself and Others– Take a step back and realize what you need to do in order to get a message through to yourself. Do you need to set a reminder in your phone calendar in order to remember your weekly team meeting at 8 am each Wednesday? Do you need to place post-it notes throughout your room to remember to bring a necessary document for your project with a client? Know yourself and acknowledge how to best relay information to yourself so you can get the job done on time and prevent letting yourself down or others who are relying on you. Learning how to best communicate with others requires a little more effort. Each person varies slightly with their communication styles—take the time to get to know the people you are working with so that you can discover how to be the best team member possible. Is there a member of the team who needs to have a weekly check-in to ensure they get the job done in a timely manner? Do you have a colleague who needs to be given a task a substantial amount of time prior to when it is needed in order to avoid stress and poor work? Trust your team, but also know how to communicate your expectations in a way that best leverages their skills and personality so you all can meet your professional goals.
- Be Efficient and Focused During Your Work, But Build Relationships in the Process– With impending deadlines consistently arising, it becomes easy to arrive at a meeting only to discuss what needs to be done and when. Setting up goals and expectations of each member of the group is useful in developing greater efficiency and focus, thus making for a more effective meeting. However, while having this streamlined vision of the project and each person’s role is important, it is also very valuable to set aside opportunities to truly get to know the people with whom you are working. Collaborating with people you know beyond a superficial level is not only more rewarding and enjoyable for all involved, but it is also an excellent networking opportunity. You never know when you could be spontaneously placed in a group with someone who could become a great friend, assist in establishing a connection with a dream company, become a future co-worker, or introduce you to a mentor who could provide career guidance for many years to come. Know your work, know the people, and be fully in present in your time together.
- Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize– This is, once again, a necessary defense mechanism to not become overwhelmed in your work. In my experience as a graduate student thus far, I have found that there is never a time when there is nothing to do. There is ALWAYS something that needs to be done, whether it is for the immediate future or for a project that is due in three months. When you look at your planner and it is a page long to-do list that seems unconquerable— prioritize. This will likely be a combination of determining which items are needed soonest as well as which items hold the greatest weight, or have the most substantial impact, on your life and/or your group’s success. Establish an order, plan your work, and create “an order of attack.”
Tip: Stress is often avoidable when you establish personal goals for yourself for long-term projects. Waiting until the last second to complete your work often produces results that are not of your highest capabilities while also inducing excessive anxiety. Prioritize, but don’t overlook what you can do to prepare yourself for the future.
- Learn Your Limits: When Should You Say “No”– Taking advantage of opportunities presented to you is beneficial for your personal development and can create a domino effect yielding other opportunities. Say yes to tasks that may seem daunting as you tread into unfamiliar territory, and leverage the resources you have available to you that may help you navigate those challenges. However, also know your limits. Take a look at your planner and, if you truly cannot take on one more project, learn how to respectfully decline the offer. People will almost always understand and will not discount you for future endeavors. It is important to avoid the feeling of being involved in so many activities that you aren’t able to fully devote yourself to anything. Do only so much that you are able to be a good team member for your group as well as have balance between your work and your personal life.
An alumnae’s perspective
“That is a dumb idea. You should build your career now, and work your way up while you can. You’re probably gonna have kids in a few years, and then what will you do? Without a career on your resume you will never be able to go back. Get an MBA later when you have more experience or as a way to get back into the market.” Assumptions about my personal life aside, the gentleman who gave me this unsolicited advice was wrong.
There a myriad of reasons why I wanted to earn my MBA in my twenties. None of them had to do with a larger paycheck. I wanted to gain a better skillset, and be more marketable over the course of my career. Also, and more importantly, the timing felt right.
Going back for my MBA wasn’t an easy choice. I had many people question why I wanted it, why I wanted to earn it now, whether this decision was smart in the long run. I didn’t have a clear vision for how it helped in my current job or how it would help me in the immediate future.
I was a little different. I kept my full-time job while completing the degree. I was able to see in real-time how the classes were helping me improve.
I am so glad that I did earn my MBA. Not only did it give me a better skillset, but it made me a much more valuable member of the team at my full-time marketing job. I gained the ability to think much more strategically about marketing and business problems. This was very apparent at my job. I became a much more valuable member of both the marketing team and the overall business.
In the program they always gave students scenarios where we pretended to present to executives. I was actually presenting to the president of my company, and I was getting asked tough questions. Have you ever had a CEO ask you whether or not he should enter a new product market? Have you told a company President that his brand needed to be revamped? Have you been asked which marketing campaign will have the best return and then had to prove it? It can be intimidating, and you better have a good answer with data to back it up.
An MBA is not about the tools you learn (although those are useful), it’s about building your skills to ultimately make better business decisions. Work experience goes hand-in-hand with that, and the combination is what will make a difference in your career in the long-run.
When should you get an MBA? When the timing feels right for you, and when you have the opportunity to do it. No matter when you get the degree, it will help you. Defining the success of your degree by whether or not you got a huge pay raise afterwards is a mistake.
Recently, the timing felt right for me to start my own marketing consulting firm. If you want a laugh, ask me about the unsolicited advice I got when I decided to launch a business! In all seriousness though, my MBA was a big part of why I felt I could go out on my own. I use the skills I learned every day. From helping clients make tough decisions about their business to trying to market and run my own, each strategic choice I make is better because of the experiences and tools I gained while earning my degree.
I measure the value of my MBA in how it helped me grow as a decision maker, and where it’s helped lead my life. When I started the program, I had no idea I would be starting a business in 2016. Now that I am here and that’s what happened, I look back and see my investment in that degree as invaluable. When should you get your MBA? When you can. It will help you the rest of your life.
Maria Lusardi is the owner of Internet Marketing Consultants, a regular contributor to EPIC Modular Process, and the Chairperson of the Missouri Leadership Seminar. She graduated in 2014 from the Crosby M.B.A. program, and earned her undergraduate degree in 2010 from the Trulaske College of Business. She enjoys building websites, geeking out over Google rankings, and hanging out with friends and family. You can find her on Twitter @mlh2k3 and Linkedin /mariaholt.
Narisara “Noon” Chayamitr is a first-year graduate student at the University of Missouri-Columbia pursuing her Crosby MBA with emphasis in Marketing Analytics. Noon came straight from Bangkok, Thailand aiming to polish her global mindset in business and pursue her career in marketing and strategic.
Prior to my arrival at Mizzou, I learned that the Crosby MBA Program is best known for its affordability, flexibility and warm-hearted faculty and classmates.
To my surprise, over the course of one year in Crosby MBA program, I not only received an excellent education from the classroom, but the Crosby MBA also gave me valuable opportunities and experiences that I wouldn’t be able to find in any classroom.
Venture Out Builds Confidence and Team
Right before the semester started, the school held Venture Out, a team building activity session which requires students to work as a team to overcome the obstacle course. There, I got to know my future classmates and teammates better for the first time.
For me, as an international student who barely knew anyone, I felt grateful for the opportunity to help make new friends and build up the confidence. It was very memorable and fun to be able to help each other work past all the obstacles and solve the problems.
Who would have expected rope climbing in a top MBA program?
You can see additional Venture Out photos here.
Professional Conference Provides Great Excuse to Travel
One of the good things about studying business in United States is that there are a lot of national career conferences offered year round. In these conferences, you could explore job opportunities as well as network with recruiters and peers. In some programs, the out-of-town travel may be a problem, but MU allows for conference reimbursement, so it’s more affordable to take these opportunities.
Since I’m interested in Analytics, I chose to participate in Analytics Conference 2015 (SAS) in Las Vegas. And because of the funding from the school I didn’t have to worry about my flight or hotel.
With a conference in Las Vegas, there’s no way I could miss the opportunity to travel! After the conference, my classmates and I took a road trip and spent time in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. It was a very nice get-away from school and work, allowing us to enjoy free time in a different atmosphere. We went to see the Cirque du Soleil, the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon.
Visiting Speakers Offer Business Insights
Being in the Crosby MBA Program, you will receive excellent education from top professors in the class, but you will also get to learn from the real world experiences through the stories of our guest speakers. Almost every week you will get to meet CEO, CFO, or executive member of many big companies in United States during the seminar program.
Here are some of our past guest speakers:
- Michael O’Brien, Vice President of Corporate and Product Planning at Hyundai
- Rachel Tobin, MU MBA Alum and Senior Vice President, Bank of America
- Andrew S. Fastow, Former CFO of Enron
- Richard Maltsbarger, Chief Development Officer & President, International – Lowe’s
- Heath Roberts, Director at Children’s Mercy Hospital
- Roy Norton, Canadian Consul
- Kerry Goyette, Aperio Consulting
- Jaymin Patel – Author and Speaker
Case Competition Tests You Under Pressure
There’s no better way to test what you have learned during the year than applying them in the Annual Trulaske Case Competition. This past year, I had the opportunity to work on a Toyota case, introducing an idea to raise sales.
My team consisted of Aola from Inner Mongolia, Thao Hoang from Vietnam, Estefania Guillen Pascacio from Panama, and Daniel Senn from Missouri. The amazing thing about our team is that we all came from different countries and represented different cultures. This is something you would experience a lot during the MBA program, because our administration sees the importance of diversity and a global mindset.
Tragedy Shows Character of Program
This past year, we all learned that Zach Heath, our classmate, was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. With the help and dedication of Krissy Tripp, MBA Association Vice President of Philanthropy, we were able to hold a fundraising event for Zach, raising more than $5,000 to go toward Zach’s medical bills. To me it was so heartwarming to see our family of MBA students come to the event and make everything happen. Zach is in recovery.
Dominic Vollmar is earning a dual Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering and Master of Business Administration degree at the University of Missouri. He serves as a teaching assistant for Engineering Economics and completed an internship at Textron Aviation in the Production Control and Logistics Department.
Every new graduate learns a hard lesson early in their new career: what you learn in the classroom does not always translate to the exact skills you need to be successful in your new job. The data isn’t as clean, the problems aren’t as cut and dry, and resources are tighter than textbooks portray. The Crosby MBA curriculum aims to simulate real-world experiences in every class.
For instance, my group members and I had a chance to apply some of the analysis methods that we had learned in an accounting class to a real company’s financial statements and provide our input on their current stability and future prospects. Not only was this fun and interesting, but it also allowed us to see what it is really like to try and make decisions using our accounting knowledge, as opposed to only being able to analyze simple problems from the book designed to be relatively easy to solve. We had to deal with issues like the numbers not coming out as cleanly as we expected, or rather hoped, different companies having different reporting methods which made it harder to compare, and even sometimes having to find other sources when trying to pinpoint the exact cause of something instead of being handed the solution.
Another class, Advanced Marketing Management, included a series of business cases that we had to analyze. We formulated marketing plans for different products using our class lessons. My group’s business case was about the launch of Sony PlayStation 3. Using data that was provided from the actual launch, we had to come up with a way to make the gaming system more desirable in the future. It was not always easy to see what needed to be done, and we often had to try things that we did not expect initially. We even had to find ways to deal with disagreements about how to move forward with the product.
These and other opportunities have provided me with valuable experiences. In addition to understanding that sometimes what we learn in the classroom is not as easily applicable as we think, it was also important for me to figure out if I actually enjoyed doing that kind of work. These opportunities have also given me multiple chances to work in groups with a variety of different people. Since you will normally be working with other people in your career, many of whom you will not get to choose, it is important to learn how to be an effective group member as early as you can. I look forward to other opportunities in the Crosby MBA Program for practical application of my skills such as internships, the consulting course and case competitions over the next year.