So here we all are back at Smurfit School after a well-earned break. The time off for Christmas and New Year has recharged everyone’s enthusiasm, so much so that most people didn’t mind coming back. But when we were back, we were back. There was no allowance for easing ourselves back into the routine – we were straight into assignments, readings, presentations and more readings and more assignments. The time off we enjoyed seems like a distant memory now.
One slight difference I have noticed this term has been the increase in mutterings about jobs and applications and “what are you going doing next year?” Surely it’s much too early for that I thought (and hoped).
However in reality it’s not too early. At the end of this term, it will be March and we will be going on our International Trip. Before we know it, April will be upon us and then the panic will set in! And if we are to be honest with ourselves, it is the reason we signed up in the first place. Whether it was to get a leg-up in our chosen profession or for a change in job, it was all about the career at the end of the day.
So onwards and upwards as we commence our search for gainful employment in earnest! I had better make my way to the Careers Office.
In one of the first “class admin” sessions that we had, there were a few committees to be voted in, along with class reps. At the time, none of us really knew each other very well, so it was all going to be based on faith. The class reps sounded like important jobs, as did the liaison to the education committee. The perk from the liaison job is “free sandwiches”, and no full-time student can in good conscience turn down free food.
The final jobs were for the Social Committee. There were supposed to be five members and some representation from the various cultures in the class. Five people put up their hands, including me, and we had ourselves a committee.
Three of us are Irish: Christopher, Franklin and I. Franklin had been an entrepreneur in the restaurant/catering business and his contacts are a bonus for any social committee. He always has someone in his network that can help out with social events.
The other two members are Megan, from the USA, and Nargiza (pronounced Nar-ghee-sa), from Kyrgyzstan. This multinational presence definitely helped curb the Irish trait from spending the entire budget on drink.
So far, we have organised a “one month anniversary” social evening, two “end of exams” parties, a trip to the Leinster – MunsterMagner’s League , some trips to the pub to watch the Ireland Guinness Series international rugby matches, a “Vietnamese/welcome back dinner” for the start of 2011 in Koh Restaurant and a future weekend away in Leitrim Quay for a bit of boating on the Shannon and general relaxation.
We try to take into account the needs and desires of the class. We have used surveymonkey surveys to fish for ideas as well as get feedback on some of our own ideas. The most popular ones were chosen as foci for our budget.
All in all, we seem to be doing a good job in keeping the class together on a social level as well as a study level. We’ve become a very tight-knit group, but how much of that is simply down to the overall intensity of the course, rather than the socialising aspects, we may never know. But what we do know is that, on a course this intense, it is vitally important to relax and blow off steam from time to time. We will keep you posted on our activities…
Reading the case study is not all the MBA is about if that’s what you’re thinking. In fact, that’s not even 25% of what we do in the MBA. Of course case studies play a major role in helping us understand the different strategies and theories that are part of the curriculum, but there’s just so much more than you can even think of.
For instance, if you just take the readings, apart from the case studies, you also have the Required or Essential Readings and then Further Readings. These are a set of other readings needed to be read in addition to the case, in preparation for the case study to be discussed in class the following day.
What I’ve mentioned here is the preparation required for just one class. The same is required for the two or three classes we have each day.
While everyone agrees that the readings alone take up a lot of time, if you’re willing to put in the hard work, there are definitely a few good rewards waiting for you. The case study-based classes are undoubtedly the best experiences of your MBA days. They’re so interesting that before you realise, they’re already gone – that much interesting that you don’t realise that time passes by so quickly. Thankfully, the Smurfit MBA has quite a few case-study based courses, which I think is extremely important for the MBA.
That’s not all that we MBAs do. Apart from preparing for and attending classes, we also have those much-dreaded assignments, and at least a few of them due for submission every week. Once again, thankfully, we have those life-saving study-group meetings where we have our share of fun, chit-chatting with group members while also taking help for the assignments and presentations. If time permits, we get the luxury of a few hours of sleep in the middle of all the chaos. Even with all of this, we’ve managed to have loads of fun and semester 1 has already gone by. I can’t believe that in a couple of months or even less, we will be on our international study tour, followed by the company projects.
When I did my undergraduate degree a few years ago, I remember the dread, panic, cramming, sleepless nights and energy drinks that became the norm in the week approaching the end of term exams. The difference with the MBA is that this state of feverish work prevails throughout each and every term.
I reckon that there are two primary reasons for this. The first is that the equivalent volume of information encountered over four years of an undergraduate degree is condensed into a year at Smurfit.
Last Saturday, as a kick off to semester 2, I went to the Careers Detection workshop which is part of our PPD programme. It was everyone’s first day back in Smurfit after the Xmas and analysing your career at 9am on a cold January Saturday morning was a bit of a jolt back to reality for most of us. I’ve been to lots of these types of events over the years. I know my Myers-Briggs, interview technique, CV structure as well as the next person. So I guess my expectations that I’d learn something new were not too high. But as I’m job hunting at the moment I thought why not, I might get something out of it.
I‘m glad to say it was well worth it. There was lots of very practical and honest advice on the current job market – it’s tough (knew that), most roles are contract (yes I’m hearing that a lot) and the successful candidates are putting 20 – 30 hours into prepping for each interview (wow best get at it so). There were also some very useful tools. The Richmond Career driver’s section was good and sparked a debate about money being a driver or is it just a hygiene factor? Our Celtic Tiger mortgages need paying; kids need to be fed and so on.
My name is Andrew Higgins and I’m a full time student on the Smurfit MBA programme. I’ll be blogging over the next several months about various aspects of the programme, focusing on some of the non- academic aspects of the MBA, and hopefully giving an accurate flavour of what the programme involves day to day.
Firstly, some background on me! I finished a Physics degree in Trinity College Dublin in 2002, and after graduation started working in directory advertising sales. I began in telesales, servicing existing SME customers, and was then promoted to fieldsales, where I looked after high revenue accounts in N. Ireland and the UK for several years. This role was highly consultative, and I solution sold a range of print, online and other advertising programmes and advised on Search engine optimisation and Search engine marketing.
I grew up in the highland countryside of Vietnam in a family of six children in the time when Vietnam just opened the gate to the world. At that moment, our need was at the basic level of having enough food and clothes. As a single parent, though my father was struggling to feed us, he still thought big about our future to work extremely hard for our education. I was impacted strongly by his tenacious effort that not only helped me to have a good education in Vietnam, but also trained me to have a strong will to pursue higher education and open my world.
At the end of Semester 1 we all had to choose optional/elective courses for Semester 2. The choice was quite big. For me there were two possible directions, either to learn something related to my background (banking), or vice versa learn something totally new.
However before making this decision you should answer a much bigger question behind it. That question is what are you going to do after the graduation? We all come to do an MBA with an ultimate goal of having better lives – more exciting job, higher income, interesting people around, more opportunities and perspectives, etc.
The MBA Career Service at Smurfit was trying to help us to answer that big question from the first week of our study. They provide a range of trainings and session starting from very practical such as writing your CV to individual interviews with professional coaches, who help you to understand your real motivations and goals. The main thing Career Service and all the trainers repeat all the time is that MBA is your chance to think about a job that you would be willing to do for the rest of your life, something that makes you happy and excited!
In order to maximise a Smurfit MBA’s student experience, we designed a Personal and Professional Development (PPD) programme which runs in parallel to the academic curriculum. It starts during the Foundation Programme and continues right up until the end of the MBA. Most of our MBA students participate actively and we believe it may prove to be perhaps the most valuable learning experience and will stand in good stead to graduates years after they complete the MBA.
The purpose of PPD is to broaden each student’s set of soft skills to give them the edge in becoming the most effective leaders they can be.
These are some of latest events we have run.
On 8th Jan, we held the kick-off event for Semester 2. It was a PPD one day workshop held before the academic term began called Career Detection. Brian McIvor, the esteemed careers guru, facilitated this for us.
On the weekend of 14th and 15th January, Barry Delaney from PWC facilitated a workshop on SDI – Strength Deployment Inventory. This PPD workshop forms part of a theme that is based around Teams enabling a deeper understanding of how they function to thereby increasing the MBA student’s skillset in leading teams. For an overview click here
You will be able to read more about the students’ perspective in these blog posts.
“Who am I? What are my strengths? Where do I want to go?”
These are all very existential questions, which for a thirty-year-old person to be pondering may seem a littlebelated! However, in the context of career path planning, they are fundamental to an MBA’s post-academic professional life. The importance of addressing these questions is underlined by the fact that our full time MBA class spend up to 20% of each week’s lecture time on personal and professional development.
Often we know what we are good at, what are our values and strengths, and how we interact with others, but it can be very difficult to articulate these succinctly and to tie it all into a package which aligns with a specific future career path. In my opinion, this is the most important output of my MBA experience: clarifying my future career wants.