The MBA Survival Guide


prashant-sharma-headshotThe following pages are a modest and unstructured attempt at the supplement to an MBA survival guide. The pieces of wisdom and quotes that appear hereon have been collected over the past year.

“With two weeks left in the term, students are just sauntering around enjoying themselves as though this first year at business school was no big deal. It was a big deal, and now that it’s almost over I want to see some recognition. I want the school to hire a brass band and stage a parade across the campus. I want the Dean to hold a press conference. I want the class president to release a thousand pink and azure doves from the courtyard. We’ve made it.”

Peter Robinson makes the MBA sound pretty grim in the above lines. I seemed to find that different people process it differently, with the exception of the first semester. The year starts with induction: you’re meeting your classmates and understanding how to access the learning resources and BAM, it’s Christmas. No one knew what hit them. 

It is easy to get lost in the busyness of business as the year goes by. However, it is imperative to remember the reasons that brought you to the MBA. Take this time to reflect about your values and goals because life only gets busier. If you’re in the full time MBA, you’re also unemployed, which is both scary and liberating. Use this time to chart a path for yourself, while being mindful of not copying someone else’s path; this is not the time to copy off someone else’s worksheet (the author does not encourage copying at other times either btw).

“Business school did prepare me for the real world — though not in the ways I expected.” – Erica Zendell.

Time management- the one thing you will surely learn in the MBA, willingly or otherwise.

Here is a simple and popular illustration which deserves a separate article of its own. If you are a non-Jedi human being, you can only pick two out of the three, not necessarily the same two every time. The fun lies in juggling, when two are in your hands and the other one is in the air.

If you are an international student, you are in for the double whammy of the MBA and the “culture shock” – the “anxiety that results from losing all of our familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse’’ (Oberg K., 1960). But it all works out in the end, take it from me. 

I went from scouring the supermarkets for palatable food, to becoming a quasi-MasterChef. (The earlier you learn to cook, the better). 

From living in Mumbai, where it’s never really winter, to moving to Dublin, where it’s never really summer. There is a silver lining though –

“If you don’t like the weather in Ireland, wait five minutes.” – an auld Irishman who prefers not to be named.

Moving abroad also gives you an opportunity to question your own values and priorities. When you’re exposed to new cultural values and norms, it challenges your own personal values and compels you to rethink if your values are really your own, or a result of the culture back home. Be prepared to have your sense of self unraveled and put back together.

“Often I feel I go to some distant region of the world to be reminded of who I really am…Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines…you are forced into direct experience [which] inevitably makes you aware of who it is that is having the experience. That’s not always comfortable, but it is always invigorating.” ― Michael Crichton, Travels.

“You get what you put in the MBA” – Prof. Karan Sonpar. This goes for EVERYTHING you do in this year. I have also seen people who stayed cocooned in their own universe and could not reap the benefits mentioned above. Immerse: in the classroom (or zoom) and everywhere else too.

My classmates demonstrating how you’re supposed to react when you see pints (from right to left)
My classmates demonstrating how you’re supposed to react when you see pints (from right to left)

If you feel lost in the hullabaloo of the assignments, deadlines, and papers, worry not my dear fellow, for there shall be pints. “You will also find that help pints will always be given at Hogwarts UCD to those who ask for it” – A.P.W.B. Dumbledore.

Prashant Sharma, FTMBA Class of 2020