How to get the most out of your MBA

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and start your MBA. Congratulations! Now what?

You will be inducted into the University, shown the ropes, given a username and password to the university online platform and practically left to your own devices. By this, I mean nobody will be checking your attendance, and unless you reach out on the discussion forums or ask a question, it will be assumed you know what you’re doing.

During the orientation, there are policy documents reiterated to you as your eyes glaze over … when do we get to get on with it? With your bull-at-a-gate excitement, however, you’re doing yourself a disservice; easy tiger!

Remember why universities exist. Why have you been drawn to the university? What gave you the idea to embark on this feat in the first place? Universities are knowledge centres.

They both generate and disseminate knowledge in the communities in which they operate.

People go to universities to earn their MBAs because enterprises want people working for them who can think critically, innovate and solve the problems of tomorrow.

This is where your MBA gets interesting, depending on your mindset. You access the university portal and head straight for the assessment briefs, thinking “okay, what hoops are they making me jump through?” If you’re in a hurry, you’re going to miss very special elements:

  • MBAs are accredited to level 9 of the Australian Qualifications Framework, which means that when you graduate you will have demonstrated very highly developed skills and knowledge, none of which can be rushed
  • MBAs are set to include two types of assessment – formative and summative assessment. The summative assessment is the stuff you have already found in the assessment briefs. Formative assessment is like practice runs so that you can practice and get feedback before you do it for real, do not gloss over these.

The bottom line? We know you’re excited, but you also need to settle into the program of study we have organised for you.

For some providers, this is very prescriptive and will have a high-level timetable and you will be required to do various activities at specific times. In others, the program is a lot less structured and you will have to do some thinking. This requires trying things out yourself, getting it wrong and then learning from your mistakes. This can be frustrating as you’re doing it, but enormously rewarding when you come out the other side with your MBA.

The other place where your MBA gets interesting—depending on your mindset—is when you get your first bit of feedback on your assessment submission. If you have been approaching the MBA as a form of intellectual validation—as if universities are there to certify your greatness—the first piece of critical feedback can come across as downright offensive. How dare the lecturer say that about my hard work! The danger here is that you have come into the MBA with the viewpoint that you already know all there is to know about business. If this is you, you might be in for a rude shock when you face feedback that points out where you can improve.

So, is any mindset really wrong? No, but it could be preventing you from getting the most out of your MBA.

Here are some helpful hints for getting yourself into a mindset from which you will get the most out of your investment:

  1. Remind yourself that you do not know all there is to know about your craft
  2. Think of the MBA not as your ticket to the next big thing, but as an opportunity to learn more
  3. Prepare yourself to get a mark that is not what you expected and then learn from that how to hit your target next time
  4. Come to class, having read all of the prescribed reading materials, ready to contribute to discussion and to collaborate on issues and themes that affect all class members
  5. Try to think of the university, not as an entity that owes you a degree, but one that protects the integrity of the degree into which you are investing your money and time.

I have been involved with MBA programs now for fifteen years and have encountered a number of different mindsets; some terrific, and others not so helpful. Your mindset will have a lot to do with how you experience it. The University wants you to be successful and it wants you to have a good experience. Come into the MBA with the ‘right’ mindset and there is every chance you will!

Written by Justin Pierce, Program Director, MBA, Torrens University Australia. 

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