The MBA Experience: A time to explore, experiment, and discover

I am a planner by nature. If you had asked me what my life plan was as a sophomore in college, I would have described to you a well-thought out plan with contingencies and alternatives. I like knowing what is around the corner, what I can expect from the future.

Ironically, my entire experience with William & Mary’s MBA program has been largely surprising and has taught me to take advantage of unplanned opportunities. Even starting with my MBA search, I happened upon the Mason School while visiting a friend. I fell in love with all this program stood for and had to offer, and instinctively I knew this school was the best fit for me.

Fast forward to the first semester of classes, and once again I had laid out a thorough plan for my time in the MBA program and what I planned to do post-graduation. I had even dabbled in understanding the implications various future salaries would have on my future standard of living and financial goals. I had honed in on who I thought was the employer of my dreams and my dream internship, which would lead to what I thought was my dream job. I strategically pursued W&M alumni, attend all of their campus visits, and practiced for those infamous case interviews. I was smoothly walking down the path I had set and paid little attention to things that did not aid in my very specific journey forward.

It was during a guest speaker’s talk about her career journey, that I realized I may not need to have everything in place. Instead, I could take this time to explore and experiment. What am I truly passionate about? Which classes really excite me? What opportunities do I know little about and should investigate?

And as any good story goes, my life did not go according to my plan. I did not land that dream internship, and I was now feeling a little lost. I was halfway through my spring semester and wondering where I would spend my summer. Who would I work for? What role would I play for this employer? So, I started exploring. I looked at any and every opportunity with fresh, unassuming eyes. I applied for many roles, even if I didn’t know much about them.

When summer arrived, I found myself working for Freddie Mac in their Enterprise Risk Management division. I learned so much over the next 11 weeks, and I never would have had that experience had I not been willing to explore and experiment.

When the second year started, I decided to approach my job search much differently. This time I chose to treat my job search as an experiment. I tested theories about what types of roles I would enjoy, what companies and industries I would like to work for, and what geographic areas would make a good fit. I explored various opportunities, spoke with recruiters, associates and managers from many organizations, and ultimately accepted a job with an amazing organization! This summer, I will be moving to the Windy City to join Allstate in their Executive Development Program. Had I not explored and experimented, I may not have discovered the best fit for me.

My advice to those who are currently in an MBA program or who are considering taking that next step… Give yourself permission to explore. Learn new things and engage in discussion with your cohort. Each student brings something unique to the table and has something valuable to share. Take the time to invest in them, the faculty, and the staff. Stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone and explore the multitude of opportunities the MBA program offers.

Treat your career journey as a series of experiments. It is not imperative that you land the best possible job once you graduate. You don’t have to be completely certain that a particular role is one that you plan to spend the rest of your career doing. Experiment. Try something new. Give yourself permission to fail. The most valuable part of the MBA program is the multitude of opportunities it has afforded me to stretch my knowledge and skills without the fear of failure. Learn how to lead a team effectively, give feedback constructively, and present to small and large groups successfully. Part of learning is experimentation. Learn what works for you and what does not. Having these opportunities without the repercussions normally found in business is extremely beneficial.

Lastly, take this opportunity to discover. Figure out what excites you, motivates you, intrigues you. Take this time to discover your passion in the business world. If you could do anything, what would it be? To lead a Fortune 500 organization into future growth and success? Or maybe, it is to start your own venture to serve people in ways that are not currently being met. For me, this time of discovery has uncovered my passion for helping businesses continually innovate. To not just prevent them from becoming obsolete, but to assist them in becoming the leader in their respective industries.

As I reflect on my time at William and Mary, I am forever grateful for the experiences I have had so far. Choosing to pursue my MBA is the single best decision I have made for my career to date. With that said, I believe the Raymond A. Mason School of Business has played a crucial role in my success. This program strategically prepares you to advance in the business world. Whether it is the faculty who personally invest in your growth or career advisors who dedicate their time to ensuring you find the right career fit. From the staff who ensure the program runs smoothly and invests in continual improvement, to the Executive Partners who dedicate their time and expertise to the students, and to the students themselves that invest in growing themselves and one another. It is the collective investment that makes the William & Mary MBA experience so unique. It is with the Tribe that you are encouraged to explore, experiment, and discover.