Pursuing a master of business administration can give individuals a strong competitive advantage when they start searching for jobs and begin to work their way up the corporate ladder. However, many of the most important leadership lessons are not learned in the classroom.
Many of today’s top business leaders had to learn these lessons the hard way, but luckily graduates can now learn from their missteps and their successes. Some of the most critical pieces of post-graduation advice from business leaders include:
Do not write off an opportunity because of the job title.
Sheryl Sandberg currently serves as the COO of Facebook. Part of her journey toward this position involved time spent working at Google. However, she almost turned Google down because she felt that the position she was offered was too low-level. When she told Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google at the time, that the position did not align with her goals, he advised her to “get on a rocket ship.”
What he meant by this is that companies on a strong growth trajectory will provide an incredible array of opportunities for employees. The trick is to get on the rocket ship, no matter what the initial seat is. Sandberg’s tenure at Google laid the foundation for an incredibly successful career that may not have happened otherwise.
Let your true self shine through with your work.
Too often, people think that the place for the self is in the arts rather than the business world. In truth, the aspects of a position that relate only to business can be completed by whole array of different people. Instead of suppressing the self, individuals need to show their superiors what they can do that no one else can.
The most valuable asset that we possess is ourselves, including our unique stories, visions, and voices. When leaders let these elements shine through while also excelling at business processes, they will quickly climb the ladder. As a rule of thumb, people who feel like they are exposing too much of themselves are usually the ones who are doing it right.
Embrace failure to build character and resilience.
People who are oriented toward success, including MBA graduates, have worked hard to get where they already are and will do anything to avoid failing. However, this mindset has some innate flaws. Focusing on perfection creates a pressure that cannot be sustained. What separates good businesspeople from the best is not perfection, but rather failure.
Everyone will experience failure, but the most effective leaders understand how to embrace it, learn from it, and change because of it. Fear of failure can be paralyzing. Those who are willing to get their hands dirty will build character and become more resilient as a result. In the end, failures should feel freeing.
Put stock in horizontal loyalty.
According to the traditional sequence of events, graduates submit their résumés to a number of different companies and then patiently wait until they get a phone call. This strategy essentially tells people that they should be willing to commit their talents and their future to strangers. A better approach involves what Radiolab host Robert Krulwich calls horizontal loyalty.
Instead of waiting to hear from others, graduates should call upon individuals in their own network. After all, working hard on behalf of friends, or even friends of friends, means much more in the long run. Much of business school involves learning how to network and then building professional relationships. Graduates need to pull on those relationships to make their dreams a reality instead of passively applying to random jobs.
The definition of success is personal.
Often, recent graduates have very similar ideas of success. These individuals want to obtain positions of power, become leaders, and earn a lot of money while doing so. The problem is that this definition of success does not distinguish them from others. As we grow older, our idea of success will become more personal. Using your own individual definition of success to set goals often proves more meaningful in the long run.
Graduates need to take the time to think about what success means to them without giving in to the standardized, one-size-fits-all definition. For some people, success means making everyone’s lives easier with technology. For others, it may be leveraging business to drive foreign development. Figuring out what drives us helps us create a unique niche in the competitive business world.
Community paves the way to the top.
Sometimes, graduates believe that growing up means finding one’s own path in an isolated state. While we all need to find our own path, we do not exist in isolation. In fact, people naturally exist as a community. This truth should ring true for graduates who just spent years studying alongside the same peers.
Graduation is not a time to let go over this community, but instead to double down on it. Community provides us with the support we need to excel by helping us get back up when we fall and then giving us an unexpected boost when we are already so close to the top.