5 tips to help you succeed in the Executive MBA Americas program

By: Lavan Kalaichelvam, EMBA Americas ’18

Nine incredible months have elapsed since I started my MBA with the Executive MBA Americas program—a joint degree program between the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management and Smith School of Business at Queen’s University.

I have had the great fortune of meeting some of the most phenomenal professors and friends through this unreal journey. The importance of a solid team of classmates I can count on is growing so evident in my years of learning and while developing and building my career path. The wonderful people I have met at both Cornell and Queen’s have already shaped me into a great business thinker and leader. Graduate school is a unique time of life where you learn, develop, and create at a rapid pace—the weeks fly by, and time seems to go by quicker than you can say “Go Big Red!” or “Cha Gheill!”

My personal challenges are juggling the demands of a full-time job, dedicating late nights and weekends to school work, keeping physically and mentally fit, and making time for loved ones. On top of all this, it’s important for me to relish in the journey and remember that this experience is not only strengthening my academic profile, but also enriching my life and personal growth in ways I never could have imagined.

In order to help you secure the ideal EMBA Americas experience, I have outlined my top five tips for success.

1. Be a risk taker

Congratulations! You have made the first step of enrolling in an MBA program. You have already demonstrated that you are a risk taker and are open to ameliorating yourself. However, the new adventures and opportunities for novel experiences have just begun. My advice is to learn inside and outside the classroom and be open to horizons you never thought you would strive for. Whether it’s joining a new social club, meeting some new friends, playing on a sports team, or meeting up with your favorite professor at a sporting event, putting yourself out there can be a real benefit when trying to network and extend your career roots in the future.

One of your primary goals should be to evolve socially and academically by pushing your boundaries and limits. Imagine a window where you look out and envision how you would like your career, social life, and personal life to be. Every time you step outside your comfort zone, it’s like opening the window and letting that refreshing wave of crisp air in.

2. Learn time management

Time management is the art of prioritizing and managing tasks in a timely and effective manner. It is a useful tool to deal with the pressures and deadlines of graduate school. Mastering multitasking and organizing workflow are key performance indicators that will help you in school, your career, and your personal life.

Find the best way that resonates with you to lay out daily, weekly, and monthly schedules. Whether it’s jotting down your assignments, tests, work commitments, and personal commitments in a day planner or setting reminders in your favorite app or computer program, planning out your time is inextricably linked to success in your MBA. My advice is to use a platform like Google calendar or Doodle to set reminders and timelines for your workload. For example, if you have a test on Friday, set daily reminders from Monday to Thursday for one-hour increments (or however long you need) to set aside some time to review notes and study.

3. Seek balance instead of perfection

Graduate school can be an overwhelming time, especially if other work, family, and personal commitments exist. It’s a time when learning can seem like a grind versus a process. Remember, it is not always about being perfect or performing in a perfect way. It’s also not about comparing your accolades to others or getting bogged down by feeling inadequate in comparison to others. It is about shining in your own light and using your strengths to the best of your ability.

Set realistic goals and timelines, and also set aside time for grounding. When schedules and school work seem to pile up, prioritize and tackle tasks that are at the forefront. Intersperse tasks that you enjoy, or easy tasks, to give yourself a mental break. For example, if studying for an exam, follow the rule of 10 after one hour of study: take 10 minute breaks to stretch your legs, take 10 deep breaths, or do 10 jumping jacks. Even the busiest of CEOs know that mental and physical balance is key to excelling in the business world!

4. Stay focused

Highlight the reasons you applied to business school in the first place. Make a list, write it on a sticky note, or say it out loud! Make a mantra you can always come back to when times get tough. Some examples are:

“I’m going through this tough program so I can live my life to the fullest.”

“All this hard work will pay off!”

“The more I enjoy this journey the more benefits I will feel.”

“Earning an MBA will set me on the path to earning the life I dream of.”

5. Be yourself, everyone else is taken

Entering your MBA can seem like an intimidating experience, where you may feel pressured to fit in or be like a chameleon and blend into your surroundings. You will be thrown into an environment with people of all different backgrounds, experiences, and life challenges with many exciting opportunities ahead. You may quickly find yourself asking, “what is my role, how do I fit in best?” The answer is, be yourself! YOU have been selectively chosen to be a lucky participant in this exciting expedition. Your unique characteristics and your originality is what will ultimately radiate and show others your true value and worth. It’s important to always stay true to yourself, and be an encouraging, inspiring, affable classmate. Follow your mind and heart, and you will be guaranteed to succeed in your MBA dreams!

Learn more about the Executive MBA Americas Program