During Orientation on Day 1 at LBS, we were tasked to introduce the person next to us and “why they were here” to the group, based on a brief conversation with them. After spending 7 brutal months working in investment banking, I misguidedly and jokingly remarked that “I was here for a holiday.”
Disclaimer: LBS is certainly not a holiday, but in many regards, my experience has shared many of the characteristics of my what my ideal holiday involves. For me, it has been a voyage of discovery – new people, new cultures, expanding horizons. In this piece, I’ll take you along with me on parts of my journey – but take my experiences with a pinch of salt – everyone is different and what has applied to me, may not apply to you or your aspirations.
To start, I think it’s very important to be defined about what you’re looking to get out of Business School and when you’re here, recognise that everyone is here for different reasons. Some want to gain specific skills, some to get their dream job and some are here to expand their horizons. But essentially, as you’ve probably heard before, your experience is completely what you make of it. Unlike your undergraduate, LBS is a privileged environment where you can completely tailor your experience to your interests and aspirations. For me – my goal was threefold – meet ambitious, globally-orientated people, open my mind and expand my opportunity set.
But what about the MFA course – as the first ever class. The course is finance heavy and will teach you a rounded toolkit to succeed in the finance world. Being the new kids on the block affords us many opportunities and growing pains alike. The course has been carefully considered and built by faculty and recruiters, but as a new programme there will be areas which can be developed, and being the first cohort gives us the opportunity to work with the Progamme Office and school to add extras and give constructive feedback which will help improve future years. The Programme Office (Lisa, Miles and Lucie) have been particularly amazing in working with us to include additions into the programme – whatever we’ve asked for, they’ve tried best to get it for us – from lectures on private equity and fintech to more spaces in electives. While many of our suggestions won’t be included in our programme (because our ideas aren’t always feasible), we’ve help build the future MFA.
Recruiting…a student’s favourite buzz word. While most of our class wants to go into banking, it’s important to remember that it’s not the only option. Being in London, the worlds most global city, you can build a career in anything – and for me, a big part of coming to LBS has been the incredible opportunity set it gives you. It’s important to have a plan but it’s equally important to be flexible and adaptable – so take the opportunity to explore different industries or other career paths. Furthermore, be bold, innovative and cheeky in your career search. For an international student without the right to work in the EU (like me), finding a job will be more difficult but “turn your competitive disadvantage into an advantage” and approach the job search with more tenacity and imagination. Lastly, on getting a job, DON’T STRESS OUT. You may not get your dream job initially but then the skills you learn will be transferable – view your first job as a mere stepping stone to your dream. Most importantly, if you don’t wish to follow in the banking/consulting career path, don’t let yourself be perturbed by all the noise around everyone else recruiting for those roles.
People…this is really what LBS is about. Our class is 80 brilliant students from 37 countries, there aren’t many other places in the world where you’ll find that density of diversity and talent. However, don’t come here solely to build a network – come here to LBS to make friends, build lifelong relationships and talk to as many diverse people as possible. LBS is an amazing place to build your network, but more importantly, it is a unique environment to build long-term relationships with people from across the globe that it’d be difficult to meet otherwise – rather just “networking”, I’ve been focused on making friends with the idea that networks will naturally come from that. Furthermore, if you want to meet lots of interesting people, you have to be engaged and somewhat strategic – often the seemingly least exciting roles are actually the ones which give you the most exposure (i.e. put your hand up to be a class representative or serving drinks at Sundowners). One of LBS’s biggest strengths is the sense of community it fosters – both while you’re at school and after school as an alumnus. As the youngest bunch of students on campus, we’re in the privileged position where we have a ton to learn from the more experienced members of the community and it’s important to leverage that – people are incredibly generous in mentoring students beginning their career because most successful professionals were mentored as some point. That being said, it’s important not to be discouraged by our youth, we also have things to teach and sometimes the “, inexperienced” point of view provides a lot of insight that experience tends to overlook. With that in mind, reach out to students on different programmes and alumni (regardless of their seniority) and they’re generally incredibly open to meeting and being helpful – chances are they had people who helped them along during their early careers so they want to pay it forward.
Lastly, a word of getting involved. At the beginning of the course, a lot of people told me not to over-extend myself and get involved in too many things. I listened – I probably shouldn’t have. Be part of as many things as you can possibly fit in! On a one year programme, your time here is limited so make sure to squeeze out every inch of value you can. I’m an Executive Committee member of the Real Estate Club, Africa Club, the Social Representative for the MFA and on the Sundowners committee – I wish I had got more involved in other things. I’ve become a “Yes Man” – I grab any opportunity available from going for a beer, to being part of a competition team or going to a guest talk about something that I didn’t think I would necessarily be interested in.
At the end of the day, I didn’t come to LBS for a long time, I came for a good time – and it’s exceeded all my expectations!