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Second-year MBA mindset

students standing together in a classroomComing back onto campus for your second year of business school, the first question you often hear is, “How was your summer?” It’s a great way to exchange information about the opportunities your MBA internship offered. But the question that often does not get asked is, “What is your plan for the second year?”

Whether or not you received job offers from your summer internships, getting into the best mindset to extract as much value as possible from your second year is incredibly important. Here are some tips for getting your mind right for the final year of business school.

Take the time to reflect on what you learned throughout the summer. Your internship might have been a whirlwind of activity, but it provided a wealth of opportunities for you to continue to sharpen your business skills and be exposed to new challenges. Taking time to deliberately capture these lessons will help you adapt more quickly to challenges you will face in your full-time position.

The beginning of the second year is an excellent time to think about what you did or did not like about the internship experience and evaluate how your career choices fit in with your overall life plan. This reflection could yield important themes that you’ll apply to your future career. Thomas Paine may as well have been speaking about an MBA internship when he said, “The real man [woman] smiles in trouble, gathers strength from success, and grows brave by reflection.”

There are several ways to design your second year of business school. While the option to “coast” is very appealing, the learning opportunities you will have in your second year are irreplaceable. Some of the most intelligent professors in the world are around you, and taking their classes can illuminate new passions or draw new connections for your future job. Take classes that will challenge and grow you as a professional, and avoid taking classes that require the least amount of work. Even if you are concentrating in investment banking, a class in real estate might be incredibly beneficial for a future problem your company faces.

Consolidating and solidifying your network is absolutely critical in your second year. Ensure the connections you forged during your first year are not forgotten, and guarantee that those connections understand the value you can create after graduation. Additionally, maintaining positive contact with your network helps solidify UNC Kenan-Flagler’s reputation amongst alumni and within industries.

Helping around campus is an outright obligation during your second year, but the method by which you choose to help is up to you. The learning opportunities you have been provided at School and the help you’ve received from those ahead of you are debts that are important to repay. Unlike student loans, helping to improve the academic and reputational quality of the institution is paramount. Volunteering to tutor or mentor is an excellent way to give back without breaking the bank. Pursuing leadership opportunities in extracurricular activities is not only a way to bolster your resume, but a tangible commitment to continuing the traditions of UNC Kenan-Flagler.

And finally, yes, you should be planning to make a financial commitment to the school post-graduation. UNC Kenan-Flagler derives only 12 percent of its funding from the state (the smallest of any top-20 school), and planning to donate will ensure future students are blessed with the same opportunities that current students have.

By Matthew Leitch (MBA ’18)