I entered my management programme straight out of graduation, which had its own advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage was a fresh perspective uncoloured by work experience. As was being the youngest by a couple of years. I considered that I had a headstart on my peers.
However, I soon realised that my biggest advantage was also my biggest disadvantage. The students with prior work experience were far ahead in everything — their ability to solve problems was far greater than we greenhorns’. Most importantly, they seemed extremely effective in time management, juggling different priorities and still coming out on top — I remember, a few of my fellow students were married with children.
And that, I believe, is the most important thing B-schools don’t teach us, but working life does. The emphasis on getting great grades, finishing 10 more projects than is humanly possible, trying for the best summer training and final placements pushed highly ambitious but young people like me to work at the course 18 hours a day with the balance being grudgingly given to sleeping, eating and the occasional girlfriend.
Parents and siblings were relegated to distant small corners of our hearts as the “head” took over. So we never really “grew up” understanding how important it is to lead a balanced life.
Time management is perhaps the most important ingredient for long-term success, not just in your professional life, but life in general. As the years went by, we realised its importance and “carved out” time to fit all activities … but we wish we learnt to do it earlier and not having wasted so many productive years.
Some of us were lucky to learn this quickly by having good first bosses (not the same thing as a good first job necessarily), but I have seen many classmates with what we then considered “great” first jobs, getting burnt out at a fairly early age. Another side effect was failed marriages where spouses couldn’t compete with our jobs.
When you are young, you believe that you are superhuman and can do everything together. The truth is, you can’t. And even if you can, it will be for a limited period and if you compromise on quality. Overambition, work pressure and the resulting stress will get to you eventually. The B-school environment encourages you to work, work and work to outdo your peers. But perhaps a side course where a professors helps provide perspective would be handy.
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