Applicant Question: Leadership Opportunities in Business School

On November 26, 2011, in Careers, by Jeremy C Wilson

In a recent email, I was contacted by one of my regular blog readers who is a potential applicant to MBA programs.  He asked me about the ways to get involved in activities while in business school. Specifically, he asked about how he might get involved in clubs, or organize study trips during the experience. In some respects this is a tough question because there are so many ways to get involved, so it’s hard to even begin to answer. But at Kellogg, people do get pretty involved, so I was happy to give him my take on things.

Before getting to the question, I’ll note that this is only one perspective, and others could have slightly different opinions on the matter.  After all, everyone has different levels of involvement at Kellogg and different abilities to handle multiple things at any given time. Likewise, I’d also say that I do my best to be one of the more active people on both campuses. So my propensity to get involved is high and my time to devote to any single campus is low. But that’s also typical of a lot of Kellogg students so I think I’ll provide a representative response. See below for the question. And below that for my response.

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APPLICANT QUESTION

Hi Jeremy,

As I already told you, I follow your blog from time to time (and I like it).

I was wondering ‘What are the ways in which an MBA student can contribute to campus and the MBA community’? When I think of myself, I would like to be a club president of a management consulting club, start a new club or organize a study trip. Additionally, is there something that you as a student miss on campus and that can be run/done by a student initiative?

I would really like to hear your perspective since you are there (on campus).

Thanks a lot.

Regards,

(Name)

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MY RESPONSE

Hi (Name)

Thanks for reading my blog and for your question.

In business school, many people love to get involved in clubs and in on-campus activities. In fact, most people do. The running joke in MBA programs is that most people get involved too much in the beginning and end up becoming overextended, as many of us get involved in too many clubs, go to too many events, recruit for too many industries and sign up for too many social events. As a result, some students don’t always have time to do their best work.  But either way, the point is, that there is no shortage of things to get involved in. And even thought it can all be very tiring it’s usually worth it.

One way that people get involved is by taking part in clubs. And in business school there are a lot of clubs you can get involved in. At Kellogg, there are nearly 90 student clubs to get involved in. You can take part industry clubs (e.g. banking, finance, marketing), social clubs (wine club, food club, etc), arts and services clubs, and also cultural clubs (Indian business club, Hispanic Business club, etc). The list goes on.  In such cases, students tend to get involved during the first year, as participants or as first year directors and then take on more significant leadership roles in the second year. In many cases, those positions are appointed by last year’s team and in other cases there might be a vote amongst the current members. Likewise, in some cases you run on a slate of leaders and in other cases, you run on your own. It all depends on the club.

A second way that people get involved is by being part of student government, which at Kellogg is called the KSA (e.g. Kellogg Student Association). To do that, you usually take part in student body elections at Kellogg  either during the very beginning or in the spring quarter.  For many people this is also fulfilling. Not only is it a way to give back to the school but its also a way to get involved in some very interesting issues and interface with many people in the Kellogg administration.

In addition to clubs and elections, many people also organize trips in business school. At Kellogg two ways that people do that are through GIM or for KWEST. I did both. For m GIM trip, we went to Kenya - it was the nonprofit profit trip my year. In addition to Kenya, others went to other places all over the world. As a student you can either participate or lead the trip and get very different yet rewarding experiences either way. Likewise for KWEST, you can also have a rewarding experience. As an incoming student, you have the opportunity  take part in a KWEST trip as your first experience on campus. And as a second year, you have the opportunity to take part as a KWEST leader and take 20 incoming students all around the world.

In addition to these, there are dozens (if not more) of other ways to get involved, organize, and lead on Kellogg’s campus. From nonprofit activities (e.g. Kellogg Cares) to experienential learning classes (G-lab) to things beyond the Kellogg campus, such as at Northwestern and in Chicago. There really is no shortage of ways to get involved. And that’s even for spouses and families who can take part in the joint venture club, and other similar groups on campus.

However, to the last point, I will caveat my entire post by saying that those who are married and/or have families often have unique experiences and have other things that demand their time. So I suspect that some of them might answer this question differently than I would.

But assuming you do have time to participate then it applies to you. And if does apply, then here’s my opinion on many of these types of clubs and roles.  If you have the time and interest and are  able to get a lead role in an organization, then chances are you should take it. Landing the group will probably earn you at least a little respect from some of your colleagues, give you more self-confidence, and give you experience organizing. It will also give you something interesting to talk about in future interviews, not only for clubs but also for jobs and anything else you do on campus. That said, the title usually doesn’t really mean much.  Instead, it means more to be able to work with other students and find a way to have impact as a unit.

Good luck in your pursuits.

 
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