What a difference a year makes. This time last year was incredibly exciting, overwhelming, stressful, and intense. There were so many people to meet. Classes required more reading and practice problems than time allowed to complete. Recruiting, résumés, and networking never ended. New people, perspectives, and faces peered around every corner, and each represented a different story and a potential friend. Everything at business school seemed so important.
Every day presented new opportunities. Amid all the noise, it was difficult to prioritize and manage my time. What was really important here? Did I need to attend every recruiting session? Finish all the practice problems? Read every chapter before class? Go out every night? Meet every person in the class? What's the most effective way to network with companies? With classmates? I remember well a time when I'd run from one event to the next, afraid to miss a thing. I was constantly plagued with feelings of inadequacy because I was spreading myself too thin to do anything well.
Second-years are seemingly all-knowing
As a first-year, I could sense the intensity among my classmates was markedly different from that of the second-years. I thought, perhaps it's the economy; or maybe (just my luck) we have a crop of incredibly type-A-hyper-competitive-hyper-motivated students this year. Turns out, it wasn't the economy. And the demographic make up of my class isn't significantly different from those that preceded us—or those that will follow. Rather, the hyperactive tendencies of me and my classmates was purely a function of being a first-year MBA student just as the seemingly relaxed, poised, fun-loving, advice-laden, in-control, and stress-free perception of second-years is a function of the second year. Given the choice, we'd all elect to forego the first year in exchange for a second helping of the second. To be clear, however, this second-year status is not an intrinsic trait but rather a rite of passage, something one picks up somewhere over the course of the summer, only after surviving the roller coaster of the previous year, putting it into perspective, and vowing never again to do that voluntarily to oneself.
And so we come to second year with a battle wound or two and the knowledge that even though things might not happen just the way we had imagined, in the end it all works out, for each of us, in our own way. We also return, after a summer internship, with a renewed sense of just how lucky we are to have this second year, how incredibly different school life is from working life, that answering to yourself is a bit easier than to your boss, and the realization that (if last year were any indication) this year, too, will pass more quickly than we'd like. Thus I echo (well, actually butcher) the words of the Geto Boys: "Damn it feels good to be a [second-year]."
Making the most of the year is a priority
Maybe it's the Post-it on my desk that reminds me daily, "You are never getting this year back." Maybe it's the Benjamin Franklin quote I discovered this summer, "Do not squander time, for it's the stuff life is made of." But somehow over the course of the past year I have learned to say "No." I've learned that saying no to something means I am, in fact, saying yes to something else. And this year, I'm particularly focused on that something else.
With the knowledge of the events (parties, formals, etc.) coming around the bend, suddenly it isn't quite as important to attend absolutely everything. With the realization that I can take only a limited number of courses, it's much more important to choose those in which I am genuinely interested, those with the best professors, and those that will help me be successful in my career. With the knowledge that we're all going to disperse around the country (and globe) after graduation, it's increasingly important to spend time with real friends and to invest time in the relationships about which I really care. With the decision to return to Boston after school, it's more important for me to explore Chicago while I'm still here. With the fleeting feeling of the year on my mind, it's a lot easier to prioritize. Suddenly, too, it's a lot easier to decide if something is worth my time or not.
This quarter I'm spending my time as a TA for an undergrad course, helping friends prep for cases, mentoring first-year students, volunteering in my neighborhood, hosting friends from out of town, booking trips home to spend time with my family, and perhaps most importantly, just enjoying the time.
So here's to the second year and to making the most of it. Here's to revisiting the list of goals I made before my Midwestern trek here to Booth (Chicago Booth Full-Time MBA Profile). And here's to holding myself to achieving them. Once you've got a job locked up—that is, after all, what the second year is for.