Making the Most of Business School in a Pandemic

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Jazmyn BeckerBusiness school is a place to develop new skills, build your network, and advance your career – and that holds true, even when the MBA experience is a virtual one.

Jazmyn Becker, Class of 2021 at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, is pursuing her MBA to kick-start a career in human capital. Before COVID-19, she felt like she was off to a good start, meeting people and making connections. Her biggest challenge was that because she previously worked in the nonprofit world, she wasn’t used to pouring energy into herself. It felt selfish at first, but when COVID hit, the transition gave her an opportunity to refocus and realign.

She offers this advice to others who will be attending business school virtually: “Know what fills your cup, because it can easily be depleted in business school, particularly in a virtual environment.” As an example, she says, “If you know that you need yoga three times a week to feel sane, if you can’t go to a studio, find a yoga instructor online and still build that into your routine.”

Becker also recommends being mindful of how you allocate your time. She explains, “Because we're virtual, a lot of our classes are recorded. You can kind of go in and out, or you can watch it later. It's very easy to lose track of time in a virtual world.” In addition to her MBA classes, Becker is co-president of Michigan Business Women at Ross, and she has a busy schedule. To manage it, she uses a Self Journal, a planner with a detailed layout. She says, “It kind of trains you to plan your day in advance, and plan your week and your month and your goals in advance, and really hone in how you're spending your time.”

MBA students at Ross complete a full-time consulting project called the Multidisciplinary Action Project (MAP) in the last quarter of their first year. Many of the projects involve international travel, which became impossible due to COVID. Becker says, “I was very lucky because I was put on a project with American Express, based on the East Coast, and they seamlessly were prepared to turn it into a remote environment. I had the chance to almost ‘test drive’ what it was like building relationships with team members, working on a project remotely, and having a strong deliverable in a short amount of time.”

That experience working virtually with American Express gave her a sense of what to expect during her summer internship at DaVita. Becker was one of about 30 students who conducted their DaVita internships virtually, and the company organized lots of community-building events for them. Becker says, “We’d have scavenger hunts and bingo nights, and we did a cooking night where we all made a meal together with a chef and then got on a Zoom call and ate dinner with each other.” The interns were also encouraged to set up one-on-one meetings and get to know each other.

Becker’s top tip for MBA students considering remote internships is to leave time for organic relationships. She says, “In virtual, it can be very easy to just focus on the stand up of deliverables, because you're not rubbing shoulders with your supervisor, your team, or potentially your future staff.”   Since you’re getting less personal interaction, she says, “Organic relationships are so key. Schedule a half hour with your boss just to grab coffee and not talk about work, or have a game night with some of your team members.” Your deliverables will still need to be strong, but she says, “Those organic relationships will speak volumes, whether it comes to full-time offers or just being in the office in person, hopefully in the near future.”

Forté is a non-profit organization working to change the balance of power in the workplace. Their alliance of 100,000+ women from diverse backgrounds, industries, and career stages help women achieve their MBAs and rock the business world in leadership roles.

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