Saturday, June 27, 2009

The first year @ LBS

It's been quite some time since my last post - almost a year! As you can imagine, the first year has been crazy busy with lots of challenges, but overall it's been an absolutely amazing journey. My last exams at LBS finished 2 weeks ago, and I already started my summer internship at an internet company in London.

But let's begin from where my first year journey started, my first term at LBS. It was awesome meeting so many people from all over the world. I know European b-schools always brag about their diverse student body, but I now truly believe that this is the greatest asset they have compared to US b-schools (European b-schools: 70-90% international student body vs. US b-schools: ~30%). With the first term also comes the time to choose clubs you want to be involved with over the coming academic year. Tip: Focus on 1-2, at a maximum 3 clubs you want to be heavily involved with, instead of spreading yourself too thinly. Clubs will take up a large amount of your time! And being actively involved is a requirement if you want to hold a leadership position in the club in your 2nd year. Overall, I'd say the first term was the most stressful, where I was close to burning out in the end (and in fact was close to developing some chronic health issues). Take it easy! You don't have to attend every single speaker event, every birthday outing of classmates, or participate in all travels. Your well-being should come first. And if you come with a partner to LBS managing your time will be even more challenging.

In the second term I knew I had to relax more especially with recruiting starting in January. I was happy not to attend "milk round" or corporate partners week, where all the consulting firms and banks give presentations. This year, many just came to show up (with less than half the internship openings from these companies compared to 2008). My plans were to work in Industry in strategy or business development - so no need to be in London for milk round. To give you some stats:
- Firms I applied to through LBS: ~25
- Interviews received: 5
- Offers received: 2 (including 1 offer I received through a LBS student - the network actually works!)
- Interestingly: For some companies I interviewed with I never heard back (or at least not until a very long time):
- A large healthcare company: Passed 1st round interview, but never was contacted for 2nd round, only got an email after 4 months that no business unit found a fit for my background therefore I was never contacted for a second round interview (what a late ding)
- A large US conglomerate: Passed 1st round, but only was contacted 2 months later for a 2nd round interview (by then I had already committed myself to another company)
- A large online retailer: Interviewed, but never found out what happened (didn't follow up though cause already had committed to other company)
- A large agricultural company: Applied, the only company of the 25 which never told me whether my application was successful or not
- Firms I applied to through speculative applications: ~15
- Replies received: 0 (that didn't work well)

On another note, as we all know the GMAT score is important when getting into b-school. It can also be important for recruiting purposes! Google, for example, asked for GMAT scores in their internship application form. The strategy consulting companies do it too (so do the top banks). One more reason to maybe think about re-taking the test if you're not satisfied with your score and know you can do better!

My highlight of my 2nd term: Spring break with 40 of my classmates sailing in Thailand for 2 weeks - THE BEST TRIP EVER. If you come to LBS, make sure to be nice to the people in the sailing club, because they decide who will come on the trip and who won't (there are usually double the applications than spots are available).

In your third and last term, you can take electives. Depending on how busy you want to be, you can choose between 1-3 electives. I only took 1 elective, because I started working part-time at an internet company during the summer term. Along with course work, working part-time during your MBA can be killer!!! But it can also open you doors, and only thanks to my part-time job I was able to secure a summer internship at this awesome internet company. I love it there.

Towards the end you will start becoming nostalgic, because you won't be in your streams (or sections) anymore in your second year. Some people you won't see for almost a year, since some work abroad over the summer, then go on exchange, and then you go on exchange (or vice versa). Definitely stay in touch with peeps from your stream. It's sometimes a matter of luck though. This year, there was one stream with little camaraderie, one was mediocre, and the remaining two stuck together tightly. I was lucky to be in one of the latter (on this note: go Stream D!).

So is the MBA all about fun and success? Unfortunately not. You will also learn how to cope with failures (though luckily not too harsh ones). You will apply for roles at LBS (e.g. club positions, student ambassador or association positions) and you will not always get what you want. The same of course pertains to recruiting. Get prepared for plenty of dings. Especially the ones of companies you really like will hurt. Lastly, sometimes you are so stressed you wish you were back in your old job and wonder why you ever came to b-school.

However, overall as mentioned it's been a very positive experience. Some other stats:
- Places I traveled with classmates: Amsterdam, Dublin, Tenerife, Morocco, Thailand, Rome, Paris, and Athens (the best thing about being in London - cheap flights to anywhere in Europe!)
- Rent I paid: 190 GPB per week (!) for a tiny room (excl. utilities), but good location close to school
- Books I purchased for classes: 0

My plans going forward:
- Enjoy the summer while working (yes - the working life has so many advantages: free evenings during the week and free weekends!!!).
- Travel for 3-4 weeks in September before classes begin.
- Find a company to do my second year project in fall (since I will only have 1 modular class during the regular term, meeting every two weeks!)
- Go on exchange to Hong Kong in spring 2010

That's all from me now, stay tuned and I will most likely post at least one more time, maybe in July 2010 :-)? Take care!


Anonymous said...

Regarding your comments on improving GMAT score. What is a "good" score? Any point in improving from lets say 700 to 750?

Thomas said...

Sorry I'm not familiar with what the top consulting and banking firms value as "good", or if they have a cut-off point. I'm guessing though if you're below 700, it couldn't hurt to up your score. Remember though that it's not always that easy to increase a score by 50 points or more. I once read on that the average test re-taker only improves the score by 30 or so (many also get less!).

Josh Hohman said...

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Anonymous said...

awww.... your blog is so earnest!

visit mine for a bitchier, less helpful assessment of MBA life across the chunnel.

xx M