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What Female Deans Want MBA Women In The Class of 2017 To Know

It’s June now, and all higher education institutions are saying goodbye to their graduates. It’s the time when young people become professionals and obtain their degrees at last, so thousands of rousing speeches are being pronounced all around the world.

Former MBA students are looking forward to starting their new jobs in banking, finance, consulting, tech, sales and other companies – and some are even starting their own businesses already. For them, it’s the highest point of their lives, as their education is finished and they are on the way to a new world of professional development. It gives a lot of new opportunities, but also hides many surprises, not all of them pleasant.

Everyone knows that for female MBAs, the world of business is especially difficult and unpredictable: they have to try and manage their careers and families simultaneously. That’s why new women graduates need some advice for having a productive business career. The advice comes from the best business leaders among women – business school deans.

Believe In Yourself

The advice comes from the best of the best in business education, including Erika James (Emory Goizueta), Catalina Stefanescu-Cunze (ESMT Berlin), Idie Kesner (Indiana Kelley) and Sally Blount (Kellogg). They share their own hard-obtained experience from years of successful business leadership.

Erica James gives a piece of advice that would apply to both male and female graduates, but would be more useful to women as they usually tend to underestimate themselves: Believe in yourself no matter what. According to Erica James, even if you don’t know all the ropes of your new business, it will come to you eventually.

Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou (Desautels) agrees wholeheartedly. She believes that perfectionism is what makes you too self-conscious and ultimately harms your cause. In her opinion, women should cut themselves some slack and stop trying to be a perfect candidate for the desired position.

Keep a Critical Mind

Georgette Chapman Phillips (Lehigh University) says that women shouldn’t doubt themselves. Of course, that doesn’t exclude listening to other people’s advice, but you should always check everything said to you against your inner principles.

Joyce Russell (Villanova) is much less vague about her speech: she believes that female graduates should enlist in a negotiations course to learn better communication and leadership. It will help against uncertainty and shyness.

Idalene Kesner (Kelley) speaks about how colleagues and subordinates tend to treat women in business. She mentions that many people are uncomfortable with women making decisions in ways different from men’s. Still, when women leaders try to deal with problems in a male way, everyone says they are bossy or harsh.

If You Want a Career, Family Can Wait

During the female deans’ speeches aimed at women graduates, the point of starting a family has also been raised. Dean Phillips reminded her former students about the double responsibility lying heavily on all women: if they want a family, it’s their job to take care of babies.

Sally Blount states that women shouldn’t think about their work-life balance right from the start. According to her, if you have career ambitions, family can wait until you secure your place in the sun. That’s why women should try taking on the most responsible jobs right after graduation to build a reputation for themselves, so that after giving birth they would still be on the job market.

What I Would Do If I Were You

Some deans voiced their thoughts about what they wished they’d known when they were young and inexperienced, right after graduation. Dean Phillips stated outright that women should be ready for dislike and mistrust from other colleagues: not everyone will agree with you at work.

Nancy Bagranoff (Robins) argues that emotional support is crucial: she would’ve done better if someone told her back then that everything was going to be alright.

All in all – and that’s a point all female deans agree on – when working in business, the best way is to focus on people, as they give you the hardest challenges of your life, but also provide great help along the way.

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