The Best Advice I Ever Received — 5 Crucial Strategies for MBAs

The road from prospective student to MBA candidate to job market success story can be daunting. Returning to school, fitting coursework into an already full schedule, job searching and interviews — there are a lot of challenges and unknowns. But it's a path many have taken, and each new traveler collects strategies that help clear the hurdles.

FAU prides itself on creating a sense of community among students, alums and faculty that encourages the sharing of those strategies and other nuggets of wisdom. Here, a few students and a top faculty member share their best advice.

1. Network, network, network
FAU graduates such as Sam Nimah remember professors not only stressing the importance of personal connections, but also intentionally fostering a networking-friendly environment. That benefited Nimah and his fellow classmates not only while pursuing their MBAs, but after graduation.

"I leverage relationships I built during the program and bounce ideas off of people and have gotten counsel from my classmates," says Nimah, who earned his Executive MBA in 2013 and is now owner-CEO of Special Care Providers of America LLC. "We all stay in touch and help each other when it's needed."

Beyond anecdotal evidence, research shows networking works. Access MBA, an international advisory service for degree hopefuls, reports that 50 to 60 percent of MBA graduates found a job by networking.

2. Become a team player
This is age-old advice, but as one moves along in his or her career, it's a skill that's easy to forget and becomes more difficult to practice. FAU's faculty promotes collaboration, and MBA candidates quickly realize it's essential to success in school and out.

"You can't confront people in the work that I do; you have to collaborate," says Erci Moisa, who graduated from FAU's Financial Analyst and Executive MBA programs and now works in healthcare finance.

He says he learned the value of solid teamwork firsthand through his FAU study group. "My classmates were very smart and capable and they had a great attitude and the will to get it done," he recalls. "They sacrificed nights and weekends for the greater good and it helped me out. During the program, we never turned in anything late, incomplete or missed an assignment."

3. Embrace opportunities to teach
Part of being a good collaborator is effectively communicating your knowledge, a key value relayed time and again by leaders such as Dr. Ken Johnson, associate dean of graduate programs at FAU's College of Business.

"Students should strive to teach one another," Johnson says. "You never learn so much as when you teach a concept to another." What's more, the practice helps prepare grad students for the real world. "Management is really about learning and teaching processes," he adds.

4. Learn to manage time effectively
Anup Patel, a graduate of FAU's EMBA program, recalls this game-changing piece of wisdom handed down from a family member.

"My uncle told me prior to starting the Executive MBA program in 2010 to make sure I had good time management skills," recalls Patel, who recently began working as a business analyst at NextEra Energy Resources. "His advice was crucial to my doing well in the program. Having a full-time job and a family provided few hours to study and his advice was a key part of my success."

5. Take care of yourself
But even the most efficient students with the best time-management skills need to make sacrifices to make time for coursework. And many assume they can crank out the work like a machine. But proceed with caution if you start sacrificing exercise, nutritious meals, time to decompress and other things that can ward off burnout, both during an MBA program and after landing your first post-graduation job.

"I would say 'stay healthy' was the most important advice I received," Nimah recalls. "At any level of business, including executive leadership, your best ability is availability. You can be the smartest person, the most brilliant strategist or the hardest worker, but if you have to exit the business, even for a short period, you can damage the business. This is especially true as an entrepreneur."

While just a taste of the sage advice that regularly gets passed down to MBA candidates from faculty, other students and mentors, these lessons and anecdotes exemplify how FAU delivers more than a traditional education.

"If experience beats education almost every time, then why should anyone pursue a master's degree? Because experience plus education trumps all," Johnson says. "The individual that has both experience and education becomes the apex predictor in the marketplace."