Lessons From My First Month On The Job

It’s been about a month since I started my new job, and a little longer since I left Durham, Fuqua, and the relatively carefree existence of a second-year MBA. The last few weeks of school and the first few of my job in New York seem to blend together. Unless I think really hard about it, it’s difficult to tell where one ended and the other began, but if business school is supposed to prepare us for the business world, part of that was probably inevitable.

My classmates and I had a variety of motives for coming back to school, but a majority probably hoped that they’d learn something in business school that’d be applicable later. After all, getting a job is only half the battle. Fuqua doesn’t name auditoriums after folks at the associate level. There isn’t always a road map for success, so sometimes we have to improvise. But how?

This job has been great. It’s been a whirlwind at times, but I signed up for a challenging job where I’d learn a lot, and I haven’t been disappointed. It’s not a company that does a ton of hiring, so we don’t have a lot of training, especially about the finer, softer points of the job. So, perhaps I was fortunate that my MBA experience was relatively recent, and chock full of lessons – lessons that now seem to have a lot of significance beyond the walls of the ivory tower.

  1. Prioritization is clutch. I have a lot of discretion in what work I do. On any given day, I can choose to do research, or deal with investors, or work on credit ratings. It’s a luxury, but it’s also a challenge. It reminds me of business school. There were a million ways to use my time, and some were more constructive than others, and it’s not always intuitive. So sometimes you just have to pick and hope.
  2. People are (still) busy. I know, it sounds obvious, but just as in business school, much of the work I do depends on the work of others, and it demands working as a team pretty frequently. But everyone else has commitments of their own. My solution in business school was always to schedule meetings early, that way people agree to them without actually thinking about whether or not they’ll have the time. It works here, too.
  3. Be inquisitive. I know it’s cliché, but when you’re a rookie, there really are no dumb questions. In corporate America, there’s been a secular shift toward specialization. I’m covering the power sector. In my first meeting, it sounded like my colleagues were speaking a different language. And not surprisingly, it turns out that people want you to speak their language. But you have to ask. It’s just like business school. We were put in teams that were intentionally diverse, with the hope that we’d all be able to learn from each other, but sometimes it’s difficult, because it’s easier to assume everyone’s on the same page.