Sunday, August 12, 2007

Advice for incoming first years

Well, the admits are arriving now and there can be no denying it anymore: yesterday, I had breakfast on Baker Street with a friend, when a girl I knew from admits weekend passed, and I think she introduced herself to my friend saying that she was a first year, and that's when we realized: we are second years now. How fast time passes! How can we be second years already? Now there are other people who are first years who don't care about us, because they know we'll be gone soon :-(. And in our class people will be going on exchange, working part-time and finishing early, so it won't be the same.

The good part is that now that I count as a wise old second year, I can pass on advice :-). There's quite a few things I wish I had known, and I wouldn't be able to call myself an angel if I wasn't there to make other people happy in their lives - while suffering the grave consequences of my mistakes ;-) - just kidding, I'm pretty happy right now, and the only thing that worries me is that somehow I know that one cannot be that happy forever, right now is probably the luckiest period in my life, so I better enjoy it. Okay, back to my advice:

Flathunting/flatmates: First of all, sorry to say that rental prices have skyrocketed this year (and you thought they couldn't go any higher...), so expect to pay a bit more than the '08s who may have quoted you what they pay. Sharing with 2 others is the best if you want to be economical (around 200 GBP per week), while living on your on will cost you around 300 GBP pw if you want to stay close to school, which is what you should in the first year. Even more important than money is happiness (can you feel the wisdom flowing through my words???), and for that I really urge you to choose your flatmates wisely. At the flathunter's pub crawl, you might sometimes think you just want to get it over with, and just agree to live with the first person who asks you, but I can tell you from experience this can turn out to be a nightmare. Make sure your ideas of how to live more or less match, and stay away from people who seem to try and shift all the responsibility of payments, contractual obligations etc. on you. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a good personality match, otherwise it can turn out to be very nasty, and unfortunately in my case I had to live with one of the nastiest guys in the MBA for a year. Luckily that's over now. But don't expect all people to be decent and honest, just because they are in your MBA programme. Most people are very nice but there are a few outliers, and you don't want to end up sharing the bathroom with them by mistake.

Study Group: don't worry about this, and don't freak out. At Orientation, they will make it sound as if you will see your study group more than you will see you boyfriend or best friends, so you will freak out and look at these new people and think "but I don't want to spend more time with them than with my boyfriend!", and everybody will be tense and unhappy and have very high expectations which are bound to be disappointed. Luckily, it will turn out to be nothing like that after the first one or two months, it's not a big deal, and it has its advantages, in my case all people in my study group happened to be some who I might not have become friends with otherwise, but because we spent time working together on projects, having lunches and dinner together etc., actually these are people I know very well now, people I can trust, and people I am always happy to bump into now that our study group ceases to exist (just last night it happened I was stranded in a club in Shoreditch and bumped into my Egyptian study group mate who was also stranded there, since both our partners have gone on holiday already leaving us to finish the investment banking internships alone, which obviously makes a lot of sense). So, see it as a chance to get to know some people you might otherwise not have known, and try to stay relaxed about the whole thing, people freak out and are very tense at the beginning because of high expectations, and this can create a lot of conflict.

Parties: yes, there will be many parties. All I can advise is to go everywhere almost every day in the first term, particularly if you're single (if you have a partner, just take them along every time, or sometimes spend a quiet evening with them instead, which is also very relaxing), because the first term really is when all the things are going on. I was quite active in September, but then a bit more relaxed thinking "well, this will go on for two years, so I don't have to go to each and every event, I can go next term", but actually you will notice that suddenly starting in January recruiting will start, and cliques will form, and there will be less and less big parties involving the whole class. So my advice is for you to party as much as possible in the first term and meet all your classmates, because later people become absorbed in their own world and it is harder to get through to them.

Jobsearch: I was one to spend months trying to decide what to do - though in the end I decided on Sales & Trading, which had been my plan when I came to London Business School and long before. But all I can say is try to know as fast as possible and get ready. I think I've said this before: most of the people who knew what they wanted got great jobs, but the people who were clueless and didn't know what to do with themselves even in February and randomly applied to McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, Google and everyone else in the universe, usually didn't make it and were less lucky (though they found good things later). But try to be focused early, talk to all the 2nd years who will be a great help, and also, don't confine yourself only to companies that come on campus. Some of my classmates are interning now with really good private equity firms, such as Terra Firma and Actis Capital, and believe me it is not because they came on campus! Some people say "but they don't come on campus" as if that meant you are not allowed to apply, while actually you are. UBS Asset Management also didn't recruit on campus but somehow two of my classmates are interning there. Quite a few of my classmates are working at some hedge funds here in London, and none of them were on campus. So check out alumni and other contacts, go to all the speaker events and conferences, and you will have a much broader view of what you can do.

So much for my advice, I hope it helps! Enjoy the first weeks of your programme!!


asiangal said...

Great advice on socializing as much as you can in your first few months ... I'm actually getting all socialized out and was thinking of retiring from class-wide parties. =)

Arun Ram said...

Hi Angel... I have been reading your blog for the last one year and have been following the blog since you joined LBS to your dillema in selcting the industry to the day you won the BOB Award.
I am a HKU MBA student and will be your classmate in the last term (Mar- Jun 2008). Will be very happy if I could get in touch with you on mail. I have a few specific advises to ask. Thanks very much.

Again I appreviate all the time you have taken to advise us on different aspects of MBA life, I truly appreciate it.

My email :


Patxi1977 said...

..."I had to live with one of the nastiest guys in the MBA for a year."...

Hi Angel!

I am back from my much deserved and enjoyed break. I have 2 weeks to go with my internship though. Yet I am fully recharged for the 2nd year :D

Catching up through your blog, I realized (putting 2 and 2 together), that it was I who introduced you to your flatmate from hell with an email on 8/16/06.

I am truly sorry it turned out to be that bad of a cohabitation. I am sure RusGirl is a clear enhancement!

Take care and have fun in your holidays.


Patxi, the entrepreneurotic