The New Normal: Adjusting to Life at Booth after LEAD

“Oh my god, how is it midterms already???!”

Last year, around the beginning of November, that was my signature phrase. I moaned it to my Booth friends who mirrored my own wide-eyed panic. I grumbled it to my parents and sister (a chemistry major in college taking two lab classes and who had zero sympathy). And I wailed it in despair in my own room where no one except Netflix could hear and judge me.

Ok, that’s a little dramatic. I did fine; no biggie.

But in retrospect, one of the more challenging parts of business school my first year was getting back in the swing of things after LEAD ended.

LEAD, or the Leadership Effectiveness and Development Program, is one of the first experiential leadership development programs at a major business school. The course, taught by second-years, is designed to enhance students’ self-awareness and interpersonal skills through several weeks of unique opportunities to benchmark themselves with respect to critical aspects of leadership – working in teams, influencing others, conflict management, interpersonal communication, presentation skills, etc. Each day was structured around a certain module with required pre- and post-work, with each module building on the ones prior.

Four years out of school, I needed to relearn how to structure my life after having had it done for me by work. Nine hours of classes were fixed points in the ocean of my free time, but left to my own devices, I would lie around in bed watching Iron Chef America all day.

I admit I didn’t do the best job—compared to friends and classmates who were married and had children, I lived a que sera sera life. As recruiting picked up, I felt overwhelmed, since I had previously relied on having a lot of extra time…which was then eaten up by corporate conversations, coffee chats and an indeterminable amount of soul-searching and existential crisis (more about that in later posts).

Again, drama. But not too far from the truth in this case: time management is hugely important in business school, where a million things are happening at the same time and prioritization becomes the name of the game. Throughout, I reminded myself that I was paying a lot of money and spending two years of my life for the privilege of being here. Each moment was valuable.

Here are the things I’d tell myself the week after LEAD ended, to start the year off on the right foot, in the parlance of some of my favorite Netflix shows:

“Recognizing you have a problem is the first step.” It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. It’s ok to ask for help from Academic Services, who are trained to help you think through the process of picking the classes that are right for you, who can help match you with tutors on subjects you’re not 100% confident on.

“Winter is coming.” Make sure you have all of your winter gear purchased and ready to go. Heavy duty parka? Thick wool socks? Hat and gloves? Waterproof boots? The last thing you need is to lose two days shopping for the first blizzard..

The same thing goes for all areas of business school: be prepared. Have your suits and shirts dry-cleaned, have your resume updated and looked over by the career center and the second years. Recruiting season is coming.

…and finally: “Just. Make it work.” There’s no such thing as perfect time management. There will be days when you feel like time and space are melting around you and there is no way that you will get everything done that you want to get done. Those days will come, and you will get through them. Learning to live life with the 80-20 rule has been an enormously powerful coping mechanism that all business school students learn…or don’t, at their own peril.


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