Sorry Military MBA Applicants, There’s No Manual for B-School Research

In this guest post directed at military applicants, army veteran and Cornell MBA Peter Sukits shares candid, actionable advice for military veterans considering a transition to a full-time MBA program.
Pete is an aspiring career coach, author and finance professional living in Cincinnati, Ohio. He served for five years as a commissioned officer in the United States Army, and deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. After separating from active duty, he earned an MBA from the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University.
Through the process of transitioning, he learned many valuable lessons in the areas of expectations, mindset and preparation when undertaking the shift from military to academic and civilian life. We’re happy to share his advice with you here.

One of the defining characteristics of military veterans is their independence. This is taught and reinforced by the continual expectation that you will figure things out for yourself…and the military enables that. How?

It’s all written down. Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Putting together your dress uniform for the first time? Army Regulation 670-1 and your unit SOP.
  • Unsure about how to operate your new unit’s new radio? Just grab the -10 manual (said “Dash 10”)
  • Preparing for a ceremony you’ve never done before? There’s a DA pamphlet for that!

Now, I’m transitioning out of the military to business school…where’s the manual?

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Well, not exactly. It’s not as if there are no resources out there. To the contrary, there are ample sources of knowledge, especially for veterans.  It’s just a lot less clear as to where to find these resources and which ones apply to you. After all, no two applicant situations are the same, and many people have different opinions on the matter. You’re reading one of them, after all!

This uncertainty and plethora of resources is only one part of the switch from a very structured military environment to the more ambiguous nature of business school and the business world in general.

Fortunately for us, another skill we have learned to develop is the art of backwards planning. Recall that two posts ago I spoke about the importance of having your end goal and your motivation for going to business school in mind. Once you have your end goal, you can begin to backwards plan and map out the steps you need to take in order to achieve that goal.

This is the point where our independence gets the better of us, and where we need to turn to new skills that will serve us well in our business career: building relationships and asking for help. After all, it can be tough to backwards plan for this, especially if you do not know your end goal. And if you don’t know your end goal…please see my previous article called Push or Pull?!

Figuring things out is now going to become a matter of collaboration, to a much greater extent. This is just as, if not more important, than actually solving the problem itself. You want people to know that you work well with them, that you can ask insightful questions, and that they can rely on you in the future. This will form the basis of your network and future opportunities.

Asking questions is going to become more important than ever. Continuing with the backwards planning theme – know exactly what kind of information you are after, or what questions you want to have answered. This will enable quicker, more accurate information-gathering, as well as a chance to prove your critical thinking skills to your colleagues.

By being able to plan out your end goals, seek out new perspectives and thoughtfully ask the questions you need to ask, you’ll be able to piece together some great reference material. The information is out there somewhere. The methods of obtaining it have just become a bit different.

Next Steps

Getting a head-start with MBA veterans associations is a crucial course of action in building your knowledge base for business school. They will  not only point you to the most beneficial resources , but you will be able to learn through their experiences as well. Reach out to them. Ask the questions that come to your mind about what they did, and better yet, how they did it.  This will give you more vital tools that you can add to your kit bag.

Do you want to stay on top of the application process with timely tips like these? Follow our discussion group.
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