A B-school is exactly what you imagine it is and more. From constant social interaction to group assignments to committee meetings; if you are a loner or an introvert or have social anxiety, it’s going to be a nightmare!
Relax, we are going to walk through the entire process, and by the end of this article, you will be equipped with a set of tips that will make interaction at a B-school seem absolutely easy!
Whether it’s the student’s club or a regular team session, there will be plenty of times that you will be interacting with other students. So, being intimidated by the entire process is not going to work. You can’t always retract into your shell, no matter how cosy it is. It’s true that the first few days are probably going to be a bit difficult, but at the same time, what isn’t difficult in its initial stage.
If you have certain means of dealing with social interactions, great; but we are going to talk about things that will definitely work in your situation.
So, let’s get started!
How to start a conversation
There are going to be multiple times that you walk in front of a batch mate or are sitting down with a senior at a table, and at these points it is almost impolite to not start a conversation.
But, you don’t want to be impolite; you just don’t know what to say. The answer is simple; you start by asking them about themselves!
Multiple studies show that people love to talk about themselves, and this is how you will be getting over your Achilles Heel. Just ask them any question about themselves, and after they answer they will probably ask you one; you answer, and the conversation is done with. This one simple trick will ensure that you are never awkwardly staring at someone waiting for them to start talking!
Find similar people
Not everyone in a B-school is an extrovert. Just take a look at today’s business leaders and you will see introverts all round. You and your peers are the future business leaders, so it’s just about finding the right people and you will have a great gang of quietness and understanding!
You will see a lot of people forming packs right away. If you are unable to, don’t feel down. At a B-school you will meet at least one new person every day, so you will find like-minded people soon enough. One small tip – try to find people beyond your immediate peers as well. Many people at a B-school form strong bonds with seniors and juniors. But, at the same time try to find people from your immediate peer circles as well.
Put on your confident face
If you have confidence it will do half the work for you. Don’t think you are going to be awkward or confused. If you are going to a foreign B-school the cultural impact itself might make you lose confidence. Remember this, as a person who brings diversity to the table you are most likely to have a great conversation with your peers. So, don’t hold yourself back and be confident.
You know what helps? Mirror work! Practice speaking in front of a mirror every day and you will definitely gain a confidence boost!
Find time to be by yourself
While the above tips were about how you can blend in and socialize, it is also important that you don’t try to completely change yourself in the process. Who you are is perfect, and you need time alone to get work done. Learning how to work with a diverse group is something you will definitely learn in an MBA program, but you can’t always put the team before yourself.
So, even though you will be placed in a collaborative landscape, having the space to think things through is absolutely important. Many business leaders also state that teamwork is quite overrated, so don’t fall into the trap of always thinking about others and not about yourself.
And more importantly, you matter as an individual. Even though you will learn various skills through teamwork, you will need to hone those skills on your own. So, don’t miss the opportunity to self-develop.
Pick out skills that will help you along the way
At a B-school you have the opportunity to develop a wide set of skills. And learning certain skills such as training and development, communication based courses, etc. can help you in the long run. So, it is important that you give this aspect a thought while picking out your curriculum and your target B-schools.
To be a future business leader or a strong manager these skills will definitely be necessary for an introvert. And with the ability to understand people’s mindsets you will be able to have better conversations with them as well.
Be a good listener
MBA students are often great speakers, but not everybody is a good listener. On the other hand most introverts are excellent listeners. So, you have a natural advantage that you should absolutely use! The world in general lacks good listeners, so basically the world needs more people like you.
This is an advantage that most of us don’t consider. And more importantly, this is a skill that very few actively develop.
If you are a good listener people are highly likely to consider you as an important part of the group. As mentioned before, people love to talk about themselves. And if you are showing genuine interest while somebody is speaking, it will always leave an impact on them. So, as an introvert use your listening skills to connect with people. Build long lasting relationships and not short meaningless ones.
Find your unique skill
When you are starting down the MBA path, it is natural to feel a bit down considering some of the talent you will see around you. As an introvert this can push you deep into your shell. But, remember this – you were selected by the B-school so you too have a unique skill.
It’s just that you, along with many of your peers, have not found your unique skill yet. But, that is why you are here – to have a transformative experience. By the end of your term, when you are ready to graduate, you will have significantly changed. And a part of that will be finding your unique skill, honing it, and learning real life applications of it.
So, give yourself time and take it slow if you have to!
At a philosophical level, you might consider the entire B-school mythos to be a very social pressure related thing; and even though you have the skills you may think that this form of conformity is not meant for you.
This is a very outsider perspective to a B-school.
Just one semester at any top B-school will show you that there is no singular objective to the MBA experience. There is almost no mould that you are required to fit, rather, you are expected to transform and maintain your uniqueness!
And at the end of the day, being an MBA means having developed a knowledge bank and skill set. This has almost nothing to do with being an introvert or an extrovert. So, regardless of your personality trait, you will definitely come out on the top.
Don’t be discouraged about being an introvert, and definitely don’t think that you are not as good as others because of your personality trait.
Always remember one thing; leaders are headstrong, not extroverted. Be open-minded and confident, you will make it!