Notes to my Pre-MBA Self

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

As I begin my final year at Carlson, I look back on what I consider to be the most important decision of my professional career.

Five years ago I made the decision to return to school to pursue my MBA, after a 10 year gap in college.  At the time I was a retail general manager with a fortune 100 company, and I wasn't quite sure how I would juggle such busy schedules between work and school.  

What helped set my course was:

  1. Setting a realistic timetable to complete my education
  2. Up-front communication with my boss and my team around the commitment I was making, and how it would impact my availability at work.

A retail manager schedule is constantly changing, and spans across nights and weekends; it was important to gain the commitment from my boss, my team, and my peers, that I would be able to work around scheduled class-time, and be provided the flexibility to attend classes.  I found that between this limited need with work, and the flexibility of available class offerings, I was able to accommodate being fully present for both work and school.

A few years later I made the jump from retail stores, to the corporate world.  This provided more stability with my schedule, and allowed me to accelerate my MBA progression.  About this time however, my personal life started to expand just beyond my needs, as I got married, and a year later welcomed the birth of my son.  

I had to again reflect on what I previously learned and applied:

  • Set realistic goals for when I would complete my education
  • Constantly communicate with my wife around the time commitment and being present for our family.  

My hobbies took a back seat, so that I was able to support my wife with her personal time, be present in raising my son and sharing in the work that went along with it, and continuing to cultivate friendships as possible.  

Communication with friends and family was critical, so that people understood the time sacrifice being invested in my education and career, and allowed me to continue meaningful relationships with my friends that I had significantly less face time with due to the busy schedule.

As I look back on the journey, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.  Having open dialogue with the people that supported me or were impacted by my decision to pursue my MBA, was the key to juggling my busy schedule.  Plan out your days, weeks, and months - so that you are present, and supportive of those around you.  Don't look back and realize that you hadn't made time for the people that got you to the place that made it all possible!

Mike Sokol and Family Wearing University of Minnesota Hats