As one of the top business schools in the world, INSEAD provides a unique environment with its 1-year MBA program and campus switch opportunities, squeezing all the knowledge and experiences into this incredible year and making MBA candidates not just overwhelmed or challenged but learn important lessons in prioritization and time management. I firmly believe that INSEAD is going to be a life-change experience. However, adjustment to INSEAD can be hectic and I want to help future candidates maximize the value of this unique year. Here is a list of 10 things that I would suggest to prepare for or keep in mind in advance:
- Get an intern at Big companies
Either you are Ds or Js, if there is no force majeure, I strongly encourage you to take a pre-MBA internship at an industry you are interested in but have no experience before, even at a startup. After you get the offer and know you are definitely pursuing this INSEAD journey, you have the privilege to expand your horizon as an MBA candidate. This might be the last year that you are allowed to go for something different, so go for it!
- Narrow down your career goals to 2~3 sectors you are truly interested in
Many MBA candidates are explorers, meaning that they haven’t decided on what to do after theirs MBA. However, the intense 1 year INSEAD life will overwhelm you and limit your opportunity to explore all avenues and potential interests. If you cannot narrow down the number of your recruiting targets into 2 to 3, your life may become even more out of control. As there will be many relevant recruiting events happening around the clock, it will be hard for you to make up your mind and spend time on interview preparation.
- Figure out the recruiting time frame and philosophy of your dream companies
For Ds, the recruiting time frame is quite off cycle, comparing to U.S. schools. It means that you may miss many opportunities when you don’t even know the deadline has passed. Moreover, unlike other top US business schools, INSEAD only has on campus interviews with investment banks, top consulting firms, and major corporates such as Amazon. For example, Google doesn’t come to INSEAD for batch on campus interview, and its application due date of internship is 1 month before INSEAD program starts.
- Read books or other materials about case interview
INSEAD is famous for being a consulting school. During recruiting season, you can see most of your peers busy preparing cases and mock interviews. The earlier you get the idea and sense of case interview, the easier and the more you will be ready for recruiting. Furthermore, case interview preparation is not only for consulting recruitment. The same soft skill and logical problem structuring is applicable to many interviews of different industries. Case preparation is very valuable for recruiting preparation.
- Work on your finance knowledge (have time to take a CFA Lv1 might be helpful)
Personally, I wish I could learn finance earlier after the finance classes at the first 6 months, especially the amazing elective course by Professor Massimo Massa, Applied Corporate Finance. I believe I would have learned more if I had deeper understanding of finance or if I have passed CFA Level 1. Through the lecture of Professor Massa, I also understand that most of time the purpose of financial valuation and analysis is to make a strategy decision instead of a pure financial decision.
- Pass the language exam requirement
The language requirement of INSEAD is another reason why this school is amazing. However, with your intense and overwhelmed life, you will not want to be bothered by the language exam while preparing for interviews and networking events. The language class is an additional full credit class, with the same time commitment as other core classes. INSEAD language policy 2017
- Network with classmates
Your classmates will potentially become your best life-long friends. After months of intense life, you wish you had more time to know more people and get to know them deeper on a more personal level. I would suggest start networking with future classmates who live at the same city or nearby. Even if you want to take this gap to travel around before school, it would be also nice to connect with classmates at the various cities you visit for a dinner or drink. INSEAD people are around the world, and after bumping into INSEADers many times, I won’t be surprised now of accidently seeing them on streets when I travel all around the world.
- Go connect with alumni to understand more about career opportunities
One of the most valuable assets of INSEAD is alumni. The strong network spreads all over the world and across every industry. On the road to search your dream job or to pursue the one you are devoted to, the guidance and suggestion from experienced alumni would be really inspiring. Thus, after you have done some soul searching and a bit research for the industry/job position/company you are interested in, go on your LinkedIn, search for INSEAD with the industry/job title/company, find the 3 ~ 5 alumni at the geography you want to work at, write down a warm message describing who you are, your purpose, what you have researched, and most importantly your 3 questions you would like to know their advice. The strong INSEAD network will give you some surprises and great insights to open some doors for your career. Sometimes, alumni might be busy and forget to respond, but it’s fine and you may find the next one. (Remember you have to be polite and don’t take it for granted)
- Be humble and know yourself better
- Get ready to put yourself beyond limitation, get as much uncomfortable as you can, and experience all the ups and downs
Both suggestions are from the challenges and intensiveness of this life-changing year. You might keep running after the deadline and schedules, feeling stressed with many rejections from companies, while your classmate just mentions he/she gets an offer from BCG, hesitating going which parties or trips, frustrating for group discussion as you hardly contribute any thought. BUT, remember it’s fine, and actually great, to feel the pain and go beyond your limitation. The stress and uncomfortable feeling will push you learn further in a fast way and cultivate your abilities to be advanced at every perspective. As time passes so fast, when you look back after months, you will be amazed by how much you have achieved and have the confidence for the upcoming challenges.