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Advice / Career Paths / Training & Development

3 Career Lessons You Should Steal From Harvard Business School Grads

Harvard Business School has a bit of a history of churning out world business leaders. Despite this, plenty of people still wonder, “What exactly do you learn in business school?” and “Is it worth it?” With their track record of success, the answer to the latter question is probably yes. HBS is clearly doing something right.

To get a glimpse of what that might be, here are three significant career lessons HBS grads learned from their business school experience. Consider this an MBA crash course that’s about to save you nearly $140,000 in tuition and fees.

1. Get to Know Your Worst Self

People often know what they’re good at (it got them where they are!) Unfortunately, things won’t always go well in your career. How you react and recover impacts everyone around you. One of the best things I did this year was answering these two questions honestly, for myself: ‘What is my worst self?’ and ‘When does my worst self come out?’

Ellen Chisa ’16

Ellen Chisa is on to something. She writes on Medium that learning what brings out her worst self isn’t as counterintuitive as it sounds. It not only helps her recognize when her work is being impacted by her environment, but also how to set herself up to be as successful as possible. In the same way that it’s helpful to know what you don’t want in a job (in addition to what you do want), you have to get to know your worst self in order to access your best, most ambitious self.

2. Be Authentic

Much of business school (and much of business interaction) are awkward social situations… But I’ve continuously found that when in doubt, the best thing to do is to drop any social posturing and be authentic. Talk about what really gets you excited and what you really care about.

Rob Go ’07

When you think of stereotypical businesspeople, you might think of words like “slimy,” “sleazy,” or “slick,” but that’s not what business school teaches you. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Authentic messages win out over shallow conversations or compliments any day of the week. When you’re trying to inspire trust or confidence in your work, consider presenting at least some form of the truth. As Rob Go explains, people respond to authenticity.

3. Surround Yourself with the Right People

You don’t go to the world’s top institutions to learn from books. You go, because it attracts top people.

Neil Campbell ’08

When it comes down to it, a huge part of why people go to business school is the opportunity to meet, interact with, and learn from some of the world’s best and brightest. The same should be true of any job or position you might consider. You should always see whom you’ll be working with and what you can learn from them. There’s a lot to absorb when you’re in business school, but arguably it’s the people and the network that makes it all worthwhile. The same is true for you. According to Neil Campbell, nothing will keep you on your toes the way being around truly talented people will.

While, not an exhaustive list by any means, it’s interesting to see that these lessons can be applied to your career no matter who you are and where you want to go in your career.

Photo of Harvard Business School courtesy of Shutterstock.