When I first decided to enroll in business school years ago, I was terrified. I knew it was a good decision, but at the time I didn't have a clue as to what I was going to do with my degree when I was done. Plus, as a woman, I was a little bit intimidated because I thought it would be male dominated.
But what happened was that it opened my eyes in ways I never would have expected.
Here are a few useful lessons I learned in business school:
1. Sometimes doing what you hate is the best thing you can do for yourself.
As a creative, I have never considered myself a "business" person, so Accounting and Financial Management were two of my least favorite courses. But having a clear understanding of how to balance the books as a solopreneur and in my personal life has proven invaluable.
In general, learning how to approach and complete tasks and jobs we don't love doing builds character and merit and shows those around us that we are resilient. After all, in the real world, whining and weaseling your way out of things just won't cut it!
2. Complementary strengths can make for superior team performance.
There's a lot of teamwork in business programs, which can be both tough and fascinating. Sometimes team projects will involve each person taking on a different role (leader, editor, researcher, etc.).
Not everyone has the same strengths, and even though you may not feel like a "pro" at something traditionally "business related" such as public speaking or finance, you must be able to acknowledge and use your key strengths in such a way that it complements the team.
In real life, you must be prepared to work with all kinds of people, forever. When you figure out how to work well as a team, even with people you don't feel you have much in common with, you develop a clear picture of how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.
And this can be such an amazing feeling!
3. Getting yourself noticed in the first place is 99 percent of the battle.
Competition is rough, but getting noticed at the outset is really 99 percent of the battle in life and in business.
Whether you're selling yourself or a product, developing an understanding of how to assess your competitors' strengths and weaknesses is really a key part of any sales game.
In this case, just getting into school in the first place was one of the biggest challenges. Understanding how to write a great MBA admission essay can help you to develop persuasive writing skills necessary for writing winning client proposals.
4. Always be prepared to show your value.
There is a lot of competition in the business world, and this may be especially challenging for women who are entering male-dominated industries. So you should have a clear understanding of what you are worth and not be scared to shout it from the rooftops. First you need to have a clear understanding of what you are offering that is of value; then you have to develop a way to market this that stands out as unique.
This isn't as hard as it may sound. If you have a solid assessment of who you are, what you are good at and what you love, talking about it should feel like second nature instead of a chore, whether in day-to-day conversation or in the board room.
5. Your value is more about "why" than "what."
No matter what your business or life is about, you have to be prepared to ask for more if you don't feel you are receiving what you are worth. This can be intimidating, perhaps more so for women than men, who typically aren't as likely to be raised to speak up for themselves.
But it's not just about asking for "more;" simply doing this can make you come off as greedy or entitled. If you practice finding ways of showing why a client or partner should choose you over the rest of the competition, you will naturally give them a reason to want what you have to offer. And that is the golden ticket.
In business as in life, you will make mistakes, and you have two choices: you can retreat into a corner, or swallow your pride and learn to use your mistakes as opportunities. Any good businessperson will tell you that success is just as much about creativity as it is charisma or cash.