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Integrative MBA Experience for Career Success at Kelley School of Business

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Pursuing an MBA is a balancing act. Many MBA candidates start their graduate studies focused on skill development, diving headlong into the academic side. But they may overlook another vital aspect: building real-world experience in their target fields.

The most successful MBA graduates are those who strike a balance of core learning in the classroom with firsthand know-how in the professional realm. So it’s crucial to enroll in the right business school for a curriculum that seamlessly segues into career success.

At Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, career services are an integral part of its MBA program. The school features a range of MBA and MS degrees that offer flexibility both in timing and location—including highly ranked evening and online programs, as well as specialized, executive, and dual-degree programs. But its innovative full-time MBA program gives students distinct advantages.

The difference is in Kelley School’s culture of collaboration. MBA students here are personally coached even before their very first class, beginning with an optional “jumpstart” session prior to fall-term orientation. With that extra time to prepare for full-time academics, Kelley’s faculty and staff help guide each student’s individual pursuits.

Setting Career Goals Through Personal Discovery

A key part of that individual professional development is Kelley’s unique Me, Inc. program, during which each student crafts a “personal brand” that ultimately connects prior experience with future goals. The program is integral to the first of Kelley’s four-phase “Discover –  Network – Interview –  Perform” process, or DNIP for short. It all begins with personal discovery, an initial phase when MBA candidates zero in on their skills, interests, and values to hone strategies that unlock their dream opportunities.

Kelley School
Kelley School MBA student Scott Price

Scott Price, Kelley MBA Class of 2018 and MBA Association president, says the DNIP steps make a direct impact on his track.

“I came back to school to restart my career down a different path, and Me, Inc. helped figure out what I wanted, which companies offered that, and it helped set me up to be a better interviewee,” he says. “Me, Inc. is a really unique opportunity to get in touch with your inner desires, needs, strengths, and weaknesses. I think it’s one of the keystones of the program here that helps students establish their personal goals before they even start school or start recruiting.”

Experiential Learning Through Academies
Once the school year begins, the full-time MBA program shifts to core learning and brings another experience-building component that strengthens networking and interviewing techniques (the next two DNIP phases). It’s called the Academies, and throughout the first quarter students participate in “Academy Fridays” within six functional areas: business marketing, consumer marketing, consulting, strategic and corporate finance, supply chain, and capital markets.

“This is where the students keep expanding on the things they learned in Me, Inc.,” says Rebecca Cook, executive director of Kelley School’s MBA program and the leader of the Capital Markets Academy. “The Academies are designed to provide a lot of experiential learning and give students all the tools, tips, and tricks to be successful in that type of job. Each academy has a dedicated career coach to help them on their chosen career path.”

Through their roles heading up the Academies, Kelley’s team of faculty and certified career coaches become collaborators and confidants. It continues throughout the fall term, and in the spring, MBA candidates work on an experiential academy project that brings all of their learning together.

Using her Capital Markets Academy as an example, Cook says, “We try to expose people to all the different aspects of the capital markets space—such as investment banking, private wealth, investment management, treasury, private equity. I bring in outside speakers, we leverage alumni, and we build financial-modeling skill sets, such as how to look at financials and then tear them apart.”

As a bridge linking coursework with career tracks (from internships through post-MBA positions), students often find that the Academies lead them to life-long mentors, improved time-management or listening skills, or even a specialty via the Academies PLUS Life Sciences Program, for healthcare or pharmaceuticals pursuits.

Kelley School
Kelley MBA student Tyler Whitsett in the classroom

Tyler Whitsett, Kelley MBA Class of 2018, shares his take on the program’s benefits: “In class, we are taught how business should work. Academies are where the rubber meets the road and it’s essentially all application-based—with teams of students working on solving real problems for companies. Every Friday [of the first term], we are engaged in daylong workshops that teach the fundamentals, and we integrate those learnings into our projects.”

Whitsett says that by comparison, “The Academies are definitely one of the distinguishing elements of the Kelley MBA. During my internship, I had conversations with peers from other top-ranked programs who didn’t have nearly as much hands-on training as I got, and I could immediately tell how far up the learning curve the Academy experience put me.”

In the second year of the full-time program, the Academies continue with optional cross-functional learning experiences focused on either entrepreneurial innovation or leadership skills. The structure also extends the first-year program by having students build on the summer internship experiences they have between the first and second years. They do this through advanced coursework, networking opportunities, industry speakers, and special research projects.

Building Better Leaders: Professionally and Personally
Part of Kelley’s career services success is driven by the interactive nature of Me, Inc. and the Academies. Ongoing surveys and end-of-term evaluations, for example, help Cook’s MBA team continually improve its mission. She says that the exchange of honest feedback is always vital to success and growth. And there are even more big-picture benefits that Me, Inc. helps instill in its students’ lives, whether professional or personal. 

“That’s what a lot of Me, Inc. is—it’s life skills,” says Cook. “These are things you’re going to use for the rest of your life. Any time you change jobs, you have to network, or you may have to go back to the ‘discovery’ phase again.”

Kelley School
Scott Price and his wife

Students Price and Whitsett agree that their Kelley coaching has factored into virtually every aspect of their lives.

“Leadership academy and personal coaching all roll into making the students better candidates and better leaders,” says Price. “Through [the school’s] processes I pursued a different path than I had originally intended. The programming has helped me refine who I am, who I want to be, and where I want to go in my career.”

Likewise, Whitsett says, “Being able to leverage the executive coaches at Kelley School has definitely been a critical factor in my journey to becoming the best version of myself.

He adds, “You will be pushed to and then beyond your limits, but you will have support every step of the way. Whether it’s your classmates, second-year mentors, professors, or coaches, there will never be a lack of resources to ensure your success. Because that is what Kelley is all about. Not just getting to the finish line, but getting there together.”

Read more about Me, Inc. here.

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