Tiffany Lu, a rising second year MBA student at UCLA Anderson School of Management, gives first-hand advice from the perspective of a current MBA student.
Name: Tiffany Lu
School: MBA, Anderson School of Management, University of California Los Angeles
Profession: Investment Banking Summer Associate, Moelis & Company, Los Angeles
What do you think is your program’s greatest asset?
If I had to pinpoint one aspect of Anderson that stands out above all others, I would say it’s the quality of the student body. When I first arrived on campus, I was blown away by how willing everyone was to help out his or her fellow classmates. I’ll never forget sitting in the student atrium during the second week of classes, frustrated because I was struggling with my statistics homework, and having three of my classmates come up to me and ask if there were anything they could do to help. Listening to how they broke down the questions and hearing them explain the concepts in a different way really helped me understand the material better, and I was finally able to complete the assignment. And no one embodies the “share success” motto better than the second-year students. Amidst their busy schedules juggling recruiting, classes, and Anderson’s master thesis project called Applied Management Research, they still volunteer their time to be Anderson Career Team (ACT) coaches. They work with our career center to craft a 10-week curriculum to prepare the first-years for recruiting and interviewing. They were committed to seeing us succeed, even if it meant they had to schedule prep sessions late at night after their 10pm classes or meet up with us off campus during weekends. Anderson wouldn’t be what it is without the students, and I consider myself incredibly lucky to be amongst the company of such talented and genuinely kind people.
Why an MBA?
How did you decide that an MBA was the next step for you? Do you have advice for students considering an MBA on how to make that decision?
Prior to business school, I worked in the entertainment industry for two years and then spent another two years working for my family’s business in education. I knew that I wanted to work for a larger company and thought that an MBA would allow me to make that transition. I also found that since graduating from college, my network had not expanded beyond my professional circle, and I wanted to meet and develop connections with new people. My advice for students considering an MBA is to think of how transformative an experience it could be. It isn’t the only way to move up in your career, or even to switch careers, but I think what’s more invaluable is the network you build and the challenges you force yourself to face along the way. Business school provides all of that and more: I changed and grew so much during my first year at Anderson, so if you are asking yourself whether the MBA is worth it, my opinion is that it definitely is.
Advice for future applicants
What is the one thing you wish someone had told you before you started the MBA application process?
As difficult as the application process seems, it was much less stressful than actually being in business school. I wish someone had told me that if I was having a hard time juggling work and applying to business school, I was going to have a rough time balancing recruiting with academics and networking. No matter where you are in the application process, accept that it is just a stepping stone to get you to where you ultimately want to be, and that if any particular program is causing you too much undue stress, you might want to re-evaluate whether that school is the best choice for you. Writing my Anderson essay was fun because I connected to the school’s principles and felt as though I were free to express the truest version of myself.
What is it like to transition back to school after being out for a few years? What advice can you offer students returning for their MBA?
It definitely takes some getting used to, but I would say you’d be surprised at how quickly you pick things back up even if you have been out of school for a while. There’s quite a steep learning curve, but once you get used to it (organizing the assignments, forming study groups, and asking professors or other students for help when you need it), it really isn’t that bad. The best advice I can offer students is to not be so hard on yourself if you feel as though you’re overwhelmed with what’s going on—everybody else probably feels that way as well! MBAs tend to be type-As who want to feel on top of everything at all times, but in the very beginning, it’s likely that you’ll feel like you have way too much to do and too little time to do it. Accept that that is the case for everyone, take a deep breath, and enjoy the ride! You’re more adaptable than you think and you’ll find your flow soon enough.
When it came time to look for jobs, did you find yourself interested in a new career that you hadn’t considered before doing your MBA?
I am spending my summer working in investment banking, and if you had asked me prior to business school what I thought I would be doing, banking would probably have been the last thing on my mind (I actually came into Anderson thinking I was going to pursue a career in human resources management). But after taking our core accounting class in fall quarter and realizing that I liked financial statement analysis, I began having conversations with my classmates who were recruiting for banking and also with the second-year students who had interned over the summer at the banks. Once I actually understood what investment bankers do, I knew that I wanted to give banking a shot. Without the resources and encouragement at Anderson, I don’t think I would be where I am today.
What resources and support did your school offer you through the career search?
As mentioned above, the second-year ACT coaches and our Parker Career Management Center were instrumental in helping me land my summer internship. The ACT coaches were gatekeepers to the alumni working at investment banks in LA, and through their connections, I was able to reach out to the alumni and set up tons of informational interviews prior to the formal interviews that took place on campus. The career advisors prepped us leading up to the interviews, getting our resumes, cover letters, and general behavioral answers up to par. The career search process was extremely taxing and stressful, but the most important thing was I never felt as though I were going through it alone. There were always people I could reach out to if I needed guidance (which I definitely did all the time), and I owe my success to their mentorship and support.
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