School’s Out for the Winter

Valerie Zhao, MBA 2020, Core Fellow

As you (hopefully) know, fall semester has come to an end, which means we’re all in store for some well-deserved time off. Depending on your IAP plans, you may not expect to be back in Cambridge until February of next year. Savor this time – no classes, light to no extracurriculars, and hopefully surrounded by family and friends – but don’t let it go to waste, either.

My suggestions:

  1. Step away from the Sloan/MBA bubble. I realize not everyone will feel this way, but I felt overdue for some time away from “Sloan-world” (a magical place with Wednesday bar nights and very few Friday classes). Winter break was a great time to reprioritize my academic and professional opportunities, away from the peer pressure and FOMO of core semester. I took time to reflect on how and why some of my goals had changed. Most importantly, for my family and friends outside of Sloan, I tried explaining what I had learned in simple terms – no buzzwords, no lingo – so they’d understand what I’d been up to.
  2. Schedule your time. Just because classes are over doesn’t mean you have to ditch all structure in your life (sorry!). I found that a daily schedule helped me balance family vs. personal vs. professional time, especially since I was used to having a busy core calendar. Personal for me = workouts and quiet time, professional = interview prep. Particularly if you have interviews lined up for IAP, block out prep time in advance to help you stay consistent. Also think about getting into a routine in the days leading up to your interviews – this can be tougher if you’re in a different time zone for the holidays, but will make it less stressful to wake up on time come January!
  3. Don’t forget about “real people” schedules. While we have six consecutive weeks off, most people will be working through December and back to work in early January. They’ll be at work and in their inboxes! Take advantage of your extra free time to get in touch with new people or revive conversations with past connections. Particularly if you’re going to be in the city you want to intern in, try to schedule some in-person meetings. The holidays can be a great time of year to ask for a meeting as things tend to slow down for some industries and companies.

A final note for management consulting intern candidates interviewing for offices besides Boston: if you don’t have it already, prep your “go bag”, that perfect combination of suit, shoes, carry-on rollaboard, and briefcase / purse / backpack. Maybe ask Santa, or his equivalent, to pitch in. You’ll be surprised at how quickly second-round interviews can creep up on you, and how little time you’ll have to pack. (Ask me about this if you want to hear a worst-case scenario…)

About me: I’m a 2Y MBA, Core Fellow, and co-president of the Management Consulting Club (MCC). Prior to Sloan, I was a product manager and saleswoman at Catalant Technologies, a Boston-based startup. This past summer, I interned with McKinsey & Company

By Valerie Zhao, MBA '20
Valerie Zhao, MBA '20