MBA Student

Negotiations Across Your MBA Journey: A Primer

Negotiate with your Learning Teams

Within your time as an MBA student, you will use negotiation tactics with your teammates, fellow students, and in some cases your faculty.  In typical MBA group projects, you will sometimes be called on to determine how best to divide the scope of work. There are many strategies for this division, however the best is fostered with solid communication, a give-and-take, and/or negotiation. All parts of the project will need to be completed, but some will not be as enjoyable as others. You might assume one of your teammates will be best at something, however, they might wish to build some new muscles with this new work. Beware: assumptions can be dangerous.

Some ideas to implement and questions to ask as you negotiate team assignments:

  • It is helpful to create an inventory of self-reported team strengths and areas in which each of you are hoping to develop. Determining your team’s sweet spots and understanding each other’s MBA goals are great ways to optimally identify who does what.
  • If you have had some prior experiences with a teammate, you might focus on what you have observed in terms of their skills and talents, and where you think they can add the most value. This gives you an opportunity to commend one another in an open forum. We need more affirmations of good work noted.
  • Part of the MBA journey is to stretch yourself. How can you negotiate roles that will also offer a stretch to each group member?

Negotiate with Friends and Family

While you are working on your MBA, you will have numerous opportunities to negotiate with friends, family members, and/or significant others.  The MBA Program, with its intense and compressed timetable, will challenge you to manage your time with others who do not quite understand your academic stresses/schedule.  You will need to foster these other relationships for a sense of sanity and support.

Some ideas to implement and questions to ask as you negotiate relationships and your schedule include:

  • Look ahead with your schedule in mind and make suggestions of connection points and activities. This will keep you from always saying NO and creating YES opportunities.
  • Is this a time to develop sacred/scheduled time for your friends/family?
  • Do we bring back the Zoom meeting (or even a phone call) for coffee and catch up?

Negotiate Your Own Story

When you actually start your MBA journey, you will immediately be asked how the MBA and your internship experience will add up to a logical Career Story. By “Career Story” we mean the narrative you tell employers and peers about what your professional next steps look like. (You might have started creating your Career Story during the application process). You will have a story in your mind of how you would like the next two years to unfold, but life does not always go according to plan! You will have to learn how to negotiate with yourself and the story you have scripted when your tale takes twists and turns that you did not anticipate (i.e., COVID, anyone?).

Some ideas to implement and questions to ask as you negotiate your own story:

  • What are your non-negotiables, i.e., what are you not willing to give up? These might fall into categories such as type of work, location, hours, pay. Know where you are flexible and where you are not.
  • What are you willing to review? What lessons might you have to unlearn and re-learn? Check this out—Ted Talk: Lori Gottlieb’s Changing Your Story.

Negotiate with Your Ego

Your MBA time will present many opportunities for you to compare yourself with your classmate. These comparisons can and will wear you down if you let them. Each of you is on a unique journey; no one walks in your shoes with your direct experiences and perspective. Create your own yardstick to measure success. Remember that someone else’s early offer is not a reflection on you. Don’t second guess yourself after seeing others achieve their goals. 

Some ideas to implement and questions to ask as you negotiate with your own ego:

  • The decisions of these next few years are yours to make, so focus on you and your map for your NEXT.
  • How you show up will matter, and this consistency will serve you well over your MBA career.
  • The MBA is a time to learn, unlearn, and re-learn.
  • Create a Vision Board to keep you grounded and centered. This might keep you from chasing shiny bright objects.

About the Author: 

Diane Fennig is a passionate architect at the intersection of opportunities and talent. She brings more than 25 years of career development and management experience in university environments to executive search and leadership development. Diane joined Gallagher Executive Search & Leadership Advisors in 2009 to incorporate her network with her keen sense of talent as a consultant in retained executive search. She embodies the motto…We make a difference in your business…by doing things differently in ours…. Diane enjoys Association Affiliations with the Forté Foundation, WACUBO, SACUBO, YMCA, SHRM and SHRM-Atlanta.

Diane has earned degrees from Marquette University, Miami University, and The University of South Carolina as foundations for her role as career connector and educator. She also serves a guest blogger for the Society of Human Resource Management in the areas of recruitment, retention, and employee satisfaction.

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