Ross Reflections: My 5 Biggest Takeaways from Business School

RIS Team Meeting

3) Learn To Embrace Group Projects

I know, I know – this takeaway is probably a little controversial. A lot of people dread group projects because they’re randomly assigned and you don’t know who is going to pull their weight. After being a part of so many group projects, I’ve learned to embrace them.

Advice: I would recommend taking each group project as a learning opportunity.

First, you learn about your own individual skill set and what you contribute to the group dynamics. In each group, will you be the writer, researcher, data analyzer, or all of the above? Each group is different and you have to figure out the role that best utilizes your strengths.

In terms of group dynamics, will you be the facilitator, cheerleader, devil’s advocate, or a mix of all three? In every group, it’s important to establish a safe and inclusive environment where everyone feels they can vocalize their thoughts. I have been in groups where I didn’t feel comfortable sharing because I did not feel it was a safe space to do so. I never want anyone else to feel like that, which is why I often play a facilitator type of role.

Second, group projects help you learn from others. There were times where I didn’t know how to run a linear regression or make a pivot table on Excel. Luckily, I would have a group member who would show me how.

Third, friendships can develop from group projects. Honestly, you never know what will happen or what will come from these group projects. I never would have become friends with some people if not for assigned group projects.

I remember being randomly assigned to a group project that included two football players sophomore year for my Strategy 290: Business Strategy class. At first glance, we had nothing in common except for the fact that we were Ross students. As the semester progressed, I became friends with everyone in the group. Then, during junior year, I was randomly assigned a group project with the same football players for our BL 300: Business Law and Ethics class.

It was nice to work with the same people again because we were already familiar with each other and we knew what our group dynamics would be. Did I ever imagine becoming friends with football players? No, but I’m happy that I got the opportunity to become friends with them through these assigned group projects.

Alexa Tran

4) Stay True To Yourself

I cannot stress this takeaway enough. It is so important to be authentic and stay true to your values in all aspects of your life – both professionally and personally. At the end of the day, are you embodying the values that you believe in?

When I was recruiting for my summer 2020 internship, I had to really reevaluate what my priorities were. I was going to accept a finance internship just because it was based in New York City. Sure, I was capable of doing the work, but I knew deep down that I would not be happy with a finance internship. I had to acknowledge that my real passion was marketing. I am happy that I chose to follow my heart and accepted a marketing internship with Eli Lilly instead

Advice: I would recommend that students pursue their own passions, regardless of what their peers are doing.

When I entered my first year of business school, my definition of a “successful business student” was someone who was in a business fraternity, consulting club, or finance club. That is not the case at all.

I have found that many of my peers are not in any of these types of organizations. You can make your own definition of success. I deem success as pursuing my passions and being happy and proud with my personal and professional progress. In contrast, I’ve seen my peers define success as landing a job at a prestigious company or making a certain salary.

Instead of being a part of a business fraternity or consulting club, I am a BA 100 Peer Coach and a mentor for the BBA Marketing Club. In these roles, I am able to use my mentorship skills and help other students through their journey in business school by sharing my own experiences.

5) Express Gratitude Often

My last takeaway is probably the most important one, which is to say thank you to everyone who has helped you along the way. Without their support, you wouldn’t be where you are today. I have found that words go a long way and you never know how impactful they can be.

Advice: I would recommend that students express gratitude often.

You can express gratitude in a multitude of ways. For my friends and family, a simple text can show that I appreciate them. Additionally, I love writing handwritten letters and cards. I enjoy expressing my appreciation for the important people in my life with that personal touch.

On a professional level, it’s important to always send thank you emails after coffee chats and networking calls. It demonstrates that you care and are following up with the recruiter or analyst who took time to speak with you.

I say thank you because it allows me to periodically practice gratitude. I am reminded of all the amazing people in my life and for all the experiences that I have had.

Thank you messages don’t have to be awkward. In fact, they are the easiest way to express gratitude. Just write from the heart. Don’t overthink it. People want to feel appreciated.

I have found that I do compose my thank you notes differently depending on the nature of the relationship. Each thank you note should be tailored to the recipient. If I am writing to my friends or family, I like to reference inside jokes that are unique to me and the recipient. If I am writing to a professor or mentor, I like to keep it professional but mention little details that may have come up in class or in a meeting. Remembering small details goes a long way and demonstrates your investment in the relationship.

Attending Ross has given me opportunities that I could have never imagined. I have made life-lasting friendships. I have met people who are invested in me and that I am happy to call my mentors. I have even become a mentor myself. I am grateful for the last four years and for all the experiences that I had and am looking forward to the future. Forever Go Blue!

My name is Alexa Tran and I am a senior at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business studying Business Administration with a minor in Religion. I was born and raised in Ann Arbor, so I knew that I always wanted to be a Wolverine! I am passionate about traveling, mentorship, iced coffee, and Trader Joe’s. I enjoy spending time with friends and family and managing my travel Instagram and blog: @adventuringwithalexa.

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