80/20 Rule or the Justification for Happy Hours

September 25th, 2006 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

Full Speed Ahead!There’s a lot of talk in business school about the 80/20 rule. The basic gist of the rule is that 20% of your efforts result in 80% of your results; so focus the majority of your energies on wisely chosen activities. This is something I did not learn until recently. As an undergraduate I read every assignment, attended every class, and wrote the maximum pages for every project. I always wondered how my roommates had so much time for drinking; obviously they already knew about the 80/20 rule.

My husband taught me the 80/20 rule, and I soon started to see its application to most areas of life. In the newspaper, every article contains 80% of the pertinent information in the first paragraph. At work the meat of most projects takes only 20% of my overall time spent on the project. At the grocery store, 80% of what I need to buy is in the produce section and the bakery (as a result of my sweet tooth).

The 80/20 rule is very prevalent in business school, because there are too many activities and too little time. There are classes, homework, group meetings, corporate presentations, job applications, job interviews, club meetings, happy hours, and football games. Then there’s life outside of business school: family, old friends, the grocery store, laundry, and the gym. So time management is key, and I’ve decided to employ the 80/20 rule to get the most out of business school.

The first step is to focus on what I want from business school, which is a good job. The next step is to decide how to get that job over the next two years. During orientation several professionals with MBAs spoke about what to expect from business school; all of them said that employers had never asked for their GPAs. Another speaker, a professor for Smith’s part-time MBA program, advised that getting all As would not land that dream job. And the career management professionals advised leaving GPAs off of resumes. The take away point from this advice is that business school is not all about academics, like many other graduate schools. Does this mean that I never have to go to class or do the homework? (I wish.) No, but it does mean that academics cannot be my only focus.

After graduating from Smith, I will be able to build statistical excel models, do risk analysis, and create financial statements from scratch, but is that all I am paying for? Not really, since I could learn those same things for free on my own, at least according to the Personal MBA. Many people question the MBA and ask if the classroom is really the appropriate place for a professional transformation. Those doubters are correct that people and leadership skills cannot be taught in a classroom, and that is why much of the learning in business school takes place in the student lounge, at happy hours, at employer presentations, and at speaker events. These times outside the classroom teach students how to network, how to persuade and lead people, and how to fit into a business culture while still standing out. This unstructured learning, combined with classroom learning, is what will help me to get a better job than I could have gotten before business school.

My problem before business school was that I had little opportunity to network beyond my small group of friends and coworkers. Most of the people I knew had liberal arts degrees and rarely used quantitative analysis on the job. Smith gives me the opportunity to broaden my circle and way of thinking. Looking at where I came from and where I hope to go, the chasm between is wide and deep. Smith is the narrow bridge that I will use to cross that divide.

According to the 80/20 rule, I need to focus energy on the 20% of my activities that will yield 80% of my job offers. In other words, I need to go to a lot of happy hours. All the law students reading this post should note now that business school is not about getting a degree in partying, but rather in life skills. So the next time I’m out late at the bar, just know it’s for homework.