Leadership is a skill that’s perishable, yet capable of developing. The Broad College’s Full-Time MBA experience offers a breadth of opportunities for students to encounter and explore our leadership abilities. Through leadership labs and full-semester courses, we can academically study leadership theories, current practices and our own experiences. Through Extreme Green experiences and case competitions and on our MBA teams, we also get the opportunity to exercise peer leadership. However, tucked away in all that the Broad MBA offers, the peer coach position shines as a golden opportunity to lead others while also giving back to the program.
The peer coach position at the Russell Palmer Career Management Center sharpens our market readiness. For me, the role started in the spring of my first year with an application submission and behavioral interview. The interview questions were fairly standard, but the interview team was not afraid to ask pointed follow-up questions based on our answers. Within a few weeks, the Center announced results but then allowed everyone to finish the semester and prepare for our internships.
As summer unwound, the marvelous Pam Mars, associate director at the Palmer Center, started to corral all the peer coaches back together to prepare for the exciting Class of 2023. I was assigned six first-year MBA students to coach, with the expectation of working around 10 hours per week during the first module. The Palmer Center’s staff huddled with the peer coaches weekly to synchronize efforts and inform us of critical career management tasks. Highlighting the center’s respect for our time and individual situations, we always met virtually. Of course, their doors were always open for us if we ever needed to meet in person.
The block-and-tackle tasks of being a peer coach were neither onerous nor burdensome. However, they provided me some reminder of a manager’s responsibility outside the Broad College’s walls — namely, people. The peer coach position is incredible because it most directly gives us access to leading people. Sometimes we get distracted by leading projects, units, firms or strategies, but it is the people we lead who accomplish those great feats.
I firmly believe leadership effectiveness rests on adaptability, and leading a group of six people reminded me of that. Despite the fact that they were all highly motivated MBA students, every student’s desires were nuanced. They all needed or wanted different experiences within the program. I had a great time learning about each member of my team and what was motivating them to earn their MBA. Through multiple discussions, mock interviews and resume reviews, we unlocked their unique experiences and were able to translate these to tangible marketplace differentiators. I’m proud of my team’s efforts during our time together and am positive that spending time to invest into the advancement of others is a fruitful experience worth the effort.