I admit, I’m probably not the biggest drinker, and I don’t think I had been to more than 2-3 tailgates before I came to the Broad MBA Program. Even though Football is still King in Texas (And yet, Texas made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tourney this past year!), I typically just went to the sports bars with my friends to watch the big games.
When I started the Broad MBA program, I was told that Tailgates were pretty huge in Michigan State. Honestly, my first thought was, “Isn’t MSU a basketball school? Do they even play football up here?” Well, it turns out we do have a football program – a pretty decent one, in fact! And not only that, on the day of the games, the entire campus pretty much turns into a tailgating fairground. It’s like a carnival where each tent has drinks and games, and people are just generally out there having a good time.
So what does this all have to do with the business setting?
Believe it or not, working executives like to have fun too! This past year, the MBA Association organized 7 tailgating events in which students were able to meet with recruiters and alumni from several companies such as Chevron, GM, Honeywell and Motorola. How cool is it to be throwing the ol’ pig skin around with company executives? Anyway, I’ve brainstormed some questions of what a student should think about before going to a company-sponsored tailgate:
1) What kind of people work at this company? You have to realize that as you either go back to the workforce (or start fresh), it’s likely that you’re going to be spending more than 1/2 of your waking day with the same people, and if you’re going to succeed, you’ll have to be able to find an environment that you like. This starts first with developing a connection with your colleagues and potential colleagues.
2) How can I increase my chances of landing an interview or a job? It’s no surprise that recruiters like to see a student engaged in activities outside of studies. Companies themselves often have social and volunteer initiatives in the corporate setting, and just like you’re looking for the right fit in a company, the company’s looking for potential candidates that they believe will do well in the company. This means that the candidate should easily fit into the corporate culture and make a smooth transition from the academic world. Finding a way to connect and talk about things outside of work are very important.
3) What can I learn from my classmates? Your classmates will be a huge part of your MBA life here, considering that team assignments are probably 40-50% of your grade. It’s one of the greatest things about the program – you can continuously change how you delegate tasks on your team, switching from functional / divisional decision-making, having sub-teams, and you can figure out what works best in various situations. As such, you can also rely on resources outside your team, and it’s important to see this as you venture off into the corporate setting after graduation. As such, it’s essential to know your classmates. You may not always have the best opportunity to speak with them in the classroom setting, so an event like a Tailgate is a perfect opportunity to talk to everybody.
Tailgates are a lot more than just eating, drinking, and socializing. They’re about getting to know your classmates, conversing with recruiters and alumni outside of the formal setting, and most importantly, having fun. In the end, it’s just one more aspect of the Broad MBA Program that really sets this experience apart from anything else I’ve done.