[This post is part of a series on Coaching Highlights from coaching Columbia Business School students. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]
Business schools and other vocational schools offer students something supremely valuable not everyone realizes. Everyone knows they give you knowledge, credibility, and a network. They also offer you protection from the outside world. You can do risky things in school that you might not do when your pay check or job depends on not messing up.
In school, especially business school, you can risk failing in ways that might lose you your job, promotion, bonus, or other things of value. Many schools even promote taking such risks. If they create a productive community, they may create an environment where classmates and professors reward people trying new behaviors. I remember seeing people doing things I would have been too anxious or scared to, then envying them for getting more out of school than me, then taking those risks myself.
For someone in a leadership class where progress means changing your behavior and beliefs, a school’s giving you space to experiment gives you an opportunity people who don’t leave the workplace may never experience — potentially a major advantage.
I point this out to students I coach — that they’ll find many opportunities if they look for them. They can try leading their study groups, responding in class when they don’t know the answers but still have some value to add (a potentially great boon for assertiveness), and so on. I did the class play twice, which helped me more than I can describe here, mainly in changing how I view relationships with colleagues — more congenial and friendly. I became friends with professors.
You can take as many risks as you want in the workplace. The protection school gives you helps but is not necessary or the only way to do it. If you’re in a working environment and want to use some of the advice I give students, you can still find ways to use it. If you’re in school, you’d be crazy not to take advantage of it — any vocational school, not just business school.
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