Carey Online Student Becomes Student Organization Leader, Shares Tips

Michael Tom
Michael Tom

After completing his BA in Economics at UC Berkeley in 2016, Michael Tom started his full-time role as a consultant in the Life Sciences practice at Charles River Associates. He enrolled at the Carey Business School in Fall 2018 as an online student to pursue his MBA with a concentration in Health Care Management. Between work and classes, he serves as VP of Alumni Relations for the Healthcare Business Association student organization at Carey. Michael is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Networking in most situations is challenging. Doing so remotely feels even tougher. Last fall, I began my MBA journey eager to network with fellow Carey students and, like other online Flex MBA students, I needed to figure out how to make the most of the experience virtually. One way in which I’m trying to overcome this barrier is through involvement with student organizations that match my interests, such as the Healthcare Business Association (HBA). This year, I’m serving as a VP in the HBA and leading the organization for our annual Business in Healthcare Conference*.

The role has proven to be valuable as I meet GMBA (full-time MBA) students and leverage the support of Student Services on campus, but I was only able to unlock this opportunity after carefully considering the ways in which I could provide value to the student organization from the comfort of my desk in San Francisco. Whether or not you’re applying for a remote position within a student organization like I was, taking the time to consider the basics will go a long way. Here are 4 lessons I learned about the student organization leadership application process that helped me land this role as an online student.

1. Put your best foot forward. When I started my application, I felt that I was at a disadvantage compared to the on-campus students who would also be applying. To try to make up for this margin, I decided to write thoughtful and detailed personal statements. That way, I could show that I took the role seriously and that they could rely on me to be committed throughout the school year.

Lesson Learned: Taking the time to think through your interest in the role and your value to the organization will also help you evaluate how you could optimally market yourself to the organization. Genuine interest and passion tend to come through strongly in the application and tell a much more compelling story about you and why you’re a good fit. Plus they’re more fun to read. Your application reviewer will appreciate the effort.

2. Assess your value proposition. The position I was applying for called for someone who could help organize events for Carey students. With this in mind, I marketed myself as someone who would do well in driving multiple work streams as a remote team leader, and provided the case that my background would be useful in booking speakers for our events. Taking the time to outline my value proposition not only helped to construct a stronger case for my application, but also helped to set my expectations for what I need to bring to the role.

Lesson Learned: The center of your application rests upon answering why the application reviewer should pick you for the position and, to that end, you need to think critically and strategically about what you bring to the table and how you would fit with the broader team. I’ve found that this also helps me internalize why I’m applying and what I’m hoping to get out of the experience.

3. Address your weaknesses. I knew that my application reviewers would want to know how I would work and lead a team remotely, as well as how I could compensate for my inability to provide logistical support for events I was helping to plan. Failing to provide satisfactory answers to these questions would make it easy for them to pass on my candidacy. After some thought, I decided to frame my response through the lens of how school clubs are typically structured. At least for the larger clubs, there’s usually a VP who serves as a lead for a team of students who are focused on hosting a few events throughout the year. Therefore, I would only really need to communicate with a handful of people and coordinate them remotely, all of which can easily be done through conference calls and email for small teams.

Lesson Learned: Preemptively addressing your weaknesses won’t land you the position, but it may make the difference when your reviewer is deciding if they should immediately throw out your application. This also communicates that you’re aware of your own limitations and will come prepared with solutions.

4. Be friendly and check in often. Finally, like any other job application, I made sure to follow-up with my reviewers and offer to schedule a call to discuss my interest in the club and how I could be of value. I don’t think these follow-ups will ever hurt your chances of landing the role, as they are another way to express your interest and offer a bridge to close the gap between you and your reviewer.

Lesson Learned: Every opportunity your reviewer gets to interact with you outside of a written application just helps to bring your story to life. Furthermore, this shows that you’re someone they can depend on to follow up once the real work begins. When working remotely, this kind of proactive communication is absolutely critical because calls, emails, and IMs may be the only medium through which your colleagues will ever get to know you.

At some point in our graduate school experience, we may all want to get involved with clubs or apply for other opportunities that further enhance our networking experience. If you’re an online student like me, then you’ll need to write a compelling application that competes with those of full-time students. This includes showing a mastery for the basics of your application. Checking off these boxes will help to ensure that you’re creating the strongest case for yourself and are ready to take on the role.

* The theme of the 2019 Business in Healthcare Conference is “Precision Medicine,” with the mission of educating Johns Hopkins graduate students, alumni, and industry professionals around key developments in precision medicine impacting our healthcare system. Dr. Kathy McGroddy-Goetz, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Medidata Solutions and former VP of Strategy & Innovation at IBM Watson Health, will keynote the event. The conference is hosted by the Healthcare Business Association student organization and will be held at the Carey Business School Harbor East campus on March 9, 2019.

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