It’s the beginning of another year, and Harvard Business School students are gearing up for nine months of learning, connecting, and “transforming”. While academics are only part of the HBS experience, we are all keenly aware of the special grading system used here on campus. For those of you who need a reminder, every student will receive a I, II, or III in each course. The highest achieving students will receive a I, the vast majority of us will receive a II, and the unlucky few will earn a III. I like this system, because it makes the classroom an atmosphere of genuine learning rather than a stressful odyssey to get an A. The grading curve at HBS shakes out the very top performers and those who need extra help in each subject. It’s a great gut check to help we students understand what skills and concepts we have yet to master in the quest to be great leaders in business.
One extracurricular subject many students have been working on while here at HBS is the dating game. Just as every HBS professor is courted daily in the classroom by 90 eager-to-please students, many of us are working to court or be courted outside the classroom, which brings up an important question:
If Harvard Business School put everyone on a Dating Curve, where would you be?
Here’s some advice on how to perform well in and outside of the classroom:
Students who get I’s are those who consistently read, think through, and discuss the cases before class on a consistent basis. They come to class prepared and ready to participate. In the dating world, this translates to pre-purchasing tickets for movies or performances, driving to the date destinations to make sure you don’t get lost during the real thing, and anticipating solutions to problems before they occur. The more prepared you are, the better you’ll actually be able to respond to spontaneous situations-be it cold calls in the classroom or the cold shoulder while on a date.
You won’t always know the exact right answer in class, but sometimes you just have to raise your hand and take a shot at it. In the same way, those who are willing to step out and take a risk in the dating world by asking someone out rather than hoping for a drunken hook-up opportunity will win in the dating game. Playing it safe all the time will never set you apart from the pack.
Consistency and Balance:
There is such a thing as participating too much. While it’s important to make sure you speak up in class, there are times when you should step back and make sure others are having a chance to chime in. Just like long, rambling comments are frowned upon, few people want to go on four-hour marathon dates-especially without being primed beforehand. Make sure that you participate consistently in class without overdoing it. Make sure you’re out there dating around without getting a reputation for participating in the dating game too much.
Bring in personal experience:
We’re all here to teach one another. Those who can integrate relevant personal experiences to reinforce their points make memorable comments that move the learning forward as well as cause others to reexamine their own ideas. In the same way, the winners in the dating world share engaging and relevant personal stories. They give you a glimpse into who they are without sharing too much personal information.
Listening well and building on your peers’ comments is just as important to outstanding participation as speaking up with great points. Listening well helps you figure out what unique perspective has not been raised on a certain issue. A person who listens well will make their date feel special. They may also pick up important clues about what their potential mate likes and dislikes-something that will come in handy when you want to surprise him or her with a gift.
Learn from your mistakes:
Not every comment will be brilliant. Sometimes, you will finish speaking and wonder if anyone understands the point you were trying to make. This is not the time to panic. It’s the time to seek out feedback from a peer and learn how you can do better next time. In the same way, when something in your dating life does not go as planned, take a step back, reflect upon what happened, get your friends to weigh in (while realizing they’re often just as clueless as you are), and then move on from it. Don’t let a misstep keep you from participating-in the classroom or in the dating world.
Remember that success in classroom participation and dating increase with practice. Whether you’re courting your professor in the classroom or the hot person three seats away, you’re here to learn and leave this place as a master of what you’ve been taught.
Kaneisha Grayson is a second-year at Harvard Business School and loves to dole out unsolicited dating advice. You can read more of her dating advice on her blog CrazyGirl Nation at //kaneisha.com.