Improving my Confidence at LUMS

Before I started at LUMS, my self-confidence was pretty much non-existent.

A combination of bullying whilst at school, a struggle with anorexia and one aborted attempt at a Midlands university left me timid and doubting in my abilities. During time spent in the workplace, I was barely able to converse with colleagues – let alone offer my opinions or ideas in meetings – convinced that I was dull, incapable and pretty much worthless.

One boss, however, saw some potential in me. Impressed by content I’d written for the workplace website, newsletter and social media, she suggested that I should consider a career in marketing. I tentatively picked up a textbook – and loved what I found there.

To this day, though, I’m still not sure what inspired me with the confidence to turn this blossoming interest into a UCAS application to study at one of the top management schools in the country… but I’m very glad I did.

Deciding to study at LUMS was one of the best decisions I have ever made – and right from the beginning, my confidence improved and has continued to grow daily.

To be honest, I was dreading my first seminar; my head full of visions of going through the usual agonising process of revealing an “interesting fact about myself” or justifying “what ice-cream flavour I’d be” in front of the entire class.
LUMS, however, took a different approach to icebreakers. Before the first session, we were given a business case study to read through and a set of questions to answer. Then, upon arrival, we were divided into small groups to discuss the pros and cons of M&S’s ethical approach to clothing. Although this might sound scary, for me, it was actually ideal. Having the case study and questions beforehand meant that I was able to plan what I could say in advance. Being in a small group, meanwhile, was much less daunting than divulging personal information about myself to the whole class or the pressure of chatting one-to-one. It also made it a darn sight easier to remember everyone’s names! As a result, I was able to get to know more about those I was talking to naturally over the course of the session, whilst the fact that everyone was starting at the same point and there were no right or wrong answers meant that I eventually felt comfortable – and brave enough! – to contribute. I left the first seminar not only feeling like I’d learnt a lot, but, for the first time in a long while, with a sense of achievement.

As the course has progressed, my passion for the subject and keen interest in what I’ve been learning, combined with the enthusiasm of lecturers and other students, has enabled me to gradually overcome my shyness and join in class discussions. After spending my school years being made to feel ashamed of my “nerdiness”, it’s been so lovely to be in an environment where intellectual curiosity and the sharing of ideas is not sneered at, but actively encouraged and celebrated. I’m not the only one who does the required homework or reading, or reads Marketing Week in their spare time! For me, this has been a revelation, and really helped with my self-acceptance.

LUMS has also improved my confidence by pushing me outside of my comfort zone, but in a supportive way.
In our seminars during the Lent term, we’ve been working in groups to deliver presentations each week about the topics we’ve covered in lectures. I’ll admit that during my first presentation, I was terrified. I shook like a leaf, I stuttered, my heart raced, my face was crimson. However, as the weeks have gone by, it’s slowly become much easier. Simply proving to myself that I can survive each one; that I won’t lose the ability to speak, that no one will laugh at me and the tutor won’t call me stupid if I get something wrong, has helped me to have greater faith in my abilities. Working consistently with the same people has been good for me too – I’ve been able to get to know my coursemates, to have a laugh, to make friends. When my group has eagerly seized upon an idea that I’ve suggested, or asked for my help in explaining a complicated concept from the reading, it’s helped me to finally be able to begin to let go of the notion that I am unintelligent and unlikeable.

I’m still not the world’s most confident person, nor the world’s greatest fan of presentations. I still have times when I feel out of my depth academically, or highly anxious in social situations. But when I look back at what I’ve achieved since September, I can see that I’ve come a long way. With the help of LUMS, I know that things can only get better.

You never know, by the end of the next two years at Lancaster, I could be chairing meetings in my workplace, or making public speeches about my favourite flavour of ice-cream. Somewhat anti-climactic I know, but I’d be vanilla, by the way. Not the bravest of choices, but dependable, sweet… and quietly confident.

Learning Opportunities at Lancaster University

Lancaster University Management School provides opportunities to learn outside of the conventional classroom based learning, creating a learning environment well suited to various styles of learner.

One such learning experience that I have taken part in during my second year of study is a management module, which involves working with a live client, to aid in resolving a real-world problem from the organisation.

The module is competitive from the beginning, with each group competing for their organisation of choice from a list of business (local and some further afield) who have partnered with the University to work with Management School students. This involves producing a ‘project bid’, in which the team must illustrate their understanding of their chosen client’s issues, as well as the team strengths to create an argument demonstrating why they should be allowed to work with the particular client. Once the bids have been evaluated, those who presented the strongest arguments are awarded the clients they requested to work with, and all other teams are allocated the remaining organisations.

Luckily for me, our project bid was strong enough to be awarded the client that we most wanted to work with. This was a small, local charity which meant our experience was very intensive and our involvement was perceived as being particularly important to the client.

Working with a charity was particularly rewarding, and a personal highlight was visiting the charity at the start of the module to learn more about the client. This was a great opportunity to speak to stakeholders and staff members to find out first hand important information about the problems faced. It was also great to be in a learning environment outside of University, in a real working environment and facing real organisational issues.

The project did not come without its challenges, though. An important part of the process for my group was to collect primary research, which involved approaching local people in the town centre. This proved to be more difficult than we had ever imagined, and encouraging people to speak to us wasn’t exactly easy!

The module runs over two terms, and is an intensive, hands on, real life experience. Working outside of the classroom acts as an opportunity to fully understand and experience the discrepancies between theory and practice, and understand the subject (in my case, management consultancy) in a much more in depth way compared to simply learning through lectures and seminars. Not only this, but this experience is a great CV booster – you can demonstrate real life skills working in a professional manner with genuine clients who have sought your help.

The assessment for this module involves an individual essay, which acts as an opportunity to reflect on the learning experience and how your understanding of the subject has changed with exposure to a real world consultancy issue. There is also a group report and presentation to the client, allowing you to showcase your hard work. The presentation is primarily for the client but moderated by the module tutors and lecturers, and therefore it really requires you to integrate your theoretical knowledge and practical experience in order to appeal to the different audiences.

I chose to study this module because I wanted to gain hands on experience whilst learning, and that is exactly what it provided. It truly is a one of a kind learning experience which inarguably throws you in at the deep end. Nevertheless, the experience is invaluable, providing real work experience and aiding in your academic study. It is an excellent opportunity to develop your interpersonal skills, and be able to show your understanding of a University subject in the real world.

Boost your business grasp in Lancaster

Dmitrii Flux

Do you want to develop your business skills and apply your knowledge to solve a real practical issue? Then LUMS is a right place to start. Below are some tips that will ease your business journey.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Lancaster University Enterprise Centre is an establishment that supports students’ start-up ideas and can provide assistance regarding business related issues. If you need advice from someone who has rich experience in the industry, if you look for a mentor or like-minded people, seek various professional workshops and hackathons – Enterprise Centre will be the best match. These guys are very supportive and well informed of vast opportunities and challenges that are going on. They also regularly organise useful events with maximum practical focus. All in all, do not hesitate when subscribing for their newsletter or simply visit their page from time to time.

FLUX 500 BUSINESS CHALLENGE
FLUX 500 definitely was my best experience in Lancaster. If you seek challenging tasks, want to try what it’s like to work under pressure with super strict time constraints, wish to enhance your team-work skills – this is a chance not to be missed. FLUX 500 is the biggest British business challenge, which on top of that is currently hosted by Lancaster University.
FLUX is all about business. It consists of two stages – internal competition against other teams from Lancaster University (the winner of this ‘semi-final’ will represent Uni in the final) and external competition against other teams from top-UK universities. You need to form a team of 6, and once you’ve done that you’ll get a business task that you need to work on. A little hint, not a spoiler: task is quite broad so there is a variety of options to consider. But given a couple of days that you have to solve this challenging issue you need to do your best and to be fully dedicated if you want to impress the judges.
This year our team won 3rd place – make it better next year! Best of luck guys!

NATIONAL APPRENTICE CHALLENGE
Do you want to experience a two-day diving into business environment in which you run a simulation of your own business and try to create a new one at the same time? National Apprentice Challenge (NAT) is a two-day business challenge which consists of two parts. During the first day your team of 4 needs to run a simulation of a real business venture trying to beat your competitors and show the best relative performance that is being calculated online. The task that you can receive on the second day varies from year to year – for instance, this year we had to brainstorm an idea of a new social network and deliver our 3-minute pitch with presentation to the panel of judges. Out team became 7th out of 21 contenders – can you do better next year?

As you can see, there are many opportunities to shine and enhance your skills in Lancaster. It’s all about making a first step…