Written by - MS Marketing '16

My favorite part of flying is that I get plenty of time to catch up on my personal reading list.

My flight to Houston for the 35th annual National Black MBA Association Conference and Exposition presented a great opportunity to get a book off my list, The Art of War by Sun Tzu. The ancient manuscript, read by military students, business professionals, and sports coaches alike, is one of the most influential books on strategy ever written, even outside the battlefield. Reflecting on my experience in Houston, many of his lessons from over two thousand years ago translate to a successful conference experience.


Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.


One of Sun Tzu’s core tenants is preparation, and large conferences require a great amount of preparation to be successful. In Houston, successful conference attendees didn’t go looking for interviews; their interviews were scheduled long before they landed. Some had a target list of companies and had resumes tailored to each one. Proper preparation leads to consistent success, not a onetime event.


If ignorant, both of your opponent and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.


Sun Tzu suggested the need for a SWOT Analysis over two thousand years ago. The first step toward success at a large conference is self-reflection. What are your motivators? What are your interests? What is your passion? A self-assessment will help bring your elevator pitch to life and make you stand out from the hundreds of students recruiters hear.

On the other hand, it’s vital that you understand your target companies. There’s nothing that impresses a recruiter or partner more than intimate knowledge of their company.


In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.


In the chaos of the career expo and other conference events, there are opportunities for a conversation here and an introduction there.

What key principles have made you successful in your career? Comment below!