Crafting Your Life - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Crafting Your Life

Course Number 2077

Professor Leslie Perlow
Fall; Q1Q2; 3 credits
13 two hours sessions
Paper (Individual)
Enrollment limited to 40 students

Educational Objectives

Crafting Your Life is a new EC course offered by the Harvard Business School - for the first time in HBS history, this is a class created primarily by EC students, for EC students. In many of their own words, this is the course that they designed because they “wish it had been available to them” as EC students.

In our “always-on” culture, in which personal and professional fulfillment grow ever-more elusive (as illuminated by an HBS alum in this recent New York Times piece), many students are inspired each year to ask themselves how they can approach their inevitably busy lives after HBS with more intention. Taught by Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Leadership in the Organizational Behavior Unit Leslie A. Perlow, this course is meant explore this question, as well as to build on the conversation first sparked by cases such as “Profiles of the Class of 1976” in the RC LEAD curriculum.

Fundamentally, Crafting Your Life is a tactical course about You. It is about discovering what really matters to you. It is about how you can stay true to yourself as you navigate not only your career, but also the breadth of your lives, from your connections with others to your impact on the world. It is about preparing and equipping you to better handle the choices, surprises, and tradeoffs you will inevitably face in your early years post-MBA.

Crafting Your Life focuses on new, innovative forms of teaching - using few cases and many exercises, workshops, tools, and a simulation and app being developed specifically for the course. The course relies heavily on leveraging HBS alumni to learn from their real-world experiences in the decades following their own HBS graduation. There will be multiple forums in which you can interact with alumni directly: at alumni reunions in small groups, through HBS Online case discussions, in panels, as well as in 1:1 conversations.

The course strives to help you to think deeply and intentionally about the following tactical questions:

  • What are your values, interests, expectations, and strengths?
  • What does living a fulfilling life mean to you? What role will happiness, meaningfulness, and impact contribute to your life? How will you prioritize and cultivate each of these in your post-MBA life?
  • How do you use time in your day-to-day life? How would you ideally like to use your time, and how can you get there?
  • How do you manage work-life tensions and tradeoffs? How do you think about competing demands between family and career?
  • How do you develop relationships to help sustain you - both at work and in life?
  • How do you take care of yourself? How might you improve your self-care?
  • How do you build resilience?
  • How do you create and change habits to keep you learning, growing, and staying true to your values and priorities?

This course is not about creating a rigid 10-year plan. It is instead about getting to know yourself so that you can be better prepared to more thoughtfully and confidently navigate the choices, tradeoffs, and surprises that will inevitably present themselves in your first decade post-MBA.

Course Content and Requirements

The course will meet on Thursdays from 1:15-3:15 p.m. The course will entail self-assessments, written exercises, building new habits around self-care and reflection, and organized interactions with alumni in small groups and 1:1. The course will involve two activities outside of class hours. On Friday, 9/20, a day in which there are no classes, you will be required to attend a 75 minute Fall Alumni Reunion session, in which you will have an opportunity to meet with alumni and discuss how they have approached post-MBA life and career and what they would tell their former MBA self. On Thursday, 10/17, class will meet later in the day, from 6-9 p.m., and in this session, we welcome you to bring a partner or friend to share the interactive experience of discussing your work-life plans and priorities. A final paper will ask you to take stock of your learnings and how you will hold yourself accountable. It will also give you a chance to speak with additional alumni about their lives.

Ongoing Course Development

Most importantly, this course is a work in progress. It is a course designed by EC students, for EC students. It originated with 17 EC students who were part of a year-long IP in 2018-2019 that designed the concepts and materials we will use and continue to evolve. The course development - as well as the course content itself - is about the process of crafting and learning from the process of doing, versus being provided all the “right” answers. If you sign up, you are not just signing up to take the course, but you are also signing up to be part of continuing the course development process with all the joys of leaving a legacy that will be part of students’ experience for years to come. Note that this also requires the full awareness that Crafting Your Life is in the process of being designed, which means some things will work well from the beginning, and others will need to be reworked, and your ongoing feedback and help will be part of the experience.