Contributed by The Runaway MBA
I can’t really remember when I decided that I wanted a MBA. In college, I believed that it was the next step after my first five years of work. However, my career progressed because of what I achieved. My salary was quite high without the degree. I could not see how derailing up to two years of work experience plus the investment of a small house could lead to career advancement. When I heard the word “MBA,” I saw professionals that were overpriced, inexperienced, and ungrounded.
With the onset of the financial crisis, my career stalled at the Vice President level. Although times were difficult, there were meaningful roles to which I was being passed up for. I lost track of the number of times in which I was told “But you don’t have a MBA.” I examined the biographies of over 500 CIO’s, and of all the leaders that I admired; all had earned an MBA or JD from a leading institution. “Could there be something to this?” I thought. I gave in, applied, and enrolled.
So what really is a MBA?
The MBA experience is a cross roads of classes, industries, and people. The ultimate goal is to land a better job than before and learn a little along the way. There’s this implicit belief or understanding that a MBA will change your life. For some the MBA provides them with the confidence to start making those changes. But in reality, only you can make the changes needed to set your life in the destination of your choice.
Applicants lose sight that a MBA is an investment in one’s education. Will this investment of time and money provide the appropriate direction to further a career or knock a task off of their “to do” checklist? Before submitting their deposits, most candidates are not truly honest with what expect from this experience – a job? Friends? New perspective? Everyone wants a job in the end, but many fail to map out their goals and focus on a strategy to pursue them.
When is it worth it?
Unfortunately, it seems that pursuing an MBA is the only acceptable “time off” in the United States – which is a shame. We are expected to go between roles nonstop without taking the time to think to ourselves “Does this make sense?” I remain skeptical about the process, but I will acknowledge that there are certain circumstances in which an MBA makes sense.
- Do you want to transition into a different role in consulting or banking?
- Are you an analyst in banking, PE, or consulting and need time off?
- Are you within five years of your career and want to switch industries?
- Are you within five years of experience and need help finding a direction?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, then start to apply. An MBA is very valuable as early as possible in one’s career because it adds credibility to develop relationships with little experience. An MBA serves as an excellent bridge if you want to change fields, particularly in the financial or professional services.
What is often lost sight of in the process?
In navigating the landscape it is easy to lose focus when there are many choices. Many candidates lose focus of their initial motivation out of fear of rejection.
But here are my necessary questions to ask the schools that you seriously consider:
- Is their academic depth within your own interests? Are faculty members liked by students and respected professionally by peers?
- Are alumni supporters of the program – will they spend time talking to students offering advice? Interviewing? Contributing to the endowment?
- Are career services resourced and supportive? Will they do actively recruit companies to employ their students?
Am I happy with my decision to have pursued the degree?
For me, the MBA degree was an experience that came with a tremendous cost of money and time away from my industry. I lost sight of determining my return on investment for the thrill of another degree and resolving my own insecurity. In a competitive value-seeking environment, employers want people who can hit the ground running. Employers like that I have a MBA, but don’t seem to care when and how I earned the degree.
I am giving myself five years before I answer this decision. I want sufficient time to pass to allow my relationships to develop. For now I continue to keep my head high, network, and stay focused on pursuing opportunities.