This fall, thousands of MBA-hopefuls will take the GMAT, attend career fairs, and write a handful of essays in hopes of landing a spot in a MBA program. As Poets and Quants notes, there are plenty of reasons why people choose to forgo a salary, take out loans and pursue a full-time MBA. While the allure of higher salaries, better jobs, and actualizing career dreams seems appealing, many applicants struggle to with understanding why getting an MBA is right for them.
As a 2 Year MBA student at the University of North Carolina Chapel-Hill (UNC Kenan-Flagler) I often get asked how I made the decision to pursue an MBA. To those of you thinking this might be the next step in your career, I’ve outlined three questions that will help you decide if it makes sense for you to pursue an MBA.
Why do I want an MBA right now?
Understanding the factors that are pushing you in this direction is a critical piece to determining if this is the right career decision. What’s driving you to leave a paying job, take out loans, and forgo salary for 2 years? Are you unhappy with your job? Do you have a desire to pursue another career? Do you need it to advance in your current company, field, or industry? There are many valid answers to this question, the key is understanding what is driving you.
After working in tax and finance roles before business school, Evan Speece, a 2 Year MBA Candidate at Duke University (Fuqua) wanted to round out his business acumen, leadership skills, and learning experiences to tackle bigger challenges and opportunities in his career. Here is what Evan had to say:
“One of the reasons why I was attracted to an MBA was for the opportunity to learn from and with the best and brightest. In a Top-MBA program, you are constantly required to “break out of your shell” and deliver recommendations, strategies and decisions with confidence. However, at any top business school, you will also be amazed by the sheer talent and experience of your peers. An MBA will teach you how to collaborate effectively with those who may possess greater talents in certain areas than you. This skill of confident humility, which is difficult for many MBAs to master given their extremely ambitious mentalities, is immensely important as you re-enter the workforce and become part of and eventually manage teams with very diverse skillsets and personalities.”
Where do I want to go to next?
Once you understand why you want to leave your job and go to a full-time program you next want to determine where you want to go when upon graduation. It’s helpful to map out a few possible “next steps” and then evaluate the pros and cons of each step. The other element of this is the feasibility of what you decide as your next step. “Is it reasonable to believe that my experience combined with an MBA from X school help me get to where I want to go?” This question serves as your short-term “north star.” Many students’ answer to this question changes when they go through an MBA program. This is normal and in when you go through an immersive and transformational learning experience. While it’s okay to change your short-term answer to this question, you should always have something you are working towards.
“I made the decision to transition out of the military and after research and reflection I decided to focus my career search in marketing. Unfortunately for me, most veterans find themselves moving into operations roles due to the general management experience we received while in the service. As such, in order to achieve this career goal, an MBA was necessary right now so I could obtain the hard skills necessary of a marketer as well as build a network in my future industry.”
What will an MBA do for career development?
This is a broader and perhaps more long-term question about where you want your career to be like in the future. At later points in your career, where do you want to be? What are the kinds of jobs, skills, roles, or experiences do you want to have in your career? Projecting your career many years out might be difficult because so many things can change. It’s totally acceptable of this goal is a little bit broader, abstract or ambiguous. Most importantly, it’s important to have some semblance of end point, or at least a sense of the kinds of stops you’d like to make along the way.
Upon entering New York University (Stern), Nick Johnson, a 2 Year MBA Candidate, didn’t have his entire career mapped out in front of him. However, he had a list of short term goals along with good sense of how his MBA would help him develop his longer-term career. Here is what Nick had to say:
Coming into business school, I was aware of my core strengths and development areas. While I have spent my time honing my strengths and filling the gaps in my skillset, I’ve realized it’s impossible for anyone to have everything worked out by the time they graduate. The MBA is helpful in “learning how to learn” so that later in your career when you do need to pick up a new skill or opportunity you have the ability to do so. Furthermore, an additional benefit of the MBA is the network and career development. An MBA is a large step forward in your career, but most people will have a couple more steps post-MBA in their career journey. Having a strong network of Alum and career management resources to support helps you make these steps.
These are only a handful of questions that can help you make your decision. What questions helped you make your decision to get an MBA? I’d love to hear in the comments some of the questions you thought about before entering business school
Follow me on Twitter