I always wanted to pursue an MBA but (after 4 years of work experience) now feel that an MBA is a waste of time. What do I do?
This is a question I get to discuss almost every day. Despite having a business that focuses on getting folks into top bschools, I frequently encourage candidates to do something else for at least a little while. Here are the when to go and when to wait/not go.
Here’s my break down of when to wait or not go:
- You have specific “expert” skills: science, etc.
If you only have a couple of years of experience and you don’t have enough experience to legitimately claim expertise, ask yourself if you can get that before you make your next move. Reasons for yes, you’re interested in the area and plan to continue working in the area after bschool. If yes, invest a little more time here to cement field specific relationships and standing before you begin the shift in functional role. Cement expertise (perception of…) before going.
Reasons for no, you do not enjoy the field, you have no interest in it or aren’t any good at what you’re doing. In this case, you may need to transition to a temporary role just to position yourself as a viable bschool candidate. Otherwise, you’re likely to get shuffled back into the same field/role post bschool. So wait on bschool, but make job changes immediately.
In both cases it makes sense to go to bschool if you want to expand your network and professional opportunities. But don’t rush to bschool and really push for the best program for you to make your move.
- You want to be CEO of a life changing, dynamic, adjective, adjective, start-up.
Well, if you can get into YC, do that. If you can’t get into YC, put yourself in harms way, ie take an operational role at a start-up now. Get the GMAT out of the way. Make sure you have impact on said start-up. Get into corporate dev, do deals on multiple continents, push yourself harder than you currently know how. You can always go to bschool, but only choose among 2 schools. Treat bschool as grooming for you, chance to stalk dying giants, getting to know future employees, and chance to take a deep breath before you plunge in even deeper.
Go eventually but very, very strategically or not at all.
- You want to make good money, but don’t need to kill it and you’re pretty content now. (plus regular career moves in your field do not depend on MBA)
Don’t go. Bschool is a tremendous experience for the right reasons, but is really lousy at preparing folks for regular work. It isn’t “school” the way most of us experience school. It isn’t about homework and % correct. The market will never care that your bschool model was flawless. Don’t misunderstand, there’s a TON to learn in bschool, but that isn’t really the point of the program. The MBA is a positioning statement. Bonus! You get to learn stuff too.
If you’re happy now, and aren’t particularly motivated to change current circumstances, the money spent will be wasted. Spare yourself.
- You can’t get into a program that the people you hope to work with/for respect.
Better to not go than owe $ for a school that isn’t buying you credibility points.
Here’s when to go even when you think it will be a waste of time:
- You have solid scores (GMAT, GPA); you have had dynamic, impactful work experience; you’re building, growing, creating on a daily basis.
Go. And go to the best program.
Not many people are in a position of enjoying what they do while being challenged. If you are, you probably won’t be for much longer. You may have another 3-4 years before you really tap-out, but then what? Then you’ll wish you were still growing but you might have to make more drastic career moves or take risk you don’t want to take. The MBA will be a little too late – not because of age, but because you’ll be the wise-old man in terms of experience and the youngin’s might be too naive for you.
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