What can a MBA do for your career?

This article will explore various routes on how MBAs can sharpen your skills to increase the value you add to an organization, or to increase the likelihood of success as an entrepreneur.

According to a 2010 report by opinion writer Penelope Trunk (who writes numerous articles on why college is a waste of time), a Master’s of Business Administration, better known as a MBA, is a waste of time and money.  In her article, Ms. Trunk states seven (7) reasons “why you should take a bad job instead of getting an MBA.”

  1. Business school won’t help you be a good entrepreneur.
  2. You likely don’t need an MBA for what you want to do.
  3. MBAs who are not from a top 10 school don’t increase their earning power.
  4. It’s pointless after a certain age.
  5. An MBA is too limiting.
  6. An MBA makes you look desperate
  7. Business school puts off the inevitable.

Ms. Trunk’s claims are simply not true, and I will address Ms. Trunk’s points from my experience of getting a MBA at age 49 from a non-top 10 business school.

  1. As an entrepreneur that took my idea from a garage concept to over $65 million in sales revenue in the automotive aftermarket sector without an MBA, I can say you certainly do not need an MBA to be a good entrepreneur. I can also say that had I acquired the MBA before embarking on my journey, I could have prevented costly mistakes by managing financial and legal risk far better.  Additionally, I would have understood how investors value a firm, and risk, which is critical to getting growth capital above traditional bank lending.  The MBA courses I took included Finance, Accounting, Operations, Marketing, Leadership and Management, Strategy, Innovation and Creativity, Corporate Law, Global Economics, plus a series of focus specific courses (finance, marketing, revenue management, etc.) and an international immersion trip.  These courses are the framework to understand business, non-profit, and government entities.
  2. You don’t need a MBA to do what you want to do. You should get the MBA to be better at what you do, to understand the detail behind how others do what they do, and how to better engage and interact with others in what you do.
  3. A primary advantage of the top 10 business schools offering MBA is the network of people and firms the students have access to reach. For example, if a career in private equity is your target, there is benefit to go to these top 10 tier schools as many large firms recruit from these schools.
    When focusing on the MBA course content, a primary consideration for me was AACSB accreditation, which College of Charleston is.  According to the AACSB website, “AACSB International—The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) connects educators, students, and business to achieve a common goal: to create the next generation of great leaders.” Numerous stats are available on the AACSB site that support why this accreditation process is important.
  4. Furthering one’s ability to earn is important at any age. And in this age of continuous disruption and obsolescence, learning how to gain a competitive advantage is key.  For me, going back to school meant leaving a good paying 6-figure VP level job, drawing down on retirement, and tightening the belt buckle.  But fortunately, the College of Charleston MBA program is an accelerated 11-month program. This time away from full time work is minimized, and the degree investment is lower.  I have a BS in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Tech, and held positions at excellent firms over my career.  But the MBA has completely reinvented my business lens, and opened opportunities to positions that I would not have received had I not pursued the MBA. It is also important to note that the percentage of jobs requiring or preferring an MBA is rapidly growing.
  5. Trunk’s argument is based on finding higher paying work, by its nature, limits the number of jobs, and excludes one from entry level work. But this is simply not true.  Many jobs in consulting, finance, and investment banking hire entry level MBA because of the general understanding of business, non-profit, and governmental entities that MBA graduates are afforded.
  6. To the contrary of Ms. Trunk’s point that one looks desperate by getting an MBA, taking the initiative and financial commitment to further one’s education, skills, and network shows that you are serious about business.
  7. The MBA degree is arguably best pursued after some years of experience in the workforce. Pursuing the MBA immediately pursuant to getting an undergraduate degree does have the following inherent advantages:  1) student is in the mode of learning, no readjustment is required, and they are generally faster at completing assignments, 2) student’s overhead costs are low, likely due to no spouse or children to support, no car payment, and likely no mortgage payment.  Taken as a whole, these are considerable advantages to pursuing a MBA degree straight from undergraduate.  Either way, the end goal is to achieve a satisfying career – not avoid work, and not taking a “bad job.” Job satisfaction ultimately contributes to a better work-life balance.

Let’s get one thing straight about getting the MBA degree:  it is not for the clueless or the undecided, and it shouldn’t be looked upon as a last resort when the going gets tough. As these degrees are quite costly, it is best that you have a focused plan mapped out.  Know your next career move, know the industries you want to work for, and know what you want to achieve. If you have some valuable business experience behind you, even better! Furthermore, you can take off anywhere in the world with this business administration qualification, as MBAs are internationally recognized.

So how can a MBA enhance your career? A MBA will open your eyes to every aspect of a business organization – sales, marketing, human resources, finance, accounting, operation, management – and how these departments work in sync together to achieve the firm’s strategy to create value. Above all, an MBA will encourage you to think outside the box, to spot relevant and irrelevant information and how to spot and overcome unforeseeable problems and issues.  MBAs also teach you how to develop, in the broadest sense, people skills and strengthen existing relationships with co-workers by setting attainable goals.

Copyright Shafi Keisler 2018

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