By: Bridget C Lewis ©2011
After the last post, you might have said to yourself “well, I am not into the startup business market. I am quite content having a regular paying job. I don’t care how the MBA is a roadmap to startup success, what about my career success”? My response… great question!
If you are working hard in your current career, aiming for success through promotions and other advancement opportunities, you have every right to wonder how an MBA may help you achieve your career goals. At first the answers may seem obvious. But that obviousness is usually more evident to those who have already made the decision and are well on their way. Others might be deliberating… contemplating… trying to decide. So, let’s take a look at some of the questions you might be weighing in your mind as you try to decide your next move.
First, considering all the reasons people decide to pursue an MBA, I think they can be classified as one of three categories:
- Personal achievement
- Professional development
- Career advancement
You may find that your reasons for pursuing your degree fall into one or even multiple categories. Whatever your reasons if you find yourself hesitating to get started, don’t feel bad. It’s a process we all go through in trying to make the decision.
These are a few questions gathered from actual MBA students. Maybe you’ll find one or two that match your concerns, or after you’ve reviewed these you may have a few more of your own. Use this forum to post your questions and see what insights others who are in your shoes might have to share. At the very least you’ll hopefully see that you are not alone, and you might find that last bit of encouragement you need to help you make that decision.
1. Do I have enough previous knowledge to excel in the various MBA courses? Will my inexperience be a hindrance to my success?
The education you’ll receive through your MBA studies will help you understand business practices and applications. If you are not a manager, or have limited experience as a manager, consider volunteering at a local charity or non-profit organization. This will help you generate positive experiences by giving you an opportunity to apply your knowledge in a real life scenario. The experience you gain will be easily transferable to the working world and will go a long way towards boosting your resumé.
2. What happens once I have earned the degree? How do I break through the ceiling and land the big promotion or a new and better job?
It has been my experience that it’s not what you know but who you know that is important. Therefore, you have to develop your networking skills. Networking can be very time-consuming and if you’re not used to it, it can also be intimidating. However, the connections you’ll make will be invaluable as you progress in your career. Also consider getting a mentor or mentors. Who do you know right now who is good at what they do and who you would like to emulate? Start there. Make sure they are willing to teach and coach you and don’t mind you shadowing them sometimes. Positioning yourself so that you are seen as a viable candidate is a step in the right direction.
3. Will I be able to endure the length of the program while balancing work, family and a social life?
First of all, determine that doing nothing is not an option. Once that is clear in your mind, the rest will take careful planning. It’s all about finding the right balance in your life. Remember these two things. 1) Balance does not look the same for everyone; 2) Balance does not look the same every day. You will need to make sacrifices and compromises while pursuing your degree goals. You will have to become an expert at time management. The success factor here is making sure the new stuff fits into your schedule. Often times, we tend to add new stuff on-top-of our other responsibilities. Adding new responsibilities on-top-of your full plate will cause things to fall off the edges. The trick is finding ways to mix the new stuff in, or even removing some of the old stuff temporarily.
4. Should I specialize or will a general MBA be more beneficial to me?
Well, that depends on what you plan to do afterwards. If you are already clear about your career path, say healthcare, or human resources or small business management, you may have a good case for specializing. If you’re not quite sure there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the general MBA. Look at it this way, the specialized programs give additional perspectives or direct focus on their area of specialization, but the core of the programs are the same. Besides, your degree will be listed as “MBA” without the specialization anyway, so there will be no disadvantage at all.
5. Will my peers at work accept that I am pursuing this goal because of a personal choice or will they feel I am trying to ‘out do’ them?
The truth is there are many nay-sayers and doubters out there, and you won’t be able to control their behavior. That said what your peers feel or how they think about your decision to better yourself is the least of your concerns. So what if you are actually trying to “out do” them? That’s the world we live in. It’s full of competition and we’re all striving to create a better life. Along the way we will pass some of our colleagues, friends, and family members in various stages of their own journey. Some will be journeying right alongside us; others will be standing by watching the race. They’ve got to want it too. It’s simple. Those that stand idly by watching will be left behind.
6. Am I pursuing this for the right reasons or am I being selfish of my needs without considering the feelings of others?
The most important thing I have to say here is “it’s OK to be selfish when it comes to developing and improving yourself.” Whatever your reasons: personal goal, lifelong achievement, improve your lifestyle, get a promotion, whatever those reasons are, they’re good. The way I look at it, as long as you’re not planning the demise of another person, your reasons are great so go for it!
7. How am I going to pay for this?
This is a very legitimate question. Many of us work for employers that value education and they may offer some form of tuition reimbursement. However, in my experience this is a limited dollar amount and usually does not cover the cost of going to school full-time. Other individuals will depend on financial aid and student loans to cover the costs. Still some others are able to pay the costs out-of-pocket. Whatever your payment methods, know that the decision to pursue a degree is one of the biggest investments you will make. Many institutions allow some level of flexibility in spreading out degree requirements to allow students to chunk learning into manageable blocks. This serves several purposes including the ability to pay for courses à la carte. Whatever your personal situation allows, go for it! Begin with the end in mind and take as big or as small steps as necessary to accomplish your goal.
You have started out with the right attitude! Getting your questions answered is an indication you realize this is not a decision to be taken lightly. Whatever you decide, making sure you are informed is the right thing to do. If you decide to follow through and do this, give it everything you’ve got, and I bet you will do just fine. There is a reason you’re thinking the MBA would be good for you. Always keep that reason front and center in your mind.