Is it an MBA?

While doing an MBA seems to be an obvious choice for some, for most it often starts as a matter of inquisitiveness. They have heard others do an MBA and have wondered is this the right step for me? How can I be sure whether doing an MBA and investing not just close to $100,000 in direct investments (apart from scholarship) but also an opportunity cost of not working (which could be another $100,000 or much more depending on what one is doing). Add to that the pressures of devoting close to 2 years of studying, applying for visa, the heartbreak of not converting applications to admits and the question becomes even more pertinent – is this the right career choice for me?

Even before you embark on the almost 8-9 months journey of self discovery, self actualization and self control, I often tell my students to reflect on whether this is worth your while. What are you hoping to achieve through an MBA and is this actually possible?

You should understand what the MBA can provide and what it can’t and more importantly how that ties in to your short term and long term goal. Furthermore, it is important to understand whether an MBA is truly the only path. This will help you articulate your career goals firstly to yourself and then to the admissions committee.

If you are considering a specialized career (deep technical expertise i.e. in finance/technology), an MBA is not for you. Even after you complete the MBA, you can’t move to a career that is deeply specialized. The degree will help you get a broad understanding of multiple dimensions of business but will not give you the depth that you need for the next career step. I would recommend you consider a masters degree (Finance/Technology/HR) which will not only provide more knowledge and specialized skill but also organisations will treat this degree with more seriousness.

If you want to start your business, an MBA in my opinion is quite important. However, what you need to realize is why I say so. Most people would respond by saying, an MBA will help me grow my network and when I approach investors, they will appreciate me having an MBA. In today’s world, an investor (private equity, angel investor or family offices) do not place as much weight on an MBA as they do on your work experience, potential of your idea, your business model and team. All of these will be bolstered by your MBA but just having an MBA is not enough.

If you are really interested in pursuing an MBA, I would strongly encourage you to consider the following (and in this order):

  • What is your long term goal?
  • Why is it your long term goal?
  • How can you reach your long term goal with MBA + post-MBA experience? – be specific and use as many examples as you can
  • What is your short term goal?
  • Why is it your short term goal?
  • How can you achieve your short term goal with MBA + pre-MBA experience?
  • Can you not achieve it by working somewhere else?

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