I often get asked by women who are considering a career transition whether or not they should get their MBA. It’s a fair question especially when you have high ambitions set for your career. According to figures from the US Department of Education, the MBA has become the most popular grad degree in the US compared to other advanced degrees.
After working several years after college, I decided to go back to school to get my MBA in 2007. In two years I was able to complete the program while working a full time job and attending classes on weekends. I had no social life for two years and I ate, slept, and breathed case studies, group projects, and 51-page long textbook chapters. I still get nervous twitches just thinking about the sheer madness of being a business student. But completing my MBA was an extremely rewarding experience and it has no doubt furthered my career. And now as a self-employed business owner, those leadership and management skills sure do come in handy. In my coaching practice, I’ve had the fortune of coaching top MBA students from Ivy League schools who are aspiring to become better leaders and are literally changing the game of how we do business today.
Some of top reasons cited for why students get their MBA usually fall into two categories: promotion and/or increase in salary. It certainly was one of the main reasons I decided to pursue mine. There are enormous amounts of information out there in business journals and career resources that backup these reasons with statistical evidence that getting your MBA is good for your career. Yet, in my case, as I think in hindsight, I realize there were a few other factors that influenced my decision to get my degree; many of which I was unaware of.
Sometimes when we are considering a major decision for our career such as whether to go back to school, finding the answers may be a bit cloudy especially if you hate your job, feel like you’re at a dead end in your career, or are unhappy in some area of your lives. We tend to look outside of ourselves for a fix. This may skew our judgment and we get an incomplete picture of what we’re really after that throws us off course.
To know if getting your MBA is right for you, you have to know what you want in your life and work. You must be clear on what your passions are and be confident in how you define your own success. This is the time to figure yourself out with clarity and honesty.
What I want to offer you today is a more introspective process for you to consider as you weigh your decision to get an MBA. Below are a few questions that will help you answer the question: “Should I get an MBA?"
1. Ask yourself: Am I getting my MBA for the prestige or do I sincerely believe it will benefit my career?
Be honest with yourself here. We are most motivated to do something by what we believe we will get from it. What do you believe this degree will give you? Prestige, respect, higher status, clout, etc. Your MBA may give you those things, but if that is the sole reason you want it, you may be disappointed over time.
2. Ask yourself: Could going back to school be distracting me from a larger issue? i.e. escape from unhappy job, don’t know what else to do in career, recently laid off, etc.
Oftentimes, we will rush to fill a void and distract ourselves with “busy work” rather than confront and deal with the void head on. If you suspect there may be a larger issue that you may be running away from, check in with yourself about it and see if there is healthier way to deal with it.
3. Ask yourself: What will my friends/family/colleagues think of me with an MBA? Without? How much does their opinion matter to me?
Very similar to question #1. Consider whether getting this degree would be more appeasing to others than it would be for you. We sometimes intentionally do things for other people, even to our own detriment. If it is more important to you how you will be perceived by others rather than how you feel about yourself, you may want to rethink your intentions before making this substantial career move.
These are questions I wish that I had considered before I took the plunge to b-school. Would it have changed my decision? I cannot say. But I certainly would have appreciated a deeper understanding of why I wanted my MBA in the first place. I enjoy having my MBA and do not regret my decision to get it for a moment. However, I believe that having more self-inquiry as part of the process would have helped guide my decision more thoughtfully.
If you hope to have an MBA as part of your career future, take a moment to honestly reflect on these questions to help guide your decision. There are no right or wrong answers. Just opportunities to deepen your connection to self and carve out a career path that is true to who you are.
Let me know how it goes!