The Five Year Plan: Should I get an MBA?|
In college, I remember career services emphasizing focus on a “five year plan.” Within that five year plan, it was important for graduate school to be a component. But somewhere along in her influencing a generation, she forgot to emphasize: “be true to yourself and your goals.” Soon I was pushed off into the bullpen following the herd of Ivy League overachievers.
In my twenties I found that my five year plan did not resemble anything close to what I imagined upon graduation. I was ambitious and pro-active. As a result, opportunities presented themselves to me. It was these unexpected opportunities that turned out to be some of the most wonderful experiences of my life. Although I wanted a graduate degree, I could not reconcile why I should take time off. From where I stood I could not see how it would add value, but I could not shake this need to return to school and earn the coveted MBA degree. It sounded glamorous for some strange reason. Then one year, every role that I wanted to be considered for had MBA listed as a prerequisite. As a result, I found myself applying not out of pure love but bitterness that every recruiter and human resource person had listed the degree as a screen.
When I went about choosing my MBA program, I applied the main lesson learned from my college application process: I found the program that was aligned with my interest and lifestyle. It took awhile to sort out. When I focused my attention and applied, I was authentic and honest about who I and how I planned to use this degree.
The best advice I could offer a serious applicant is to choose the program that maximizes the experience in your field of interest. In this scenario you are more likely to develop relationships with useful alumni in your field that can lead to job opportunities, mentorship, and career development. Also consider the location of the program and lifestyle that you will lead. Will you be happy in the city, country, or suburbs? Are you single or married with children?
When I enrolled in the program, I felt like it was the course that I needed to take and not the course that I honestly wanted to follow. If I could talk to my younger self, I would tell her that she underestimated the strength and courage of her own instincts to take risks and make good judgments. I would tell her that the MBA program is also a business and that perhaps she was talking to the wrong people in setting her course of action.
Life is short and I accept full responsibility for the decision that I made. An MBA was not necessarily the best choice of action in my career, but perhaps had I applied earlier in my career it would have made more sense and also steered me in an entirely different direction that the one I have gone.