Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How do you Know When It’s Time for an MBA? (Part 1 of a 3 Part Series)

I was 24 when I started at Booth. At the time, I had only two years of professional experience. I was incredibly worried about starting with a huge disadvantage but once I got here the feeling quickly disappeared. In future posts, I’ll explore why I think Booth is a great school for early career candidates and provide some tips for any early career readers. Before thinking about which school you should attend and the best way to gain admission, you should first understand where you’re at in your career and what an MBA can do for you. Here are some things I tried to think about before enrolling:



1.       Do I have enough experience to succeed and contribute?

When we talk about early career candidates, we’re generally talking about people with 2-3 years of work experience. This doesn’t mean that no one has ever been accepted directly out of undergrad, but it’s incredibly difficult. Work experience is important for a number of reasons – many of your classroom discussions revolve around what you’ve observed through past professional experiences, and your success in recruiting at least partially hinges on your pre-MBA background.  Think about what you’ve done in your professional life so far, and make sure you’ve had a diverse set of experiences. This is my second stint at the University of Chicago, and I was fortunate to be able to take a few Booth classes as an undergrad. This gave me a really good sense of what the classes were like and what to expect from the program. If you get a chance, I’d highly encourage you to visit campus, talk to students and sit in on a class to make sure you know what the MBA experience is like and to ensure you’ve created the best chance to succeed. As an early career candidate, you should also check out Booth’s Summer Business Scholars program. The three-week-long program will provide a great introduction to what getting an MBA is all about.

2.       What benefits will I get out of (at least) one more year of working?

As an early career candidate, it’s important to think about the opportunity cost of going to business school. Booth isn’t going anywhere, and you’ll want to have justification for why you need an MBA now, rather than in a year or two. To answer this question, you should think about your career progression – will you be able to take on a new role or gain new opportunities/experiences in the next year? If so, maybe you should delay applying for a year to get these new experiences. On the other hand, if you feel like you’ve plateaued in your day-to-day responsibilities, an MBA might be exactly what you need. Before my MBA, I was working in market research. After being promoted to a manager, I realized that the next step (senior manager) was at least three years away. Further, while I only attained the title a few months before starting on my MBA, the actual responsibilities were essentially what I had been doing for the 12 months prior. Thus, for me, the opportunity to learn and gain new responsibilities diminished, encouraging me to explore B-school.

3.       What’s my career progression with an MBA?
For an early career candidate, this is the most important question you need to answer. Generally speaking, you’re going to make more money post-MBA than you did pre-MBA, but that alone isn’t a good justification for going back to school. Explore the types of opportunities an MBA will provide you (the employment report is a good place to start) and do some career exploration prior to starting your MBA. Not having a clear path is my biggest regret so far during school. While I was successful in recruiting and am incredibly happy with my future employer, I also added a lot of unneeded stress during recruiting because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. 


These aren’t the only questions to consider before pursuing an MBA, but I think they’re some of the most important questions you should answer, especially if you’re looking at Booth. Our flexible curriculum requires you to have a good understanding of what you want out of your MBA. Furthermore, you’ll avoid a lot of undue recruiting stress if you get a good handle on your options before applying to or starting your MBA. Watch for upcoming posts, where I’ll explore the importance of selecting the right program provide some tips for early career candidates. 

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