How to Get a Raise With Your MBA

If you’ve got an MBA, you’ve probably already realized that getting the MBA doesn’t lead to more money, despite what the statistics say (at least not immediately). When I was working on my MBA, I had three friends who were earning their MBA too but at different schools. We were quite competitive with each other and were very interested to see who would benefit the most after graduation. You see, we all worked in the same company. I hate to admit it, but I didn’t win the free lunch, which was the prize for getting a raise upon graduation. If you’re looking to make some money after you graduate, you’ll want to read about our little experiment. Here’s what we did to earn a raise with our MBA.

There were four of us enrolled in four different universities. Three were in the traditional brick and mortar MBA and one was in an online MBA program. In the last semester, we all began trying to figure out how we would sell our new skills to management in the quest of that trophy of champions, the raise. And who doesn’t want that?

The first brick and mortar MBA graduate felt that his university had significant brand power (well, it was a top 25 program). So, he didn’t do anything. He felt that once management caught wind of his new accomplishment (MBA from a top program), he would instantly gain access to the club, more money and a new position in the upper echelon. Unfortunately, his was wrong. Management didn’t throw a party for him nor did they offer any of the accolades he had dreamed of.

The second MBA graduate had a little more strategy to his plan. He took some of his learning and used it to find ways to reduce the cost of operations. Surely, creating a list of activities that could help the company save money would be worth something. So, he studied and researched some effective methods. He even put some probabilities, budgets, schedules and return on investments in his analysis. It was an impressive list. But, alas, it turned up no coins to jingle in his pocket. Management was happy to receive it but wasn’t moved enough to reward his behavior.

The third graduate took a slightly different approach than the second. He didn’t focus on saving money. He sought ways to make money. To begin his pursuit, he asked management what were their biggest challenges they had. Then, he knew what problems he needed to solve. So, he worked just like the second graduate by researching and studying the challenges the managers identified. He outlined several ways to overcome the challenges and created plans for achieving them. Even though a couple of these plans were acted upon later, this effort did not yield any money for the graduate.

The fourth graduate tried something totally different than all the others. He set out to prove that he had acquired some desirable skills from his MBA program. He focused his efforts on marketing since this was a passion of his. He worked with several departments to understand what their marketing challenges were. Then, just like all of the others, he set out to find solutions. Once he found them, he put them into action, without discussing it with upper management. Risky move? I thought so too. However, when he presented his list of problems and solutions, he included one piece of information that the rest of us failed to do. He presented results. “That’s the initiative we’re looking for” was management’s response. They didn’t want to know what the problems were; they knew that already. They didn’t want to know what you thought would work; they wanted to know what would work. That meant you had to do something to understand what would work. They could then take the methods that really worked company-wide but they had to know what worked first. Needless to say, the fourth graduate got the raise.

The lesson we learned that semester is that it isn’t about what you know nor is it about what you can do. It’s all about what you actually do. Your value isn’t based on what you have. It’s based on what you give. In learning to earn a raise, three of us found that potential energy is nice but you’ll gain much more if you convert it to kinetic energy. In short, do something. An MBA is not proof that you have any specific skills, knowledge or ability. It’s only proof that you took some classes. Accomplishments are the real proof that earns rewards. When you think about asking for a raise, don’t go into the discussion empty handed. Don’t give them ideas or possible solutions. Give them a clear view of your drive and determination to make the business a success; that is to say, a clear understanding of what they can do to make the company more profitable as determined by what you’ve already done.

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