Category Archives: MBA

5 Steps to Achieving Maximum Benefit from Your MBA

Earning the MBA, at any point in your life, requires a substantial commitment in time. As a young student fresh from college, time is a considerably more abundant resource; however, as a seasoned professional with numerous responsibilities, such as those accompanying a full-time job, family, or both, you must focus on an efficient utilization of many resources to achieve the maximum effectiveness in your professional and academic development. Too often we become so involved in just completing the tasks necessary to earn the degree that we fail to truly prepare ourselves for life with the degree.

The MBA, as we are told, is designed to have a huge impact on our lives. To reap these rewards, we stress ourselves out for two years trying to balance the school work, family commitments and job responsibilities. Once it’s all over, our expectations are that the accolades will pour in all by themselves. If we’re looking to change jobs, we update our LinkedIn profile so recruiters can find us. If we want to move up in our current company, we simply wait for management to hear the news of our graduation before coming to our desk to offer us a new opportunity to support them or maybe even join their ranks. This is the MBA dream, but unfortunately, it’s very far from the truth. The reality is that success is surrounded by an enormous layer of competitiveness. The MBA can tear into this layer and bring you closer to your dreams but it can’t do that by itself. Earning an MBA is a great feat but it is no guarantee of any level of success that is simply derived from its possession. Achieving success requires a strategy and some real planning. The following steps will help you do just that.

  1. Determine your goals before you begin your program. Write it down.

Writing your goals down triggers a response in the brain called “reticular activating system” that can create a sense of awareness of opportunities that can help you get closer to your goals. The unconscious mind will continue to focus on the direction you set in your written goals even when you aren’t consciously thinking about it. The reticular activating system will filter out those things that aren’t important. It will keep you in tune with events around you that may help you achieve your goals and will keep pushing you until the image that you have in your head of what your real success looks like is equivalent to what is physically present in your surroundings. Have you ever had an epiphany or have a salvo go off in your head? That’s your brain telling you that the situation you are currently in holds an opportunity that will help you get closer to a goal. Writing your goals down even has benefits when you aren’t even conscious. As an engineering student, I would often awaken during the night with the solution to class assignments. But how could that be if I was asleep? It’s because your subconscious does the real brain work. Here’s how you can tap into that.

Determine what you want from your MBA and write it down. Try to be very specific in defining these goals. Keep them challenging but achievable. Perhaps you want a raise, promotion or job change. List what they are, how long it may take to get there, what resources you need, who can help provide those resources, etc. Put specific dates for completion of these goals. Then, create a plan on how you will go about achieving each goal. Review these every day so that your mind stays focused on what you need to do. Celebrate completion of tasks and especially major goals. Mark them off the list when done. Each little success provides additional motivation as they cause the brain to release chemicals that make you happier, healthier and more driven to reach your goals. If you don’t have detailed plans for your career with your MBA, you should realize that it most likely won’t do anything for you.

  1. Seek guidance from other MBAs.

Take the time to get to know other MBAs. You should be engaging MBAs long before you begin your MBA program. Working MBA professionals can help you identify trends in industry. Top tier universities provide data to show you how their graduates are placed in industry but most don’t give you a clear picture of how successful you can be with their MBA. Most MBA graduates want to get a management position or change careers entirely. Therefore, the best way to understand the challenges that are specific to your Alma Mater is to consult with the alumni. If the university doesn’t have an alumni group, find graduates by using social media, such as LinkedIn. Then, tell them your story and ask for advice. MBA professionals can also help you understand the finer details in utilizing your MBA to create the success you expect. The most important information they can share will actually help you establish the proper expectations. The MBA isn’t capable of giving you that meteoric rise to the top of your company because many other factors come into play when you get to those first levels of the senior management ranks (e.g. Director, VP) that have nothing to do with your credentials.   Working MBAs can tell you what factors are important in their industry or specific company. Getting the most out of these new connections requires a thorough understanding of what you want from your degree. Once you complete the first action listed above, writing your goals down, you’ll know exactly what questions to ask from those MBAs who have gone before you. One last note, to get the best information, choose graduates who are just a few years ahead of you as their lessons are still fresh in their mind. Consulting an MBA graduate from over 20 years ago will be helpful but it isn’t likely to be advice you will use immediately.

  1. Share your thoughts and ideas.

As you go through your MBA and transition into a long working career, you’ll develop a broad network of knowledge professionals. The most important thing you can ever do to improve your career is to become active in this network. Before you begin your program, talk with MBA professionals to find out what issues managers are facing. Then, when you begin, share these ideas with professors and develop your own opportunity to find solutions for these problems. Investigate opportunities to perform research in these areas, which helps you develop expertise and recognition for such knowledge. Research quite often affords opportunities to publish the results of your efforts in professional journals, conferences, the university magazine, white papers and more. If research isn’t available, work with your professors to find specific companies that have issues they have communicated to the university and that you can address. If that fails, reach out to professional organizations (even student versions) to see where you can build new knowledge, skills and abilities. It’s important to note that while the MBA teaches you to solve business problems, this doesn’t add value to what you have to offer. The real value you offer comes from actually solving problems. Collaborating with professors, alumni groups, and student and professional organizations are great avenues for collecting ideas on what you can do to build your value. Today’s level of competition requires graduates to have already demonstrated their value before graduation. If you wait until you graduate to begin this development or base your value on the idea that you have the skills to solve problems, you’ll find yourself struggling to compete.

  1. Create opportunities to increase your knowledge in areas in your plan.

As previously mentioned, building your value is done by providing tangible proof of your skills. It’s also possible to build value by demonstrating your knowledge base.   Companies have problems and they want help resolving them. Reading articles from industry journals and other periodicals are a good way to boost your understanding of the problems that are currently plaguing businesses. Joining professional organizations is another great strategy. Most local branches of professional organizations provide access to industry professionals through conferences, presentations and meetings. A good approach is to join one of these organizations and seek an active role. This will put you closer to those already working in the field that can provide you a much better understanding of the field than articles can. Use these interactions to not only gather as much information as possible, but setup opportunities to help specific companies solve some of their problems. Companies like to hire to fill a specific need so find out what some are and fill them. Don’t forget to find ways to document your achievements so that you have stories to tell and documentation to prove it (e.g. published articles).

  1. Update your goals and progress often.

As you go through your goals, make notes on areas that are a natural strength or a weakness for you. This information, along with other pertinent information from professors and business professionals, should help you steer your career in the right direction. If your performance isn’t the best in your chosen area of focus, it becomes critical that you collaborate with other professionals in that field to determine if you need to improve your abilities in that area or you may be just fine with what you already know. This is even more critical if you plan to use your MBA in a different field than you are currently working in. You should develop a list of skills and experiences required to excel in your new field and then work on checking each one off until you have tangible proof that you have what it takes (all before graduating). Companies don’t want to hire professionals that are looking to make a transition, as this is a little risky. But, if you can provide sufficient evidence that you already have been demonstrating the skills, knowledge and abilities required for some time, then you can show you aren’t making a transition and you are a seasoned professional.

The MBA degree is just a credential. You’ll soon realize this once you’ve been in business for a year or two. It doesn’t really make you stand out. Why? It moves you into a group of professionals who already have a graduate degree. How do you stand out from them? As you move up in organizations the competition grows evermore fierce. Those who avoid the steps identified above and lean on the fact that they just have an MBA will experience stagnation and a loss of career mobility. No one is watching out for your career but you. If you put no effort into it, you’ll get nothing out of it. If you have an MBA or are working on it, you’ve obviously got a little fire in you. Use this fire to plan and implement your next steps after graduation. Create a habit of setting goals and reaching them. This will establish a history of tangible successes which will make you happy. After all, when it comes to your career, this is the person you should focus on.

The MBA Guide to Mentoring

Has your career mobility stifled?  Has your salary flatlined?  Perhaps you’ve fallen into the trap of trying to achieve your career success individually.  As a high achiever, you already know that many have achieved greatness.  We’ve read about them and you find tons of stories about they continue to do great things.  But they don’t achieve these things merely with their own effort.  They have help.  So many of try to gain success by impressing others.  Unfortunately, the ones we’re trying to impress aren’t really concerned with our success, only their own.  So how do you select the right people?  You must search and find those who are willing to invest in YOU.

Here are a few statistics to consider:

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes in this article from August 2011:  “The Corporate Leadership Council of the Corporate Executive Board surveyed 880 high-potential employees. More than 25 percent said they planned to change jobs within the next 12 months. That’s potential attrition 2.5 times greater than just five years earlier. Among the dissatisfied, 64 percent said their current employment experiences are having little impact on their development.”

Inc Magazine says CEOs can’t find the talent they need.

In an overview of its “2011/2012 Talent Management and Rewards Study, North America,” Towers Watson says, “…almost 60% of North American companies are having trouble attracting critical-skill employees, an increase over 2010.”

In an article from The Wall Street Journal on reverse mentoring: “In an effort to school senior executives in technology, social media and the latest workplace trends, many businesses are pairing upper management with younger employees in a practice known as reverse mentoring. The trend is taking off at a range of companies, from tech to advertising.”

For my friends in the UK:

Sage surveyed more than 11,000 small and medium sized businesses in 17 countries across the world, to find out their attitudes towards business mentoring. Here’s what they found.

  • 93% of small and medium sized businesses acknowledge that mentoring can help them to succeed.
  • 28% of small and medium sized business currently make use of business mentors
  • 27% of business decision-makers would be most likely to go to people they know for business advice and mentoring.
  • 9% of business decision-makers would go to ‘select business mentors’ as their first option for business advice.

There are so many things you can learn from mentors.  Think about it.  Why do you read a book?  To learn from others.  But you can’t usually get access to the author to understand how to mold their advice from the book to fit your situation.  But mentors can help you do that.  While it’s hard find statistics that identify the impact mentors have, some mentoring statistics show that professionals who have used a mentor, earn between $5,610-$22,450 more annually, than those who perhaps didn’t use a mentor.  That’s a pretty good benefit, at the very least.

Stop chasing dreams by repeating lessons others have already learned.  Your career should be a learning experience but don’t make it one full of things you wish you hadn’t learned.

Before you head off to find a mentor, check out our latest ebook release, The MBA Guide to Mentoring.

The MBA Nightmare

Here’s a story that might keep you up at night. I was talking with a client who had graduated with his MBA just a year ago. He was upset that things had not changed for him in his current company. No raise. No promotion. No new opportunities. In fact, no one even recognized that he earned his MBA. “My job doesn’t require an MBA but I have one. Now I worry that my current employer will see me as overqualified, likely to get bored and leave, further damaging my career mobility,” he explained.

He also heard that if he doesn’t move up soon that recruiters will think he’s not a real go-getter. I had to ask about that. He felt that while he was working his day job and earning his MBA at night, he would be viewed as a high achiever. However, since he graduated and stayed in the same job he was in before starting his MBA, he would be considered somewhat “unmotivated” if he remained in that job for several years.   “Wouldn’t employers wonder why I went through the effort and money to earn the MBA and then did nothing with it?” He worried that his job title wasn’t representative of his skill sets and felt that employers would avoid him because he wasn’t working towards his potential. The one degree that was supposed to offer a buffet of opportunity, career growth and money failed to deliver on all accounts.

That’s his story. What do you think? Have you seen that before? Are you wondering if things went according to his plan? Did he fail to plan? Did the college fail to help him? Did his company fail to utilize his talents? Who’s to blame for his stagnation?

This is not a good place to be. It’s not a good feeling and eventually it can destroy your job satisfaction and happiness.   So what went wrong? Here’s a few observations.

Too much hope. Too many students believe that the MBA experience will provide for their needs. What are their needs? Many identify money and opportunity as their main reasons for earning an MBA. But how does spending two years of your life and $80,000 meet these needs. If you consider that you give the college money and work your butt off for two years with only a piece of paper to show for it, you might feel the need to rethink this approach. You don’t get money at the end of the program. You get a bill. The agreement you have with the school is the opportunity to learn new skills from professors. It’s not a guarantee that you will. You have to put effort into it. That’s all. If you want anything beyond that, you have to go get it yourself. Working professionals who earn their degree have the expectation that their current company will recognize them, reward them and give them a new office beside the CEO. If you want to understand the probability of this happening, look around. Connect with MBA professionals and ask about their experience. They’ll tell you that it doesn’t happen. Why would I give you more money to do a job that doesn’t require an MBA to start with? You were hired to do that job. If you want to go develop yourself further, that’s great but I still need you to do the job I hired you for. Hope is not a strategy. You can’t wait on something to happen.

Lack of action. If you consider that you wanted money and opportunity from your MBA, you must realize that the college can’t give that to you. That’s not what they do. They educate. That’s it. Move on. You need a company to do that or you need to start your own. My client was sitting in a job with a big bill and the same needs he had before starting the MBA. He hasn’t filled his needs yet. So why did he stop his pursuit? It was obvious that the mere possession of the MBA was insufficient. It’s a credential that has value. That’s why you spent time and money on it. But if you are in an organization that doesn’t care, it doesn’t have value to them and your needs won’t be met. So why are you still waiting on them to reward you? It won’t happen. Do you think that waiting longer will help? Go-getters are always in action. They do what they can with what they have. They don’t stop until the needs are met. Then, they find new ones and start all over.

The wrong attitude. Growing your career is tough. There are a lot of barriers that are put in front of us. Sure, some kids grow up in luxury and have free entry to the top echelons of organizations. For those of us who don’t, that doesn’t matter. We have to build our own success. Education is just a part of the journey. There is never a point in the journey where we can simply rest on our credentials.   This week I worked with numerous professionals who were laid off. Their company is struggling to survive. These professionals had law degrees, engineering degrees, CPAs, etc. They are smart people and yet they have just experienced what appears to be a setback. What do you do? Just stop working? No. You must realize that you have value and you must search to find someone who will pay for that value. The wrong attitude is to simply pretend that you are satisfied with where you are. You have to satisfy those needs because they won’t go anywhere. They will keep screaming louder and louder, until you respond to them. Have you ever wondered why your life isn’t filled with people who want to make your life a huge success? It’s because people are trying to fulfill their needs and create their own success. The wrong attitude is to believe that someone else can give you your happiness. They are searching for their own.

Gaining success with an MBA, or any degree, requires work. Define what you want and how each credential can help you get there. The MBA gives you knowledge, skills and abilities. It does not differentiate you from others. There are 150,000 new MBAs every year. Your differentiation comes from the value you can provide to others. Your value is driven by your desire to build success, even if only one small step at a time. It is the accumulation of all of these small steps that put your career motion and move you further to your goals. The MBA is a tool that can be used to build a better career. You have to swing a hammer to drive a nail. Drive enough nails and you can build a house. Sure, it takes time and effort…but it’s worth it. It meets needs. Professionals that don’t achieve all they choose to do so because they accept it. I know what you’re thinking…but what about this?….but what about that?….but, but, but. “But” is the argument for your limitations. When you argue for your limitations, you get to keep them. Define your needs, then go fulfill them. The solution lies within your drive and determination. When you stop, so does your career. Let your actions define you. Go get your success now. Never be satisfied.

6 Questions to Ask Your MBA Program

I recently read an article about the Executive MBA that outlined the career benefits of this type of program. As you look over these, think about the impact you would want the MBA to have on your career.   It included four things:

  • Studying part-time while working – this is great if you can’t go to college full time.
  • Experiential learning and reflection – put your skills to use at work while you’re learning them in class.
  • MBA partnerships – you get connected with professors and other students.
  • The MBA challenge – you’ve been selected to be part of a program and have the opportunity to show employers you can meet the difficult rigors of the MBA.

Are these benefits anywhere close to what you wanted the MBA to do for your career? Is there a misalignment? Most MBAs are career changers who are after more money and opportunities. Too often MBA graduates subscribe to the philosophy that “I don’t know what I want but I do know this isn’t it.” Too many professionals aren’t happy with their career progress and think the MBA is the answer to their problems. Well, the colleges and universities aren’t going to talk you out of this idea. In fact, the US has seen just the opposite. Colleges are popping up everywhere and some even allow you to design your own MBA (like that’s a good idea). This is why the MBA is so popular. It’s an instrument that is often sold as the answer to your career problems.   Don’t believe me? Here are some example statements from advertisements that support this claim.

“Accelerate: Take your career to the next level. Evening & Weekend MBA program” – Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Conquer the corporate world” – The University of Wolverhampton

“Be an ambassador of change.” – Edwards School of Business, University of Saskatchewan

“Great leaders don’t just solve complex issues, they seek them out.” — University of Notre Dame

“Stand out from the crowd.” – Saint Louis University

“Recession Protection.” – Chapman University College

On and on this could go. These types of ads are everywhere. What do they really mean? Nothing. It’s just an ad. The things you need to focus on before enrolling in a program is how the MBA will impact your career.

Think about it…you’re about to embark on a journey that will eat up all your free time for the next two years, as well as a ton of your money. So what questions should you be asking? I’m not talking about the questions you should be asking yourself (okay, maybe just one). I’m talking about the questions you ask of the people you’re about to give your time and money to! Why? You’re purchasing a service for a lot of money and you need to make sure you will get value from it. I’ve worked with too many MBA graduates that have earned their MBA and are still in the same job as when they started their program, except now they have another $80k in debt. Is that where you want to be? No? Then, consider asking these questions before you begin any program.

  1. What are the benefits I need from this program? This question goes to the heart of why you are seeking the MBA. You should be able to define the things you want from the MBA. For example, I expect to get a job before graduation making $105,000 per year, with a sign on bonus of $10,000. Or maybe you’re focused on the specific skills you need to enter a new career field, such as private equity.   List all the benefits you think you need to make the change in your career that you want. Yes, you have to think about it. You’ll need this list to compare with the the next question you need to ask.
  2. What benefits does the program offer? Look back at the benefits listed at the beginning of this post (not from question #1). Would these be helpful? From my own experience with the MBA, I can tell you these benefits were NOT on my list. So I would have definitely encountered a misalignment of expectations. When you go speak to anyone about the MBA program, take your list of benefits and ask if they can support them. They should be able to answer the questions specifically. After all, you’re paying for the benefits so they should be the ones you need. If they don’t cover all of your needs, ask them how they can help you meet them? In the end, you own the discrepancies between what they offer and what you need. The sooner you know the differences, the better you can plan to fill the gaps. My advice here is to perform this analysis before you start and use the two years to cover all of your needs before you graduate.
  3. What services does the program provide for job search support? Many MBA programs have their own career services group. So what do they actually help you do? Most cover resumes, interview prep, company introductions, etc. But do they help you evaluate offers? Determine best career paths? Also, are they actually able to help you do the things they say they do? In a recent Wall Street Journal article, UCLA’s corporate relations director stated they were too busy helping recent graduates to help the incoming students. It’s critical to know how much and what kind of help you will get in your program.
  4. How active are the alumni groups? Here is your greatest source for future jobs, unless your university doesn’t really have an alumni group. If you’re in an online program, you probably won’t get this benefit. Here’s a list so you can where your program ranks. You’ll want to know what jobs they have and what companies they work for. If the alumni groups don’t exist or are not active, then you must realize that the career services department is probably not very strong either and will most likely be of little help in shaping your career and finding that dream job.
  5. Do you have MBA mentor programs? These programs connect graduate students to senior level leaders to build strategic relationships that support leadership development and career advancement. This is where you begin building a successful and powerful network, especially if you’re a career changer or an entrepreneurial aspirant.   Mentors give you personal one-on-one attention and can help you with specific issues such as salary negotiation, influencing stakeholders, and leadership resilience. If your MBA program doesn’t offer this, you should build your own. This is too valuable a tool to go without.
  6. Do you use external career consultants? I hate to say it but sometimes colleges and universities don’t really keep track of what’s going on in the corporate world. They get in a rut of dealing with the same companies for hiring and fail to branch out to other industries. So this means that some MBA programs are geared to certain industries, so make sure you’re aware of which one you’re attending. External consultants can bring a degree of objectivity to a situation which may be politically impossible within the university. Most importantly, they help you understand the current trends in hiring, career development, salaries and more. The corporate world typically moves at a faster pace than academia. Some universities have transitioned to using external consultants to help manage MBA student careers. If your program has them, use them. If not, call me (I know… shameless plug).

These questions are not all encompassing but are designed to get you thinking more about the end of the program than the beginning. Too often colleges quickly push you into discussions on the MBA experience, rather than the impact it will have on your career. Sure, the experience is important but that’s not what you’re getting the MBA for. You need the MBA to help you grow your career. So you need to do some real investigative research on why you’re doing this and how the program will help you achieve your goals. Without a plan, you’ll be left with the same job you had before and an additional monthly payment that’s as big as a mortgage payment.

Colleges try to make you feel special by admitting you to the program but, in reality, you’ve earned it. More importantly, you’re paying for it. You are a customer, not just a student. Of course, there’s a benefit to the college in admitting you as well. You’re a paying customer who will most likely complete the program. That’s job security for them.

So there you have it. Treat your investigation of MBA programs like a criminal trial. Put each college up on the witness stand and drill them with the hard questions. This is your future. You have to make sure you’re getting what you need because no one else will. Remember, academia is a business and if you aren’t pushing to get what you want, you won’t get it.

There are other questions to answer….check out our free “Career Launch” guide at

10 Wishes for the MBA

I’ve been following the MBA, students and graduates for a long time. A lot of our discussions focus around things that the MBA doesn’t do. Many of these things we feel the program should be able to do but somehow it falls short of our expectations. So, instead of focusing on the shortcomings, I thought I would use this post to offer a few suggestions for improving the whole MBA experience. Imagine sitting in the front of the auditorium during your MBA orientation meeting and the director steps on stage to say a few things. Here’s what I wish they would say.

10. I wish they would tell students that specialization is not bad and is currently better than generalization. If you’ve earned the MBA and are looking to change careers, you probably already know this.

9. I wish they would tell students that they don’t provide a lot of career guidance.   It’s usually best to take advice from MBAs who’ve been in the corporate world for a while about the issues MBAs will experience. You also want information about the market as it is now and how it has been in the past few years. Getting advice from 20 years ago may not be relevant. That’s why you need to use MBA alumni groups. (shameless plug – read our ebooks at

8. I wish they would teach students to communicate their value as an MBA.   This is important as more than two-thirds of MBAs are looking for a career change and will be asked about the value they will provide. If they can’t articulate it, it must not but be real impressive.

7. I wish they would tell students that they need to focus on differentiation. Earning the same degree everyone else is doesn’t help you take advantage of opportunities.

6. I wish they would tell students to focus on creating successes during their program. Earning the degree isn’t as powerful as they think it is.

5. I wish they would tell students to learn to work together and get to know each other. They’ll soon be asking each other for a job. So make as many friends as you can.

4. I wish they would tell students that networking is the key to finding a job. In fact, Networking is the key to just about everything you’ll get out of your career. Most of the accolades you’ll seek will come from someone else.

3. I wish they would tell students that internships are critical to getting into your desired industry. Some industries require experience, like private equity, before they’ll hire you. The MBA, without the experience, is useless.

2. I wish they would tell students that the job search needs to begin when you enroll, not when you are done. It’s so sad to see students unemployed after graduation. It shouldn’t happen. Give yourself plenty of time to get a job. Start early.

1. I wish they would tell students that the MBA is just a degree in fortune telling. Saying you know something about business is much different than proving it. You have to do some good things before people will believe in you. Remember, advice without a proven track record of success is speculation.

The MBA has greatly increased in popularity around the world. In recent discussions with companies around the globe, MBAs are graduating without the skills they need to be effective. Now combine this with the fact that most graduates don’t have a plan for their career, or even the first job, and you can begin to see why so many are struggling today. Nonetheless, the responsibility for your career is yours. Pointing fingers and assessing blame doesn’t help you any. Read, study, talk with MBAs and whatever else it takes to plan your career. You’ll pay a lot of money for that MBA and if you want to get a good return, you’ll have to plan it. Otherwise, the only thing you’ll see from it is a bill each month.

What do you wish for?

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.

6 Reasons Your MBA Doesn’t Work

In developing our latest series of ebooks for MBAs, we’ve spoken with many MBA graduates around the world.   Our discussions seem to present only two real value assessments for the MBA. One category of graduates feel that the degree provided sufficient knowledge and skills for proper career growth, while the other group claims the MBA has done nothing for them. In reviewing the backgrounds of the more optimistic group of graduates, we found some interesting observations that may prove to be quite useful if you’ve found that your MBA isn’t impacting your career as you expected. As you review each point, consider what impact they would have if you’d have thoroughly investigated it and implemented it into your strategy. Would you then say your MBA is still broken?

You didn’t establish any realistic expectations. If you look at almost any MBA program, they’ll suggest that you’ll “develop the ability to accelerate you career.” Does that mean you’ll be CEO in two years? Hardly. Very few MBAs graduate with the mindset that they’ll have to work another 5 to 10 more years to earn their next promotion or the opportunity to manage a group of employees. Most think they worked hard for two years and they want their reward now. Good luck with that. Save yourself the disappointment and talk with other MBA professionals in your industry to determine real goals.

You don’t demonstrate the skills. Just because you own a basketball doesn’t mean you should be a starting point guard for the Miami Heat. You’ve just spent two years learning a lot of things. You should be able to walk into a business and start making improvements instantly. If you don’t, your company will begin to wonder what you wasted your time on. To be a big player, you have to demonstrate your skills and prove that you’ve got what it takes.

You don’t need it. Too many graduates engaged in the quest for management greatness by earning an MBA only to find out that it can’t create that kind of magic by itself. I started out my career as an engineer. Yep, I’m the stereotypical engineer who got an MBA to move into management. Little did I realize that my managers didn’t have an MBA. They didn’t see it as a necessary characteristic for a manager to possess and even asked me “why would an engineer need an MBA anyhow?”   The strange part of it was that the company helped pay for my MBA. So don’t extrapolate too much from company policies or programs.

No one knew you had one. Did your employer throw a big party for you after you graduated? Probably not. The MBA was beneficial for you but those benefits haven’t been transferred to your company yet. So even if they knew you just graduated, they won’t be nearly as excited as you are.  This point is really aimed at helping you overcome the idea that just because you have an MBA doesn’t mean that management will recognize it and put you in charge. The people that are in charge now don’t want to give up their jobs to anyone. You’ll have to earn your way, just like you did in your MBA program.

It’s just a college degree. This is probably the hardest concept to accept. You put a lot of time, effort and money into this degree with the hopes that all of life’s problems would be solved once you got it. But, alas, the MBA is just another college degree. Actually, you spent more time on your undergraduate degree. Were your expectations for it much higher? In reality, Education is a tool for evaluating your environment to make it more efficient and more effective. It’s about working smarter, not how you can manipulate your surroundings to get more money and power. It doesn’t mean you won’t work any harder. If you really want to achieve higher levels of success, you’ll have to expend higher levels of thought, energy and time. The MBA gives you a taller ladder to reach places you couldn’t before. Regardless, you’ll still have to climb to get there.

You didn’t have a plan of action for it. This is simply the #1 reason most people are disappointed with the MBA. The MBA’s biggest benefit is its biggest detriment; that is, you can do anything and go almost anywhere with it. The challenge is defining the “what and where.” Do you want to go into entrepreneurship, consulting, private equity, or management? To develop the plan, you need to decide what you want to do, outline your path, plan your goals and resources, and put it into action. The MBA does nothing by itself. It has no value. It’s a hammer. Use it to build something.

The challenge for many graduates is to determine what they want to do and how the MBA can help build a better career. The problem is that this consideration isn’t thoroughly researched until after they graduate. The MBA is a tool that can help you build a better career and life for yourself. However, it does require planning and effort before, during and after graduation. You never stop thinking. You never stop planning. You never stop implementing. Learn from those who have the MBA and a great outlook on their career. Try what they have tried and you just might find the MBA has a real purpose in your future.