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.

How To Maintain Focus On Your Career Goals

If you had to identify the biggest challenge most of us have with achieving our goals, you’d probably guess correctly that most of us just don’t plan for it. Sure, we work hard to accomplish specific tasks but we do so with the hope that someone else will see these great feats and automatically make the connection to the next step in our career. We don’t think about what these connections might be or how to make them ourselves. It’s not an easy thing to understand and takes time and analysis to comprehend. But, we don’t take the time or is it that we don’t have the time.

With so many things competing for our attention today, how can we effectively wade through the barrage of information to sort out what is truly important to our career?

In order to understand our challenge a little better, I interviewed David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done,” to find out what we could be doing differently. While the question was directed at MBAs, David’s answer will give everyone the key we’ve been looking for. Here’s part of our discussion.

Todd: What do MBA graduates miss when they develop their career goals?

David: One of the biggest things they miss that they don’t get in their training is to create a personal systemic process to manage keeping their own work and lives under control and being focused on the right things at the right time. This is a core or a meta-behavior or a meta-set of best practices that make all other best practices viable. If you’re out of control and unfocused, you can read all the best “market yourself” books but you won’t be able to execute on it. The critical element is that when you think about going into a job or a career, in terms of how well you manage the stuff you need to manage, you must be able to keep track of it.


It comes down to the two aspects of self-management: control and perspective. The only time you think you need a better system of management is when you think one of these is suboptimal. Either things are not as in control as possible or you feel you’re on unstable ground. If you’re on unstable ground, there’s a part of you that has the inability to focus appropriately or execute appropriately. You don’t have any traction.   Even if you’re on stable ground, are you pointed in the right direction? If you’re pointed at the wrong stuff, you’ll create instability again. There’s a direct correlation between control and perspective.


If you have good self management skills, you’re ready for anything. If you have these behavior sets, you are ready for surprises that show up or if things don’t go as expected, you can recalibrate yourself quickly to take in new data, new situations and decide what they mean. Then you can hold this up against everything else you have going on and re-point yourself in the right direction. Simply put, can you keep yourself only as organized as you need to be and no more? [End of Interview]

To maintain control and perspective, you must possess a method that you can refer to when you need it. It must be easy to use. It must be simple. We’re already too busy and a lengthy process would never find time in our calendars.   Well, David has suggestions for that too. In his simple approach, you must take the time to understand what it is that is commanding all of your attention. What are all of the things that are living inside your head? When it comes to mental processing, your conscious mind does not do the hard work. Most information goes to your subconscious mind anyway, where your problems are really solved.  Your conscious mind actually gets in the way when you have too many things you’re trying to focus your attention on. You subconscious mind wants you to just tell it what you want it to figure out and then forget it. It will do all the work and come back to you with an answer. If you’re constantly thinking about an issue, your subconscious can’t help you figure it out. Your task is to keep your conscious mind clear.

Here’s a tip you can do today that will clear your mind and free up some processor time to solve problems and plan your path. Grab a notebook and write down all the things that are occupying your attention. This could include some basic needs like paying bills, getting new tires for the car, homework for a college course you’re taking, meetings you must attend and so on. This activity can take you several hours to complete. Notice I didn’t mention any work-related, networking or other career-related activities. You must write them all down. Once you complete your list, you’ll find that you normally have a lot on your mind. Most likely, you have too much on your mind and you’re occupying thought time on things you probably shouldn’t be (but this will be addressed later in another step in David Allen’s process).

Well, I hate to leave you with only the first step in this great process but this post is getting too long. Stay tuned for our next ebooks to be released where we’ll share the rest of David Allen’s process for removing the clutter from your conscious mind and how you can put your subconscious mind in top performing condition. You’ve heard the old adage “that life is all about the little things.” Well, it’s those little things that can slow you down in achieving the goals you really want when you spend too much time thinking about them. Free your mind and let it work the way it was meant to.

Thanks to David Allen for a great interview and advice on how we can improve our mental performance. You can learn more about David Allen at

The Source of Inspiration for High Achievers