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.