The Right & Wrong Reasons for Getting an MBA
An MBA can certainly pay off.
For many, the degree can offer a path to a new career, higher pay, and better job prospects.
But it’s also expensive. Very expensive. Top B-schools can cost upwards of $200,000. And it seems like it isn’t getting cheaper any time soon.
Before you decide to invest in an MBA, it’s important to weigh the pros and the cons. Liza Kirkpatrick, managing director of the Career Management Center at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, recently wrote a piece for the Harvard Business Review detailing all the right and wrong reasons for pursuing an MBA.
One of the best reasons to pursue an MBA, according to Kirkpatrick, is to “future-ready” your career. What exactly does that mean?
“It means that more and more companies are looking to come out of the pandemic stronger than they were before by pivoting and adjusting their business models,” Kirkpatrick writes. “Hiring the right talent with the right skills is an important piece of that. You should have the same mindset. Ask yourself: ‘How can I expand my skillset and capabilities to be the best candidate for these roles?’”
Attending B-school can help develop valuable soft skills and analytical chops. So, if you’re looking to make yourself more competitive and “future-ready” your career, then the MBA may be a smart investment.
The MBA can also be beneficial if you’re looking to make a career pivot.
“Business school is a great time to gain exposure to peers, faculty, and a network of alumni from many professional backgrounds — as well as class projects and case studies that dive deeply into different industries and sectors,” Kirkpatrick writes.
In fact, one of the main benefits of going to B-school is the people that you meet. The connections you make in your program can open you to a number of opportunities.
“I was recently talking with a graduate who was in the running for a job at a large e-commerce tech company, but suddenly became stuck in the hiring process,” Kirkpatrick writes. “An alum with connections at that company made an inquiry, discovered the issue was a delay in HR, and provided a recommendation that moved her application forward.”
Kirkpatrick says one of the biggest misconceptions about the MBA is viewing it as a “magic pill” to success.
While the degree can open up opportunities for a new career, higher pay, and better job prospects, it isn’t always the only way, or the right solution.
“If you are feeling doubts about your current role, or struggling to advance at the pace you want, there are other steps you can take first,” Kirkpatrick writes. “For example, you can step up at work by asking your manager for a stretch project in your area of interest and seeking out their critical feedback. You can also try cultivating relationships with people whose careers you admire to find out what they did to get where they are. With this level of engagement, you might learn more about what you really want, set new goals, and be positioned to take full advantage of an MBA program when, and if, you choose to pursue one later on.”
Most importantly, Kirkpatrick says, prospective applicants need to have a solid reason behind why they want to pursue an MBA and what they hope to gain out of it.
What is one of the worst reasons for pursuing an MBA? Boredom.
“Boredom can take the form of frustration — with not being recognized, not getting better projects, watching others get promoted,” Kirkpatrick writes. “This is an invitation to pause and reflect: Why are these opportunities going to other people and not you? What skills do you need? Will it change how others perceive you? By reflecting on these questions, you can gain insight into your current situation. If you don’t, you could end up asking yourself, ‘Why did I even go to business school?’”