Opinion on MBA?

Hi there! For some background, I was a tech consultant for about 2.5 years, left for a year to explore other opportunities (marketing and PR, which I learned I didn't like!), and am back at my consultancy during Covid for job security. I want to be more creative and strategic, and would like to find a job in branding or product management, but I'm having a hard time finding entry-level jobs right now.I am considering going to grad school and getting my MBA because of this. I know I would enjoy it - I love learning, I want to spend time diving deeper into what I'm interested in, learn a new way to think, and maybe discover new career paths along the way. I believe I would come out with new confidence, connections, and a clearer career path.IS THIS ENOUGH of a reason to go? Feeling discouraged by current job options, not entirely knowing your direction, throwing a TON of money at something...but to grow, learn, and make connections?
Hi Clara, I want to share my opinion since I am currently in the process of applying to business school. It sounds like you are defeated with the current job prospects (which is understandable). I would highly encourage you to research what all goes into not just attending business school but even getting in the first place. The process of studying for the GMAT and getting my application ready has taken almost a full year. It's a ton of work to make yourself competitive, and even then - there is no guarantee that you will get into a school. That's my one piece of advice - if you are considering business school now, know that it's a time-consuming process, and it will take another 12-18 months before you even start school, at the earliest. Be 100% sure you want to do this before you commit. Admissions Officers will interview you and ask you for your "why." They are looking for strong responses. Here's another thing: It's expensive as hell. So unless you are well off and your parents are willing to pay for our tuition, or you can get scholarships, it's really not worth your time and energy (and I am saying this as someone who is trying to get in.) You can only get scholarships if you have a top GMAT score, and studying for the exam will take you a couple of months if you do nothing else but study. You won't have much of a social life. I'm not saying this to discourage you, but to share some of the less-talked-about aspects of what it takes to even be eligible and be honest and upfront. It takes A LOT LONGER than I thought and has taken everything out of me. It's emotionally draining, and you will need a lot of discipline and commitment to make it through the application and interview process. You really gotta want it. If your primary objective is to get a job, I would double down on improving your networking skills and exploring free resources to figure out what areas you are interested in—a much cheaper and effective option than to get an MBA.
Another thing - may I ask why you decided to get an MBA? It sounds like you considered all of the pros and cons, and despite all the hard work ahead you decided to go for it. Why are you going?
Thank you for your incredibly thoughtful response, Judi! I'm not 100% sure I want to do this, and I don't have that "gotta want it" attitude. I considered grinding and for the next few months, but realistically with the holidays coming up it probably won't happen, even with Covid.Given your response it probably makes sense to delay another year. I can explore free resources and get a better understanding of what I want, and get a better score on the GMAT with more time to study.Again, really appreciate the response. GOOD LUCK!Clara
+1 to everything @judi206 said above. I'm currently an incoming MBA candidate myself and it took a full 1.5 years to get through the process while working full-time. One other thing I would add is - try checking out programs like Forte MBA Launch. They are essentially ~year-long coaching programs designed to help you navigate the process with experienced advisors as well as help build your network/meet others in the process. I was on the fence for a very long-time before finally committing to applying. Happy to chat if it's helpful. Good luck!
I will check out Forte, thank you! And might reach back out if I have questions about it :). What made you finally decide to get an MBA? What are you pursuing?
Hi @ClaraMerlino! Happy to elaborate. As you'll probably find in your research speaking with others who obtained an MBA, the decision usually tends to be very specific to that person's circumstances so definitely keep that in mind. In my case, the decision to attend is both practical and personal: Practical: I have a very clear sense for where I want to end up after the MBA. Very simply, it's a way for me to go from point A to B. Although some people go into the MBA to "explore", I personally wanted to be very solid on what I wanted to do and what specifically I wanted to get out of the program, which is moving from a mid-sized tech company to big tech with international opportunities. I am also truly excited by the learning opportunity and the coursework that MBA programs offer having studied biology in undergrad, but since pivoting into tech operations/strategy and entrepreneurship.Personal: It's a life experience that I wanted to have. It's an excellent way to be connected with like-minded, intelligent, and motivated peers who have similar interests. In my particular case, I'm also attending my "dream school" so for me, it goes beyond just the time spent at school to the life-long friends/community/network that I'll be proud to represent and be part of. Hope that helps!! What a lot of others advised me to do is just take the GMAT/GRE if you're more than 50% sure you might be interested in applying in the future. That's really the first step and takes quite a bit of time as others have mentioned. Scores last 5 years.
I've never seriously looked into an MBA myself so what I'm sharing is purely a relay of some of the things a friend of mine is currently considering — given a large value of an MBA program lies in the network, it may be worth evaluating the format of the program currently, for example, how much of it is virtual vs in-person. And further, how have in-person events been impacted? The program that my friend is looking at for example has largely banned all travels but some students are furious as the out-of-state/country networking opportunities were historically very valuable networking opportunities.
I thought about this too, the networking aspect. I thought spending one year virtual and one year in person would be a fine balance to "get through" Covid, but in actuality you're not getting all of your value there. I didn't consider travel programs. Thanks for this perspective!
For a career switch, the key to making an MBA worth it is going to a highly ranked program. Look at the rankings and only focus on the Top 20ish. The M7 are the particular elite group and then it trickles down from there. Some schools are known for being strong in tech recruiting in particular. As already mentioned, business school applications are daunting. You have to take the GMAT or GRE (schools accept either), essays, researching/interacting with the schools, recommendations, resume, never ends. I once half-joked that applying to business school could be a full-time job in itself. So just really make sure it's something you want to do before you jump in headfirst. All top schools publish employment reports with a breakdown by industry + average salaries. I would start there.
Sorry to post in anon but I'm not big on spilling my heart out in public posts. I'd just like to build on this a bit because I totally agree.I am a Product Manager at an AI company and a founder myself. I have two masters degrees- one MA and one MS. My best friend is currently finishing up her MBA from a non-target school, which she completed mostly online in under 2 years while working fulltime. She is struggling to find opportunities to pivot into the career she wants. My MS is in Economics from a top-tier international school, and it gave me two huge advantages over my colleagues in MBA programs outside of the M7:1) I was able to "specialize" in the particular areas of economic study which were interesting to me (specifically, startups and sustainability) and avoid taking more finance courses.2) It was WAY easier to get in, even though my university is one of the best in Germany. And it was also WAY cheaper. In my case, essentially free, because that's how they do it here in Germany. There is a masters degree in everything under the sun nowadays. There are MS in Product Management now. Try looking at these as an alternative to an MBA. Some programs are insanely cool. So unless you're REALLY interested in taking the accounting, finance, and other required MBA courses in addition to the "fun" strategy, management, etc. courses - then its not worth it to go if the program is outside of the M7 (my opinion) - Not worth the debt and not worth the "skills" learned in these programs.Having an MBA nowadays does not guarantee you any type of role. I have a whole lot of opinions for best ways to get into Product roles, and going for you MBA is not one of them.Please note: I'm not trying to write off anyone else's experience! This has just been mine. If you feel like your MBA set you up for amazing things , then that belief is totally valid and probably even more so than mine, as I do not have an MBA. At the same time, I know for a fact that an MBA is not the only way to get into Branding or PM, so here I am with this long novel of a post.Good luck in whatever you decide, Clara!
I really appreciate this! I don't see this at all like you're "writing off" anyone's experience, and I will definitely check out MS as an option. This amazing discussion has given me a lot to consider and I love it. Thank you!
Great thought process Clara! I obtained my MBA from Florida Atlantic University. Here are some thoughts:I did a fully-online program. I regretted this because i did a study abroad (in Argentina) and met many people from my cohort who were absolutely brilliant! So if you do consider an MBA, do it in-person! You’ll even have CEO’s, VP’s and Chiefs in your classes. After i obtained my MBA i did apply for internal management positions at my job, and i was hired. I don’t think it had much to do with my MBA, since my job doesn’t require an MBA, and had everything to do more with EXPERIENCE. I know many people with and MBA and very little experience, and they endured a struggle to find a job. So i would look for ways to move up where you currently are. Find a mentor that can help you get to the next step. That’s what i did. Lastly, you will be taking on student debt. I think that’s fine, if you are pretty sure you are on your way to that next step (the step i talked about previously). Here’s how i maneuvered this: i was working an analyst role, and knew there would come a time i could ask for a management role and it would be available. I was 100% sure, the opportunity would come because my job does offer opportunities to grow. Because of this, i landed my first management role after grad school and was able to pay back my student loans with a higher income. I had a strategic plan. Consider these on a pro and con list, and you’re off to a great start!! Good luck! :) 🌻
Fully online was something I was worried about, especially with Covid making it essentially the only option. I was leaning towards waiting to apply and this helped confirm that. Can you tell me a bit more about how you found your mentor, and what they did to help you?
I was fortunate to have a boss that was an incredible leader. She would slowly push me to grow. For example, she knew i was scared of public speaking so she looked for small opportunities for me to talk in front of a crowd, and eventually (after about a year) i was leading board meetings. She would delegate tasks that she knew i would love, and i grew from that as well. Fast forward about 3 years and i met a CEO she connected me with. He’s now my mentor and i actually created a template for our 1:1 sessions. I’m happy to share it, just shoot me an email: [email protected]I know finding mentors can be hard, but start in your own organization first. That’s the easiest place to start. Then reach out to people on LinkedIn. Sometimes people will respond and sometimes not, but it is a way to gain a mentor too. 🌻
Hi! Would love to chat with you about this.
Absolutely! Shoot me an email:[email protected]🌻
I would spend a little more time dialing in on this: "I want to be more creative and strategic, and would like to find a job in branding or product management." Speaking as someone who was previously very creative (documentary television producer) and then went to an MBA! (Now I work in startup marketing.) The more armed you are with strong understanding of the types of work which help you thrive, the more opportunity you'd get out of something like an MBA. It's great that you have the focus on branding and product management; that gives you a path to explore those 2 fields, network with folks currently in those roles, and vet that is your goal. Most of my friends who came into the MBA without a clear goal were either sponsored by consulting firms *or* were aiming to go into consulting at Top 3 for a 2 year stint, purely to raise their market salary and then go on to do other things. This coming from a program, MIT, which doesn't even emphasize needing a "goal"; a major part of the interview process at other top tier schools. So basically, that brand/product mgmt story better *sound* very convincing (even if you are not yourself convinced) to get into certain programs. I might recommend you start with some courses that help fulfill you in this capacity you're lacking right now. One rec I have for you to consider is Prof G's brand strategy class; a woman on my team is currently going through this at my suggestion for her main professional development activity this year. She's enjoying it a lot! His classes have always been digital so he is good at facilitating the class remotely. You could find something similar in product management, and maybe see if these focused courses scratch your itch? If you are left inspired, wanting *way* more, and feeling more confident about either path I could definitely see you enjoying an MBA!
I love this! Thank you Natalie! I definitely do plan to network more in these areas. I checked out section4, and there's a product management class coming up that I might take. Do you happen to know if an employer cares about where you get certificates, or just the fact that you did one? There seem to be so many these days that it's hard for me to rank some above others, and I'm guessing employers have a similar perspective when evaluating a candidate. Something like "Oh, they have a certificate, wonderful."
It really depends. (Same goes for MBAs, some employers care and some do not.) However I expect the learnings would shine through in an interview. The nice thing about section4 is that he is a bschool professor so it might help you evaluate the desire for an MBA *and* also show bschools you are serious if you decide to apply.
Great advice. Thank you so much!
I considered an MBA but ultimately did a MA in Economics and FWIW I find people find it much more credible than an MBA. Plus I absolutely loved it and met lots of great folks, even though it was hard to go back at 28 to do it.
Thank you for asking this question! I'm not considering an MBA in the near future, but have certainly entertained thoughts about either an MBA or other specialized graduate degree. So I'm really appreciating all the thoughtful discussion coming from this. Following!
I am currently applying and like Judi said it is a hugeeeee time commitment. I work FT but frankly applying to B school is like another job haha! I have been studying for the GMAT for a year, and I think the average applicant has studied for at least 5-6 months. It's also a horrible test :) Essay writing can be a lot of soul searching (some schools ask some really deep questions to understand why an MBA, why now) so I'd say if you don't have answers to those, when you dig further, then I'd probably consider the new job route - will be cheaper for you and stay in the professional game.
Thank you! This discussion has been amazing and I definitely need to dig deeper into my "why." May I ask why you decided to go to grad school?
Of course! So I want to start my own venture, and do it in a different continent (there is a big story around the impact I want to create back home and it is a bit longer than that but I am going to stay vague for anon purposes :| ) - through Business school I want to grow my own network, in order to make that geographic move...
I made the transition from PR to PM. It’s not the traditional path, and I had also considered the MBA route which for a while felt essential. Fortunately, with a mix of luck and hustle I was able to join a small-ish company where there was a path to transition. This gave me the experience I needed for my current PM role. I think if you’re still unsure about the MBA path it’s worth looking around for smaller companies where these transition opportunities exist. FWIW I was able to make the case that many PR/agency skills lend themselves well to PM. You will bring a unique perspective! Happy to share more info/tips if you’d like.
Yes! This is fantastic. I also have some experience in PR, and I'd love to know how you found that small-ish company. What did hustle look like for you? I'll DM you!
I would highly recommend reading some of the articles brunchwork founder Paulina Karpis has written on this topic. Here's a piece she did for Forbes that's been pretty popular: just finished the brunchwork business intensive and really enjoyed. I had been considering an MBA for similar reasons, but don't do well with traditional learning and have already invested in an advanced degree, so I knew I'd have to give it a lot of thought. I'm so glad I did the intensive, it gave me the foundation I need and confirmed that an MBA is not the right option for me. There are continuous learning workshops after the intensive with great speakers, which I really love. Please feel free to DM me if you have questions about the program! Happy to chat about my experience :)
I would love to hear about your brunchwork experience! I'm looking for a class to sign up for next. I'll DM you!
I won't repeat what others have said, but will share takeaways from my own experience (I got an MBA from Stanford a few years ago):- Application process: Focus on top-ranked programs (I'd target top 10 if you can). I didn't find the process as burdensome/time-consuming as some others here have described, but I'm the kind of person who enjoys standardized tests. :) - Switching industries or roles: An MBA program presents a great opportunity to switch industries or roles. That said, I'd make sure you go in focused on what industry/role you want to move into (e.g. product management) rather than treating the experience as an opportunity to go broad and try a bit of everything.- Is it essential for career fulfillment? No. If you're scrappy and hard-working, you'll find a way to carve out a compelling career niche regardless of whether or not you get an MBA. An MBA just makes things easier and opens doors. Re: the investment, the industry you're coming from will likely determine whether the post-MBA salary bump you'll get will make it financially worthwhile.Feel free to DM me if I can be helpful!