by John Hopkins
Getting an MBA is a great way to fast-track your career, or boost your chances at landing that dream job. It’s hard to quantify the kind of value it can add to your professional life, but think of the MBA as a catalyst to your career growth. The kind of progress you would normally expect to see in 10 years can happen in just five, if you play your cards right. But the MBA is also a big commitment—of both time and money.
So how do you decide if it’s right for you?
You need to consider just HOW this degree will accelerate your career or improve your employability.
If there’s one defining characteristic of the MBA, it’s leadership. You need to show that you are a natural leader already to gain admittance into a good MBA program. Then that program transforms you into a capital “L” Leader, taking that natural talent and giving you the tools and credentials to use it.
You will find copious opportunities in the classroom, in student organizations and clubs and through immersive programs. But the real magic is that you will be surrounded by peers who are also high-potential leaders themselves. Learn from their experience, and thrive with a little healthy competition. If you can emerge as the natural or selected leader of a group that’s composed of OTHER leaders, then you are in a good spot.
Why is leadership so important?
If you’re considering an MBA, then you are probably on the kind of career track (or looking to switch to the kind of career track), where future promotions will require you to lead ever larger groups. Whatever your chosen industry, to reach the highest echelons, your leadership ability is going to be one of, if not THE, most important factor. If you’re not yet convinced, here are some key reasons you’ll need to learn to lead, and the skills an MBA will provide:
- Leading a team: Whether it’s two people or 20, to rise in any field you’ll need to be able to bring your team together, align them on a set objective, and motivate them to succeed.
- Making tough decisions: Part of being in charge is making decisions that may have serious consequences. You need to know how to gather unbiased input from your peers or subordinates, weigh the options, and be decisive.
- Navigating conflict: As a leader you need to find solutions to conflicts between peers or subordinates, no matter how tense or personal the situation may be.
- Setting organizational culture: While less clearly defined, it takes skilful leadership to “set the tone” for your organization. Whether leading by example or instituting process changes, a good leader will be able to influence the culture of their organization in a positive way
Know-how and Experience
Beyond leadership, an MBA will give you business knowledge, insight, and even experience that you would have a hard time gaining over the course of a career. Benefitting from the vast and varied experience of professors and classmates, you’ll become a more informed and capable decision maker. Better yet, with the trend we’ve observed as admissions consultants toward specialization in business you will have the opportunity to go beyond the business fundamentals and dive into whatever specific topics interest you most, whether that’s entrepreneurship, tech, health, or any other industry.
Depending on your career track or desired career, you will almost certainly be able to gain the knowledge you need to succeed during the MBA, and this will add immeasurable value to your career. Some of these key foundational offerings that will boost your knowledge in widely applicable areas are:
- Finance: Whether or not you will enter a specialty in finance, you will need a basic fluency to progress to executive levels of leadership.
- Organizational behavior: The degree will give you access to the latest science on group and interpersonal relationships, relationships that determine whether a business runs smoothly or not.
- Economics: Micro and macro—you must know how the system works!
- Strategy: Whether or not you seek a strategy-based role, you will need a basic understanding of business strategy to rise in the ranks
- Negotiation: Perhaps the most widely applicable skill set—whether you are in a client-facing role or managing competing interests internally, you need to be able to hold your own at the negotiating table.
- Ethics: Sure to bring forth some lively discussions, this is an often overlooked essential of business education
In addition to the hard and soft skills you’ll gain, the MBA will give you the confidence to aim high, and that can make all the difference. Having the self-assured mindset to set ambitious goals for yourself and take steps towards achieving those goals will take you far—and you will have the on-paper qualifications to back your ambitions up.
While there are many other reasons to pursue an MBA (on a personal level, attending a bunch of well-funded parties with very smart people is certainly not the worst way to spend a couple of years), the value you will add to your career and to your employability is undeniable. So if you are looking for a way to fast-track your professional life, take the leap with an MBA.