TweetBack Thursdays: The MBA doesn’t help you figure out what you want to do!

Chris Reagan asked me to comment on: “I feel like I could write ‘all the reasons everyone’s told you an MBA is great, but why it won’t help you figure out what you want to do.’

From a curricular standpoint, that is by design.  The MBA is a generalist degree. Its power lies in giving you many options.Nothing is more valuable than having options. You can take the conceptual, analytic and communication skills you learn in an MBA program and apply them to a wide variety of settings.  In a world that is moving fast and where people have to reinvent themselves every eight to ten years to stay relevant, strong general skills are a must.  Math, statistics, platform skills, and the ability to write never ever go out of style.

Realize that what you want to do for a living isn’t in the curriculum, it is in you. Most people don’t know what they want to do when they grow up and it tends to change over time.  The only real way to know this is to experience the job.  That is why I am so big on internships and job shadowing while you are in school–it allows you to see the day to day of the work and what people do. Asking professionals about their work in areas that interest you can also help. The other thing to remember here is that if you try something and don’t like it–don’t be afraid to try something else.  Don’t fall victim to the fallacy of sunk costs.


4 thoughts on “TweetBack Thursdays: The MBA doesn’t help you figure out what you want to do!

  1. I couldn’t agree more with the advice to keep trying things if you don’t like what you are doing. When you spend over 1/3 of your life working, you need to have a passion for what you do. Life is too short wasting it in a job that doesn’t excite you.

  2. Excellent advice!! I meet with existing MBA students as well as students who are thinking about staying in school to get their MBA. My first question is always, “Tell me what you want to be when you grow up.” My second is always, “Why do you think an MBA will help you with that?” More often than not I hear some version of a student likes school, is good at school, or feels it will benefit them in the future even though they can’t even fake an answer to the first question. As the parent of a teenager, I recognize this behavior as “stalling.” Many times the issue isn’t sloth or some other deadly sin, it’s a lack of knowledge or understanding about the types of first jobs that are out there.

    A first job is a lot like a high school sweetheart. You’re going to learn a lot, but it’s probably not what you’re going to be with forever. And even if it does last, the sweetie you first met will NOT be the same person you’re with 10 years later! If you get a job and ten years later you haven’t been promoted or your job hasn’t changed significantly, the problem isn’t the job, it’s you!

    Students: if you’re considering grad school, but can’t answer my first question I invite you to come by and plead your case. The Office for Career Connections is happy to help.

    • Lonny, would I be correct in thinking that you mostly have the “Why do you think an MBA will help you?” discussion with one-year MBA students or prospects? I work with Professional and Executive MBA students and prospects who have been in the work place for anywhere from 3 years to 25 years, they all know what they want to do and most of them have a specific reason for getting an MBA. It is often the educational credentials and applicable knowledge from MBA classes that allow them to get the next promotion, to move from a technical position to management, to take their small business to the next level, or to make a career move to a different functional area or industry. In their case, the MBA complements their work experience, enhances their skills, and differentiates them from others. It’s great when they contact us months or years later and say that their career has been impacted significantly since graduation, and they owe much of their success to our MBA program.

      • You’d be correct. Students exploring the Professional or Executive programs, generally are not seeking information from our office and if they do, we refer them to the EDC. As you point out, those students usually already have a career path set or are doing this as part of changing their career. They aren’t seeking career enlightenment from the curriculum, they rightly seek education and information. However, for “traditional” students who do not have a clear career path, going and simply getting an MBA will get them no closer to identifying career interests. That’s where assessments, internships, informational interviews, mentoring, and starting to build a professional network comes in. Figuring out what you want to be won’t be answered in a program curriculum, it’s a hard question that has to be answered by the individual and that’s why I start the conversation by asking it!

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