Friday, December 19, 2008

Value of an MBA, or Continuing Education as a Career Boost pt 2

Yesterday, I noted that earning an advanced degree may or may not be worth the time, cost, and effort. Sadly, I believe that some of my fellow students will soon be disappointed when they discover the limits of their new degrees. That said, those who have planned ahead may find the degree will be well worth the investment.

It’s a fact too often missed, that to bring in the big money you have to give the company good reason to believe that you will produce commensurately higher revenue for the company, thus justifying your high price tag. Therefore, you do not just need to be good enough to do the job, you need to be so good that the people considering you feel that they must have you. An MBA can play an important role in that campaign, provided you learn the things you need to be able to reflect in your resume and interviews, and provided you learn from your studies where you are weakest and strongest.

When I first began my MBA efforts, I mentioned that there are basically two roads you can travel; getting into the best school to which you are accepted, or the best school you can afford, in terms of time as well as money. This decision is critical. In my case, I chose the second course because of my experience and prior education. My Bachelor’s degree is from Baylor University, well known for academic excellence. If not a top-tier school, Baylor is certainly known internationally as a school with solid credentials. Further, I decided to go after an MBA to complement 23 years of work experience, which both limits my ceiling and establishes a floor of positional ability. A top-tier school, say the Chicago School of Business or Stanford, would not be a good fit for me because my resume will not make a top CEO position possible for me. That’s not defeatism; almost no one is truly qualified to be a Fortune 500 CEO, including about one-third of those people who actually became such executives. What I mean, is that an effective job search starts with understanding what you can and should target. A lot of frustration people get in hunting, is that they chase some jobs that they either could not get, or for which they are not a good fit. In my case, my experience is sufficient to apply for a mid-level management position, and the MBA improves the profile both for the management position and in promising executive potential for anyone bringing me on board. That is, multiple talents and a proven track record. The kid with no experience, for him a solid internship would be critical. The MBA buys you a ticket to a lower floor in that case, but if it’s a solid school and you do a job that gets you noticed for the right reasons, it can lead to a fast track that the more experienced managers do not get to experience. On the other hand, a more experienced manager gets work contact sooner with upper management, and if that is done well it can lead to opportunities that the kids won’t see for years.

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