Sunday, March 08, 2009

The MBA in Modern Business

As I near the completion of my MBA studies, I am naturally interested in my prospects to make something of my accomplishment, besides the opportunity to cover my wall with some tasteful calligraphy. The news of late – say for the last year or so – has been increasingly dismal, especially for those about to graduate from school. I’ve been fortunate in that regard, since I have a job right now, but I do admit that it bothers me to think that all my work to earn an MBA might not result in any substantive improvement in my career profile. Then again, a few initials on a resume do not change the person carrying them. At best, they open the door to discussions with people who might be interested in the person who accomplished the degree. I have to say that some of the people in my class who are about to graduate with me, are not worth an interview in my opinion for any important position. This is because while they have collected the degree, they have neglected to incorporate the tools that make the salient difference in their qualifications to lead employees. This is sadly too common; far too many managers seem to think that management is about giving orders to someone else, who then is expected to do the real work. Such people are corporate vampires and they kill businesses. Obviously, a good interviewer should be able to screen them out and keep them far away from any position involving decision-making or course-setting. I have not only applied for many positions in my life, I have also done a lot of the hiring and interviewing, and I would say that overall, the ratio of qualified applicants to unqualified contenders is about 1 in 4. With higher-profile positions, that ratio becomes more acute, so that executive positions are likely to attract a candidate pool that is at least 95% unsuitable.
A lot of my classmates are, to be blunt, coasting as they see graduation approaching, and they do not understand that they need to make themselves valuable to the companies they wish to impress. The suit and the crisp paper for the resume are details, not the substance. The first mission of the MBA graduate is to make himself valuable for a company that agrees to take him aboard, then to work constantly to improve that value for the company. In short, be worth more than you cost, and exceed expectations as you progress in the company. This not only is what the company expects when they hire someone with an MBA, it’s also the best way to improve your profile for promotion. This should be obvious to everyone, yet sadly I see over and over again that many would-be executives place their personal responsibility and commitment to go beyond expectations as low priorities.
I made one ‘B’ my first semester at UHV, the same semester when I had emergency surgery and was diagnosed with cancer. Even so, I was disappointed in that ‘B’, and I worked hard to make sure everything since then was an ‘A’. My initial 3.66 GPA for the first semester has steadily climbed to 3.93 as I earned nothing but A’s. This was not because it would matter to anyone but me; so far as I know there are no rewards for a high GPA beyond knowing you met the grade. But I have made sure to learn every concept and acquire every tool that was possible, so that when I leave with my MBA I will be much more capable as a manager. That, when everything is said and done, is the value of a Masters in Business Administration, no matter the time or place.


Eric said...

DJ, I'm a year from finishing my advanced degree (MS Engineering Management) but I'm dismayed by the two guys STILL at my job with MBAs who can't seem to get out, much as they try.

I guess it's the economy. Things will turn around (right?)

fred said...

DJ, Congratulations on approaching the finish line in your MBA program.
Your blog reinforces my notion that high performers will always stand out in a crowd of those seeking to do just enough to gain the degree. The same is true of the workplace, although as the economy improves, there tend to be plenty of people willing to do 'just enough' to obtain a job. In downsizes, they tend not to last. Look forward to hearing you have your degree in hand. I'm sure it will open the right doors and once you are there.....well, you know the rest.

Best Wishes,