Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Letter to My Future MBA Self

Just say no to investment banking.
Just say no to further discussion of MBA program rankings.
Just say not to further discussion of the value of getting an MBA.

So I've heard current students talk about the very powerful peer influence at MBA programs which can send you recruiting for careers you don't even really want. I consistently feel like I will be impervious to such influences but, following some of the discussions on the admit group, I've been realizing how easily peer opinion can swing your own emotions and thoughts. So this will be interesting.

If you're still in the process of applying to MBA programs, however, keeping your head on straight can be an even more challenging process. How to write the Why MBA/Why Now/Why School X essay when you are hardly sure of any of those answers yourself? If you really want an MBA to get out of the crappy job you find yourself in currently, if you somedays your heart is set on school X and somedays on school Y and somedays you think the whole idea is just bad through and through - how to sound determined about your plan?

In general, while I'm dispensing unsolicited advice, I highly recommend applicants absorb what they can from online resources but also give themselves a healthy distance when it comes time to write or to make final decisions. I highly recommend that you think of your essays as letters to your future MBA selves, penned in the safety of a nice quiet (forum-free) room with a good view. (But I highly recommend that you limit your exposure to BWeek forums always anyway.)

Ibanking - someone's got to do it but if you're interested in the money alone, prepare to be miserable. Remember ibankers aren't well-paid for no reason. They are paying with their life. If the work excites you, you'll accept the price/won't mind the price. If it doesn't, you're just throwing away an expensive degree. There are lots of ways to make a good living after getting an MBA.

Rankings - at some point you've got to give the debate a rest. Do your research. Visit schools. Make your final cut and then forget there are any other programs out there. Forget that there are rankings. Agree to just disagree with many other opinionated folk. Once you've applied, once you've accepted, don't harass your classmates or fellow alums with discussions of other schools. Make your school the best it can be while you're there and make it even better after you leave. Where your current school or alma mater stands in someone else's eyes is hollow comfort. The real question is what the place does for you and what you do for it. (You are the school now.) That's all that matters. If you can't trust yourself to pick the right school, you shouldn't be applying to programs at all. If you don't like the schools that let you in, then don't go.

Value of an MBA - lots of brilliant people don't have MBAs. Most brilliant people don't have an MBA. Some people hate MBAs. Some people will love you because you have an MBA. Frankly, no one needs an MBA but some people want an MBA. If you want an MBA you don't have to justify this to anyone but yourself. Once you've signed up, put away the cost/benefit analysis. Once you've graduated, don't linger on the loan repayment statements. It's done, you've done it and you made the best decision you were able to. But please, do the rest of us a favor and help dispel the reputation that MBAs are money-hungry, ranking-addicted cocky bastards ... we've got a lot of work to do there.


Sudha said...

agree with everything u said 200%!!! brilliant piece of advice :-)

I have been following your blog for a while now and think u have an exciting adventure ahead - b-school and baby! all the best :-)

forrest gump said...

good post. i wish i can say that to myself - i am kinda vacillating between consulting and internet companies - depending on how the opportunities shape up, we will see.

are you based out of chicago(sorry, i dont remember)...you wouldnt need to move if you are, right ?

MaybeMBA said...

Sudha - thanks :)

Forrest - I'm based in the Pacific Northwest so we're gearing up for a long move, unfortunately. But at least you're not hooked on ibanking ;) the vacillation makes sense to me!

Ben said...


Great Blog! I've been following your blog for a while now and I really enjoy your insight. A few fellow business school students and I just launched a site called bschoolers.com which is an "open" community blog by, and for, the business school community. We'd be really interested in having you contribute blog postings and join the community. Check out the site. Our hope is with help of bschoolers across the globe we can make it a universally useful resource for all bschool students.
Also, we will be adding a link to your site as a useful resource. We would very much appreciate a reciprocal link.


Ben Siscovick

Caitlin said...

I agree that the value of an MBA can be debated forever--I think the most important thing is really to go into it with realistic expectations about what you will and won't learn. My MBA was nothing like I expected and the most important lessons were things I didn't even know I needed to learn.

Love the blog--it's an important read for those considering an MBA. I share my insights at http://caitlinweaver.blog.com/, where I'm including a link to your site.