Yes yes yes, we know, you want to make more money. Get a better job. Maybe work in some other part of the world. All that is perfectly fine. But as part of your pre-application MBA preparedness process, we strongly encourage you to step back and consider the question of WHY.
An MBA is a way to transform your career. You’re stuck in some dead-end position and you’re looking for a way out.
Maybe you only pursued your current career based on pressure from your family, or because you followed the crowd in college. Maybe you originally wanted to become an artist but everyone else in your family works for your grandfather’s business and that’s where you went too. Or maybe you wanted to work in a nonprofit after college but everyone else was going to Wall Street or consulting and so you ended up just following along. And now you’re like, “HEY! What I really want to do is go into tech!!*”
And now you’ve decided that bschool is the way out.
That’s all fine and good, however before you get too far along with it, we suggest you may want to look at yourself.
What do you hope to get out of your MBA experience?
Write it down. Be specific.
Yes you will get a new job. What kind of job? What kind of company?
What type of salary do you expect you deserve?
Looking at the schools’ employment reports is a start, but please don’t be distracted by those useless lists of which school has the highest salary. ANY school in the Top 30 will set you up for opportunities that pay handsomely. The average at any given school is going to be largely determined by whether they attracted some type of superstar student, almost always coming from finance, usually something like private equity, who returns back to another similar sector post-MBA and who is paid some ridiculous salary based on what they did before business school that the employer is valuing highly.
One calculation you must look at is whether you’re already at the top of what a post-MBA employer would typically be offering. If you currently earn $150,000 as a programmer, then what makes you think you’ll be able to earn more money in some other post-MBA role? Maybe you can, but it’s not guaranteed. It really depends on the role that you want to pursue and how similar or different it may be to what you have done before. Will you be leveraging all your past skills and experiences? Or are you making some huge jump into something totally new and different, where you’re going to have to learn an entire industry along with the new function? All of these things factor in to what you can expect to command in that first job out of school.
Perhaps the most important question though is this:
What do you even like to do?
Are you someone who is always coming up with new ideas? Who likes to put forth proposals and plans and figure out how to make things better?
Do you like to be given tremendous autonomy, and be told, “Go figure this out and come back to me with your recommendations”?
Or do you prefer a more structured set of tasks and clearly defined deliverables? Do you like to execute on what someone else has laid out?
What happens when there are competing ideas for what should happen next? Are you up to the challenge of changing hearts and minds?
Or do you step back and wait for the higher-ups to figure out what they want to do and assume they’ll let you know when they have?
Are you conflict-averse? Will you go to extreme lengths to avoid confrontation?
Or are you OK with debates, and potentially even willing to go to the mat for the ideas you believe in to advance the business?
Where do you stand on these different spectrums?
Remember, the MBA is about leadership. Not everyone who gets an MBA wants to become the next Jeff Bezos, but it’s generally assumed that you are interested in being proactive in your career and are looking to move ahead — which almost always involves managing others and dealing with politics.
Do you prefer to sit in your cube and work with your computer all day?
Or are you OK with endless meetings and lots of emails and reports and write-ups and navigating a big bureaucracy to get done what needs to be done?
If you’re sitting here shaking your head saying, “Nope, none of that, EssaySnark, you’re all wrong. I want to be an entrepreneur!” then do you know what type of entrepreneur you will be? Are you going for funding, to build something big? Do you know what’s involved in all of that?
Taking some time to figure out YOU is a very helpful first step to embark upon.
No, when they’re reading your admissions essays, the adcom will not be validating what type of person you are and whether you actually would enjoy the job that you’re saying you want to do post-MBA.
They’ll assume that YOU have done all that legwork. That you know what the job you’re talking up is about. That you know what the MBA is about, and you’ve chosen it for a specific reason.
Those reasons may change, even radically, as you go from here, before you’ve started school, to there, when you’re interviewing and pondering actual options.
But if we go off the premise that you want an MBA because you can’t stand your life in some way then it would behoove you to nail down the things you can’t stand, and define them, and figure out WHY you can’t stand them, and do some introspection into what you think would be a better place for you to grow and to thrive in the future.
All of this requires knowing YOU.
So get out a pen and some paper, Brave Supplicant. Start making some lists. Start evaluating what you have in mind for yourself — and the WHY is just as important as the what.
*We wrote that with tongue firmly lodged into cheek. Obviously tech is today’s Wall Street; it’s where everyone goes when they’re following the crowd. Please don’t lose sight of that!
You may also be interested in:
- “But what if I don’t know what I want to do with the MBA?”
- (For after you’ve figured it out:) Career Goals App Accelerator