For whatever reason, you’ve decided that you want an MBA. Many schools have essay questions asking you to explain why you want one. Regardless of how much thought you’ve put into that question before now, we’re going to pose one specific challenge today, for you to consider, to evaluate how you want to live your life as a whole.
There could be many reasons for you to answer this one way, versus another, and neither is necessarily “right” or “wrong” — but the question itself can be instructive, as it can help you uncover your values.
It also can potentially help you find a pathway to happiness.
That’s because you can only maximize the variables in life that you know about. You can only pursue the goals that recognize for yourself as worth pursuing.
If you think about what type of experience you want from the MBA, you may come up with a blank wall as your initial answer.
Maybe you haven’t given it that much thought at all. Maybe you didn’t get much further from the ideas around wanting the MBA, in order to get a new job. Maybe you’ve been dissatisfied in your current career for awhile, and you see the MBA as a way out.
All of those things are true!
And…. What if you were seeking out an MBA in order to actually change and to grow?
In this year, the endless year of 2020 that seems like it will never ever end, many of us are simply trying to survive it — without putting on too many extra pounds, without running through all of the shows on Netflix, without having so many spats with our partner or roommate that we end up sleeping on the coach permanently.
“Change” and “growth” may be noble ideals, but in a time when we’re just trying to make it through the day without losing it on a Zoom with a coworker, they may be too far out of reach to even comprehend.
Assuming that by the time you’ll be starting your MBA in late summer or fall 2021, that the world will be settling into a new post-virus rhythm where more of us will be able to be engaging in the Real World with other actual people in bodies, and you’ll be sitting in an actual classroom to learn your bschool curriculum instead of only in video squares…
And assuming that that means that the threat of sickness or even death from this virus is starting to fade by that time, and we can do things like go to the gym or go to the movies or get on a plane without being nervous of risk of contagion…
And therefore, assuming we’ll have a more balanced approach to existence then, where our mental health doesn’t seem completely under attack at all times, and things feel like we can handle them more effectively without losing our shit…
THEN we can expect that to be a time where we are capable of actively seeking out growth.
Where we are actively inviting situations that stretch us beyond our limits, that push us beyond the status quo, where we’re challenged to do things we don’t think we’re capable of doing.
Right now? Reading these sentences? You may be all, “Hell no, I ain’t doing any of that!” You may be completely satisfied, and justifiably so! to sit on your couch playing Call of Duty (or Animal Crossing. or Candy Crush.).
But, just as a thought experiment, indulge us for a minute:
In an ideal world — a world which, yes, at some point, we will slowly start to inhabit again (well maybe not “ideal” but closer to the Before Times than we’re experiencing now) — in some world where we can congregate together and rhythms of life include going out in public without wearing a mask, and we are able to hug people we love and laugh and sing together if we want, then at that point in time, maybe as soon as Fall 2021, will you be looking to just get through the experience of bschool, and get popped out the other side with the new degree and out into your new job?
Or do you want bschool to be hard?
Do you want it to be a situation that forces you to adapt, that puts in in circumstances you wouldn’t normally sign up for?
Do you want bschool to be easy or hard?
It is TOTALLY okay if you’re saying, “Nah, bschool can be easy, sign me up for that version please!”
This year has been harder than any of us ever expected, so having made it to the final quarter of a massive slog of challenges socially and culturally and electorally and financially and medically, you’re entitled to want to take it easy for awhile.
It is only through challenges that most of us grow. That whole Darwinian notion about adaptation and having to change? Yeah, that. That reality is true for us as individuals in terms of having to step up to become someone new, based on what life throws at us, and being forced to do things differently.
When you look at what a business school offers, consider looking at the opportunities through that lens. When you read about a class that they have, or what activities a club puts on, or the overseas trips that they have (yes, all of which have been canceled this year, but they will come back at some point!) — imagine how YOU would take advantage of them. See yourself doing those things, and think about what it would give you.
If you already have a business background, if you studied economics in college, if you’ve worked in finance for years, then this is even more important. What resources does your target school offer that would challenge you, and how would you put them to use?
Going through these examinations can be a great way to help you a) see how the schools are more different than perhaps you had first understood, and b) pitch the school on why you should go there, when it comes time to write a “why MBA” essay about your interest in them in specific, and c) evaluate programs later on, if (when!) you get multiple admits and have the toughest decision in the world to make; and even d) explore the question of ROI and make sure that you’re choosing the type of educational path that is most appropriate, based on what you want to do with yourself next, and finding the program that will let you maximize your opportunities for change.
Because in the end, the MBA is a vehicle for self-transformation.
Everyone gets changed through the course of earning the graduate degree. The extent to which you run into that change process headlong and willing, as a malleable and eager participant who wants to know what your life can become, versus being dragged along on a conveyor belt of the MBA curriculum to get the credential and get spit out of the bschool machine, newly-minted but not actually that different at the core… This can be a determining factor on whether the whole thing feels worth it or not, by the time the experience is over.
The game isn’t about how much money you make or what your post-MBA salary ends up being. That’s important, sure, but that’s not the point of it all, is it?
Are you interested in challenging yourself, and growing?
Seek out where you can do that, from the moment of acceptance till the day you graduate, and even off into the future far beyond that point. Different schools invite different types of people who are looking for different types of experiences and opportunities. You’re in the shopping phase right now and you can make the most of that, even starting today!
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