As I was starting my career as a young business professional, I wasn’t really sure which route I wanted to take in terms of which industry I should try to be in or what my niche would be within my company/industry. At the time I graduated with my undergrad, it was a difficult time to find a job, so more than anything I stumbled into my first real position as a Pricing Analyst at a mature and struggling paper company. With little direction in terms of my actual career, one thing I knew I wanted to do was continue my education by pursuing a graduate degree. I felt that undergrad degrees were becoming more and more common, and thus less valuable and less differentiating. So going back to school for my MBA seemed like the perfect way to differentiate myself from my peers. Considering my company’s current trajectory I figured it wouldn’t be too long before I was back in the job market anyway, looking to improve my standing. Not to mention the fact that I was always pretty good at school, so a few more classes couldn’t hurt!
As it turns out, the timing for me worked out perfectly to go back to school. E and I had just started dating and she was already going back to school for a Master’s Degree of her own. So some of our earliest date nights involved my trying to cuddle her dogs (who were still slightly afraid of me and getting used to me at the time) while she read textbooks and did homework. Well needless to say she wasn’t going to let that last very long, so that fall I took the GRE and enrolled in MBA classes in the spring of 2014. The program took 2 years to complete and I graduated in the spring of 2016 (with only taking 2 summer classes to shorten the timeline). Having gone through the program somewhat recently I have some advice to impart on those who are either currently in a program or thinking about enrolling.
First and foremost, anyone considering an MBA at some point in their career needs to consider two roads to get there. The first option would be to go straight into a Master’s program right after you graduated from a Bachelor’s program. In my experience, most MBA programs have job experience restrictions which may make this option slightly more difficult, however many programs are flexible with these requirements. And I can tell you that my MBA program absolutely had younger students in it who had just graduated from their undergrad. The benefits of this option are simple. Having just graduated your mind is still in school mode so it’s an easy transition to move into an MBA program. However, the drawback is that many MBA programs rely on people’s job experience, so starting the graduate program right after undergrad can be challenging for specific projects without having real-world experience to draw from.
My second piece of advice for anyone considering an MBA program is simple, be prepared to work in groups… a lot!! Every single class I took had some form of group function involved, and many had more than one form of class work that involved groups. Typically classes, especially online ones, will involve discussion groups that surround the readings for that week and a set number of discussion prompts. But most classes will include group work with more complex projects as well. If you enjoy working in groups this will not be a problem for you at all, but if you prefer to work independently (as I typically do), then an MBA program may require some adjustment on your part. This is not meant to scare you off, because as I found out the MBA program will force you to work in groups which may be a necessary for you to grow and get outside your comfort zone. By the time the program was over I felt that one of my biggest takeaways was that I had a better understanding of group dynamics and how to function within a team.
My final piece of advice for aspiring MBA students is that everything is up to you. The truth is that you will get out of an MBA program exactly what you put into it. I know that sounds like a standard college cliché, but I sincerely believe it to be true in this case. During my time in the MBA program I felt that the professors would do almost anything to help you get the grade you want, and even the grading was pretty lenient at times. With that as the backdrop, I knew it was possible to get by in the program without necessarily putting in all of the work. And when it comes to class/group discussions in the online classes, I think we all know how easy it is to finagle your way to good participation points in that forum. So, if you want to get everything you can out of the program and learn as much as possible, you really need to be disciplined and self-motivated. It is important to do all of the readings and really focus on the discussions in order to get the most out of your education. This is true on each level of education but is doubly important when pursuing a graduate degree. As I already mentioned, the professors’ instruction will only take you so far, but your own motivation is what really consolidates your learning.
So there you go, if you are someone, whether a recent college grad just getting your start or an experienced professional, looking to potentially pursue your MBA I hope you found this advice helpful as you continue on your journey. I have found the MBA program to be an important landmark on my resume. It has helped me to understand the fundamentals and intricacies of business and has also helped to improve my social skills in working with teams and coworkers.