London Business School MBA graduate Neerav shared his application journey earlier that took him from one commercial hub (Wall Street, New York) to another (London, UK). Here’s the link –> London Business School MBA after MS in USA.
In this follow-up post, he shares some useful tips for those planning to embark on the MBA joyride soon. If you are having trouble addressing the ‘Why MBA’ question, read on.
After the earlier piece on my MBA expectations and application experience, I thought it would be useful for me to write a few words on the things I considered before the MBA. Hindsight is 20/20. Nonetheless I have attempted to create a few sufficiently broad questions that should stay relevant irrespective of one’s circumstance. There are just three major questions to consider:
This is probably the single most important question that you should know the answer to really well…in your heart. Whereas the first part of the question (what do you want to do) is generally answered well – career change, the second part (why) is rarely answered well. What really motivates you to pursue let’s say strategy consulting or banking. Are your skills or strengths in line with your aspirations? With sufficient hard-work new skills can be learnt. But is it worth it, that you pursue a career in General Management when your real skill is working by yourself producing fabulous analyses?
So, there are two pieces to the puzzle: identifying your natural skills and understanding the needs of your prospective career. Identifying your natural skills is not trivial but a few pointers are:
a) When have you felt happiest professionally? Can you identify 5 to 10 such situations?
b) What were the skills you were using in each of these situations? Are there any common skills across these situations?
c) Who were the people you were associated with in the above situations? Are there any common characteristics among these people?
d) What would people close to you – your parents, best friend, wife/husband say you are good at and why?
As I said before, this is a lot of work but worth every penny.
Understanding the skills required in your prospective career might not be as difficult. A plethora of information exists on the internet. In addition, I recommend that you speak with at least 5 people with a similar background as yours and who have gone the MBA route and are in the same career that you aspire to be in. Try to get hold of people 3 to 5 years into their new career post-MBA (instead of fresh-MBAs) as their thinking would have matured sufficiently. Such people will be throwing pearls (of wisdom) at you, so please utilize this time very carefully.
Interestingly, upward of 50% MBA students change their jobs or careers two years into their first post-MBA job. This should not have been the case if goals and passions were clearly identified and aligned.
Imagine a pecking order among different pre- and post-MBA jobs. To know your chances of success you will need to determine how far is your dream job from your existing career standing.
For example: a McKinsey consultant from New York will find getting into Private Equity in New York post-MBA relatively easier than let’s say an engineer from Asia. The engineer from Asia may even find it more difficult to get into McKinsey New York but probably easier to get into McKinsey in his home country.
However, the engineer may find it easier to get into Amazon in US or UK than McKinsey. The question is: whether the engineer deems living in his home-country after the MBA or pursuing Amazon-type job in US or UK successful enough?
For many this is not and at the same time they do not acknowledge the less chances of success due to the unsaid pecking order.
A simple rule of thumb is that post-MBA one can change at most two among industry, function or geography.
An MBA is a leveraged bet on the economy – that is in good times newly minted MBAs get great jobs whereas in a below average economy getting even an average job is a struggle. Even more, an MBA takes away two of the most productive years of your life away – time which could be spent in may be trying out your passion on the sidelines. Moreover, the MBA is expensive, very expensive.
Similar to the pointers I mentioned in point 1 above, some bit of cold calling, some networking, and some information from internet should help. This time around though try to identify a few professionals who have reached your desired goal without the MBA. Could you emulate them?
If not directly, would your odds of success be better through an MBA or through a side-step. For example: would getting into a Tier 2 consulting bolster your chance of getting into McKinsey, Bain or BCG or would MBA serve you better.
Generally, people will quite easily conclude that for some professions – Investment Banking or Management Consulting – an MBA is the only route. Though I agree that many or maybe even most people at top rate Investment Bankers and Consultants have an MBA, one would be better served by measuring the odds of making it in. The alternative path may be less glamorous but the real work experience may serve you better.
The write-up may sound as if I am trying to dissuade you from doing an MBA. To the contrary, an MBA can be one of most rewarding experiences in terms of people you meet, friends you make, travels you undertake and of course the knowledge you gain. But to experience all this you also need to be aware of the associated risks. Remember – Never test the depth of water with both feet. Good luck!
That concludes Neerav’s 2-part guest post series. Good luck in trying to find answers to your ‘Why MBA’ and ‘Why now’ questions.