When I talk to people about getting my MBA, two things usually come up. First, people tell me how they’ve been thinking about going back and getting theirs. Second, people ask me why I decided to go back to school and get mine. From what I’ve heard, people shy away from going back to grad school because they don’t have the time and/or money. Some people struggle to even wrap their head around how they would prepare for the GMAT to even be considered for graduate business school.
The reality is, the more people think about getting their MBA, the more reasons there are not to do it. I say these are excuses rather than reasons. If you’re truly interested in getting your MBA for reasons that make sense for you, don’t let the excuses get in the way. Trust me, I had a laundry list of excuses not to go back and get my MBA. But I heismanned the lizard brain, flipped these excuses on their head and turned them into reasons why I should go back.
Flash forward five years. Last month I took my last class as a student. EVER. No plan or reason to go back and get my PhD at this point. I am interested in being adjunct professor down the road, but I’ve had my fill of education from a student’s perspective. However, after spending the past five years in the Evening MBA program at the University of St. Thomas, I am now able to better explain what I got out of the program. If you are thinking about getting your MBA, these should help catapult your thinking from why not excuses to why you should reasons.
Exercising Both Sides of the Brain
Simply put, I learned things I didn’t know before I started the program. As you can see from my degree plan below, I took a wide range of courses that exercised both the left (e.g., accounting, economics, operations) and right (consumer behavior, brand management, creative process) sides of my brain. Given my liberal arts background and what I do for a living, I’m comfortable solving problems with the right side of my brain. The logical left side needed a little love, which was addressed immediately when I took my core courses. Daniel Pink may argue the right-brained thinkers will rule the future, but I believe those who have the ability to toggle back and forth between the right and left side have the advantage.
Understanding People’s Worldviews
Seth Godin talks a lot about how it’s critical to understand people’s view on the world in order to craft a story that will resonate with that person’s value system. We all strive for this as marketers. When we accomplish this, the brands we serve earn the right into people’s lives and sustainable relationships are created with people.
Throughout my MBA program, I did my best to understand people’s worldviews in the business world. By doing this, I was able to better understand their perspectives. I was able to better understand how and why they made decisions. I was able to observe how they solve problems and better understand what information they needed in order to make decisions.
The experience I had in my Interactive Marketing class is a great example of this. The main reason I took the course wasn’t to learn about interactive marketing. It was to see how everyone else learned about interactive marketing. Throughout the course of the semester, I was able to better understand what people working at large corporations thought about interactive marketing and how their jobs – as an engineer, accountant or marketer – are impacted by it.
Understanding people’s worldviews is arguably the most important part of my job. If I’m not able to clearly communicate an idea or strategy to a client in a way that makes sense to them, everything stops there.
Earning Credibility and Leveraging It
I didn’t get my MBA to say I got my MBA. I didn’t get my MBA to make more money. One reason I did decide to pursue my MBA was to earn credibility among my colleagues and leverage it in the future to open as many doors as possible. The notoriety of getting an MBA can be self-served by the person who got it (e.g., putting “MBA” in their e-mail signature, hanging their degree in their cube). People’s obsession with making more money after getting an MBA lose track of what really allows people to make more money. You don’t make more money because you have your MBA, you make more money because you’re adding more value to your organization and your boss recognizes this.
I will not wear my MBA as a badge of honor, but I will speak to how I believe it’s allowed me to earn credibility. I will leverage the fact that I have my MBA to make it more possible to pursue the opportunity of a lifetime when it comes along. I didn’t want to come across a situation where me not having my MBA took me out of consideration for an executive position. Having an MBA has become a common qualification for executive positions and oftentimes is seen as table stakes among candidates. Once education, experience and aptitude become an equal playing field among candidates for a position, it’s the intangible things such as personality and communication style that truly distinguish people. Otherwise known as the right brain side of things. The left brain side of things increases the possibility of getting you the interview in the first place. Use them both to your advantage and the impression you leave on people will be remarkable.
I believe these are three compelling reasons for you to get your MBA. No, I don’t think you have to get your MBA to be successful. And, no, I don’t think it makes sense for everyone to get their MBA. The most important thing is to get your MBA for the right reasons. Hopefully the reasons I listed above get you thinking about what they might be.
This post is by Craig Pladson, M.B.A. '10., Director of Interactive Strategy at Colle+McVoy. You can follow Craig on Twitter @craigpladson and read his blog. Craig initially posted this commentary on his own blog and has granted permission to republish it.