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You know how they say hind sight is 20/20?
Flashback into 2011, my final year of undergrad was coming to a close and having dreamed of going abroad for my Master, I happily studied for GMAT thinking to myself, I could always give CAT (the Indian version of GMAT) if nothing else worked and go to a random college and get an MBA degree.
This seemed to be the right thing to do, according to people. After crying my eyes out for getting a not-good-enough GMAT score and forgetting about getting an MBA degree abroad, I decided I would study as much as I could and see if I would get anything in the Indian exam.
Few months later, I managed to get into an elite school (or so people said) and being the young naive inexperienced 20 year old that I was, I gladly signed up. Little did I know, there were so many things spending $40000 on this degree would NOT teach me.
Here I am, 5 years later. So MUCH good came out of that MBA degree. But also, so MUCH bad.
Getting an MBA degree in India, US, UK, Singapore and many other countries in the world is often seen as the epitome of success in a business or management career.
In the course of this post, I will tell you why it is necessarily not.
In my humble opinion, there are just so many wrong reasons and approaches that young professionals should not have when they aim to get an MBA degree.
If you happen to have the following ideas on why you want to go to business school, let me help you think them through.
On the surface, yes.
Deep deep down the surface, no.
I made more money my first year after graduation business school than my father did working ten years at the same job.
Here’s the catch though.
It cost me $40000, two years of my life, three years of repaying student debts and a meltdown at the age of 24 from working 100 hours a week.
Getting an MBA degree or going to a business school is an EXPENSIVE affair. Unless you were one lucky person and sailed your way through with a scholarship or had rich parents who generously bore the brunt.
In that case, you definitely should go ahead and get one.
If you do not fall in that category, well the fancy MBA degree will add up fast. Into a huge student loan that just doesn’t seem to get over. Me and most of my graduate friends spend a huge chunk of our savings just paying off this massive loan, and were limited by our ability to switch jobs due to this constant pain in the ass.
If you plan to start a family or buy a house soon after your Master, well that’s just going to have to wait.
Perhaps, in the span of a 30 year career, one on average can see the monetary benefits on having received an MBA degree, but as a 20 something millennial who does not believe in a 15 year delay on gratification, I could have spent that $40000 in my own business, and who knows where I would be today.
Granted, yes. But for how long?
You will have a significant advantage to get your foot in the door, but what you do after that is entirely up to you. If you do not have the necessary real life skills to stand out at work, the growth of your career will be slower than a person who just has a bachelor degree, but holds actual work experience, in comparison.
In the real world, nothing can replace real experience. There is a reason the world’s greatest leaders in business NEVER went to a business school.
The example of Jack Ma, failing to go to Harvard is the most stellar example of this exact paradigm.
If your dream stops at having a ‘good job’ and ‘getting paid well’ on the surface, by all means get an MBA degree.
But if you believe that by the virtue of getting this degree, you will find the next Ali Baba, no that will not happen my friend.
Fun fact: Only 1/3 of the world’s CEO’s have an MBA.
What does that tell you?
The fact that you rise to and become a CEO, may or may not be accelerated by the virtue of you having an MBA, but it in no way gives you an advantage over some one who organically worked their way to it.
Jumping one step ahead of the ladder, is not the same as jumping 20 steps ahead.
One step ahead is where you will be after your business school degree, and 20 steps ahead is where you need to be in order to become a CEO.
Unless, you skip the whole damn line, and start your own company. And for that, my dear friend you do NOT need an MBA Degree.
If starting your own company is the path you want to take, use the money you would spend on your MBA, as start-up capital in your business and learn business the way it should be learnt. By doing it.
Some of my most successful friends, both financially and professionally have never been to a business school. Yet, they run independent businesses and do much better than my post MBA turned entrepreneurs. Why, you wonder?
Because running a LIVE successful business and just getting a degree on how to manage it are two VERY different things.
By success here, I do not mean raising X Million Dollars in VC money. I have worked with monkeys who could raise that too and could not tell the difference between top and bottom line in accounts.
It means a business that generates actual profit year on year and that you can live on and have a solid financial future for you and your family.
Similarly, consulting a business and giving suggestions, and actually implementing your suggestions in an actual business are two VERY different things.
Ha Ha. The best reason for the last.
Amazing people, Not always.
Again. Let me repeat. By the virtue of ‘GETTING IN’ to a business school, you do NOT in any way become amazing.
It takes so much more than just a college admission letter to prove your worth. The kind of people you will meet though are a mixed bunch ranging from super duper dumb to super duper smart.
Not all of them will have what it takes to truly be amazing though. Not all of them will be your friends. And not all of them will turn out the way you first thought they would. Neither would you actually.
Going to a business school does give you a good starting point for a network, but after a year or two, it will be just as beneficial as people you added on FB as friends. (Read : Why I Quit Facebook & It Was The Best Decision I Made This Year‘)
The one truly great thing that does happen is that you’ll find some unique friends who you can rely on for life, simply for the sheer craziness you went through. And those people are precious. The rest, you’ll forget
The question now is, if these are all the wrong reasons to get an MBA degree or go to the best business schools.
What, pray lord, are the right ones?
Well, I can’t tell you those because I want you to think about why you want to get an MBA Degree in the first place. I am here to help guide you on the right path, not make the whole decision for you.
I will, nevertheless, tell you the things I did and didn’t learn from my insanely expensive and difficult to survive business school experience.
Things I did learn
- How to manage my time and organize myself into a more efficient human being. Background: I was 21 and a fresher. I needed this shit.
- How to network and get people to do what you want.
- How to present myself as a half decent person and sell soap to a hippie. The latter skills, I was born with 😉
- How to handle the most stress ever so anything that comes after is a total breeze.
- How to bullshit and talk about stuff that you think makes sense but actually makes no sense.
- How to prepare and ace interviews. (Read my guide here: How to Ace Every Interview You Walk Into)
- How to sleep, eat and exist in any random cycle and in any random order during the day or night.
- How to survive and live in foreign countries which would then make you ship your bags and move abroad.
Things I did not learn
- How to communicate effectively with my peers. Also known as inter-personal or soft skills.
- How to handle important relationships. If anything, my MBA destroyed all of mine.
- How to be a kind and generous person.
- How to be a good human being.
- How to decide which job is right for my career and not let the majority’s choice effect my own.
- How to understand that life is more than grades, a dream job, a business school, a hot partner and a fancy car.
- How to deal with heartbreak and how to recover from it.
- How to say no to people who do not want what you want in life.
- How to quit smoking.
- How to eat healthy, be fit and live a better life.
- How to believe in myself, build my personal brand and live a better life.
- How to do anything related to being an actual adult.
You’ll probably wonder, “Hey Shruti, but these are not what I want to learn when I think of going to a business school.”
If some of life’s most important lessons cannot come from spending thousands of dollars on a business school degree, then are the ones that you think you will learn worth it?
By no means, am I here to question your decision. All, I want to do is question the thought process that leads you to make a final call.
Straight from some one, who has been there, done that and is standing six years away from that first decision to get an MBA degree.
Then again, maybe you’ll do the exact same thing as I did, go to the business school, and realise all of this in hindsight too. 😉