Why MBA? Three Unexpected Ways Business School Pays Off

If you’re considering an MBA, you’ve likely given much thought to the benefits you hope to glean and whether they are worth the time, money, and energy you will expend to attain the degree. Many people’s ‘why MBA’ is either a desire to accelerate their career or make a pivot into a different field and/or function.

It is certainly true that an MBA can enable these things. Business school will fill in gaps in your foundational business knowledge, provide access to career services, and vastly expand your network – all of which can be necessary to take your career prospects to new (or different) heights.

But in our experience as MBAs ourselves and as advisors to prospective, current, and former business school students, we would argue that the answer to ‘why MBA’ is much broader than these oft-cited reasons. As we recently shared on a webinar hosted by our partner GMATClub, we can point to three key ways business school pays off that may not readily come to mind.

Unexpected Benefit #1 – Critical Soft Skills (Not Just Leadership)

Business school is essentially a crash course in soft skills. You are thrown together with a large group of equally talented, ambitious, and diverse peers. You want to build relationships while also excelling in school and recruiting – objectives which can sometimes be challenging to align. And, while business school is a ton of fun, it is also extremely busy and stressful.

As a result, an important soft skill you’ll learn early on is to have better systems. Oftentimes, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to give 100% to socializing, homework, and interview prep. You are forced to work smarter, not harder and, quite frankly, prioritize.

Another skill business school forces you to learn quickly is influence without formal authority. Nearly every MBA course has a team component. If you feel strongly that your approach to a team project is right, you must, in many cases, convince your teammates to get behind your idea.

In addition to influence, regularly working in teams will also build your confidence and empathy. You’ll get so many ‘reps’ convincingly presenting an idea to a group that doing this in a meeting at your post-MBA job will feel way less intimidating. Additionally, you will likely, at some point, have the realization that your idea or proposed solution is rooted in your narrow sliver of past (personal or professional) experience. This is glory of interfacing with diverse peers and, we promise, you will walk away with a broader and more empathetic mindset.

Unexpected Benefit #2 – Option Value in Your Career

While every MBA application will try to force you to map out your entire post-MBA career, we all know that doing so can be a fool’s errand. Passions and priorities change, industries evolve, and unexpected events (the subprime lending crisis, a global pandemic, etc.) occur.

Business school does not give you a crystal ball, but it does provide option value. At the end of the day, we can confidently say that an MBA from a top business school will always be a sought-after credential. Further, a broad business curriculum provides exposure to most disciplines you will encounter throughout your career.

If your post-MBA plans go sideways, perhaps you are laid off or simply realize that your chosen field isn’t right for you after all, you have your MBA skill set, network, and often an active alumni career services office to help you navigate a change.

Unexpected Benefit #3 – Broaden Your Horizons

Building on our last point, while an MBA allows you flexibility to take risks in your career down the road, business school can also be a great setting to explore what’s out there before you go down a path that may not be right for you. Or maybe you discover a line of work that you didn’t even know existed before you got to campus.

Whatever industry or functional focus you have in mind, it’s likely that someone in your class has experience in it. Meet them for coffee and pick their brain. ‘Test run’ types of work that seem interesting through case studies and experiential learning opportunities. Or use your internship to really see what a ‘day in the life’ is like in your intended post-MBA role.

Concluding Thoughts…

At the end of the day, your rationale for ‘why MBA’ is completely unique to your own circumstances – personal, professional and everything in between. As you complete your own assessment of whether an MBA makes sense, make sure you aren’t overlooking some of the most powerful takeaways you are poised to glean from the experience.

We’d love to be of assistance as you map out your journey to an MBA. Click here to request an initial consultation.

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