Whether or not to get an MBA?

Updated: Mar 9

Have you ever considered an MBA, or further leadership education? Halfway to my experience, here is what i think :)

Have you ever considered further education, like an MBA or a post-graduate degree? Or some expensive certification, label, or pursuit that is meant to increase your value to employers, improve your knowledge and skills, or fulfil some self-development goal.


Many people (rightly so) decide to invest in themselves for continuing education for one purpose on the other. On a crude level for some, it is simply to increase their value in the market that translates to more opportunities, more responsibility and consequently more earning potential. Whatever the reason, here are a few things i’ve learnt.


I started considering an MBA roughly six years ago (2015) decided about two years ago (2019) and i’m now half-way into the experience of a lifetime completing my degree at Said Business School, University Of Oxford, yes- in a pandemonium (pandemic), and i have some thoughts to share. 💭


Do It For A Specific, and Personal Reason Beyond The Obvious (Why?) 🧐


The personal value of any new path is as good as your “why”. Many people skim through this process and land on the template reason “I just want to make sure i’m growing, get ready for the next phase” but what does that really mean? I mean, yes, fundamentally that makes sense, but in the context of your journey, what does that mean?


I believe that finding out your why can be an elusive and lengthy process of reflection, meditation, and retrospection. Since your further education is likely not a cheap venture (goodness the MBA is NOT cheap, and some will make difficult financing decisions e.g., loan, your life savings etc); in terms of money and time, your why is so important and it provides a unifying thread that rationalises your journey as you continue.


For the MBA, i’ve found 4 major categories of why people decide on an MBA.

  1. To grow your network: Most MBA programs open you up to an amazing web of smart people across the world. But, it is only as good as your ability to connect meaningfully with people and unearth mutual value.

  2. To pivot into a new industry or location: Great way to pivot to another industry and/or region you have no experience in, the MBA is sort of a leveler; you might not have specialist skills in that industry but the degree teaches you how to work well in any diverse team enough for you to learn quickly and get things done.

  3. To take time off to figure out your next move: I’m in this category and potentially #2. For some this is a safe space to experiment with potential paths, while taking time away from the rat-race to think and experience. (hint: that entrepreneurial ambition? this might be a safe space to experiment with it)

  4. To learn about leadership and business management: The course content exposes you to basic elements of business leadership; finance, strategy, marketing, and working in and leading teams. Some companies require an MBA before you can take on management roles e.g, Consulting.

Start with the above - could be a combination, and then make it super personal to you. P.s "Why not?" is also a valid question to ask. There are many less costly alternatives to the MBA.


When is just as important as why ⌚️


If you are leaning towards a yes, timing is important. Answering why now is just as important as why, if at all. It also somewhat links to the trade offs you'd have to make at this particular point in your journey. I spent a LOT of time deciding when was the right time for me. Depending on where you are in your journey, the MBA or further education might mean something different to you. The value might oscillate. Your timing could be too early or potentially, too late. It could be a good decision now, but the question i think you should ask is; is it the best time i could get my MBA? At the root of it all, deciding if now is the best time for the investment is a critical consideration.


Decisions Come With Trade-Offs ⚖️

Accept the trade-offs that your decision to further your education will come with up front. This could mean not earning for a while, or being away from your family, or not spending as much time doing things you want to because you are studying, and investing in your future. You’ve decided you want to do this, also decide upfront what you will give up.


There Are Many Paths To A Destination 🗺

I’m a goal oriented person, so if you have a destination sometimes there are many paths there and the formal path might not be the only path. Explore other ways you can achieve the same goal that might not require as many trade-offs, if the trade offs are something (too) costly in your specific situation.


Stay The Course; Especially In The Middle 🖖🏽

After you decide anticipate the boring middle - in the kernel of learning, the time of studying, the deadlines, and rigour of academic learning and networking, the allure you once had of the situation will fade, and it is normal to question your decision. Your “why” will anchor you. Go back to it, and remember why you made the decision, and trust it.


The Destination Might Change; Be Ok With That

You might go through the entire experience wanting something different at the end of it. To me, that is a great thing. I believe that there are unknown unknowns and experiences open up to possibilities that we previously might not have considered.


I also personally believe that no knowledge is really lost. The experience might change your goals, and desires. Be prepared for that possibility and embrace it as a gift.✨


I wish you the best as you make your decision. Till next time 👋🏽


Maria Ro

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