Making A Decision Beyond The Business Week MBA Rankings

By Thomas Ryerson

An MBA is not going to serve the personal or professional needs of everyone. Forbes recently posted a blog piece that rather dismissed the virtues of an MBA. The article made some genuinely valid points. It is a pretty expensive enterprise and, yes, it's true, in business the real key to success lies in the mastery of complex processes of discovery. If you think you've mastered such processes, then, okay, maybe you ought to hold on to that $150k!

On the other side of the equation, of course, a lot of people over the years have found that the rigors of a structured learning experience, such as provided by an elite MBA program, is just the place to learn such skills and aptitudes. That though is not the only relevant consideration.

Here are a few questions you might ask yourself.

Let's pretend the unlikely scenario that the academics are of little value to you. This may be misguided, but not impossible. What though about the benefits of a great professional network? Do you value that? Where else are you going to get the kind you will while doing an MBA at a top school? It's common for business superstars to come in as guest lecturers. And don't underestimate the opportunity to social with them that such schools provide. And don't forget your own classmates. Many of your peers will become the hot up and comers in your industry.

Make those valuable connections while you're all still climbing up the latter and you'll have the network of a lifetime to last your career. (Though, this does require, as we've emphasized elsewhere, choosing the right program for your chosen industry). And don't underestimate the value of a strong, well-placed alumni coterie.

Another dimension of the MBA experience you might not have considered is the blank slate effect. No one is saying, naturally, that an MBA in any way invalidates your prior experience. What is true, though, is that once you have that MBA no longer is your perceived value limited to past work experience. Prospective employers will see something very different when they take a look at you, fresh from graduating.

On the contrary, your work record now merely provides a supplement to a record of achievement that makes you a promising new potential colleague. Someone who was able to break the mold of their earlier life and take the initiative, exerting the discipline, to embrace an entirely new set of opportunities, with new skills, knowledge and professional connections. You're now a freshly minted promise of better things to come.

Finally, though it might at first seem a bit esoteric, there's a lot to be said for a person who demonstrated the ability and willingness to step outside of their comfort zone? It's great to talk about challenging oneself, people talk about it all the time. Doing it, and showing everyone you are doing it, is another matter. Entering an MBA program is a statement about your ability and willingness to take on unprecedented challenges. Don't think it doesn't go unnoticed.

You carve from your busy life the time to concentrate on personal improvement and advance. And you place yourself in a situation which will demand the best of you. If you can do that all on your own, that's excellent. But how many people fool themselves that they are (or will, someday soon) do so? When you take the leap and enrol in an MBA program, there's no fooling anyone. You've taken the challenge and have to rise to your best to succeed.

Certainly there are cases in which money and time is squandered on MBA pursuits. Hopefully, though, these thoughts demonstrate that, even beyond the value of the curriculum, there are many significant benefits of an MBA. These may be harder to put a price tag on, but it would be a mistake to underrate the contributions they could make to your professional future.

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