Three to four decades ago, degree holders were a rare breed of people – not many could afford to study at a University and those who did, became very successful because of their specialised training and education.
Fast forward to today, the situation is very different. Just go to your downtown Business District and blindly toss a pebble into the crowd – chances are that you would hit someone with a University Degree (and hopefully, not someone a law degree or you’re in big trouble!)
So, with degrees being so common these days, how do you stand out?
To many, the answer is to obtain an MBA. Here is some advice you might want to consider.
1. Take your MBA earlier in your career.
The opportunity costs are lower and you will probably enjoy better returns as you have a longer career ahead of you. However, there are those who argue that earning your MBA without having real-life work experience under your belt works against you. So, it has been said that the ideal age to obtain an MBA should be between 32 – 38 yrs old.
2. Don’t waste your time getting an MBA from an ‘unknown’ or ‘unbranded’ University.
A Harvard or Stanford MBA trumps an MBA from third-tier or ‘distance-learning’ University anytime, just make sure it isn’t from Trump University.
If your employer has to say, “The What University?”, the ‘value-addedness’ to your credentials may not commensurate with the amount of money and time you have invested. (Sorry, I have to call a spade a spade). So, make sure you’re investing in the right University – one that’s going to add to your Brand, not subtract from it.
3. Milk your MBA for as much as you can.
Network and build relationships with your classmates
You never know…they may be your future clients/bosses/colleagues.
Network with your alumni – you have just been inducted into a very exclusive fraternity, so feel free to reach out to your past graduates.
How? Attend your Alumni events regularly and make it a point to meet at least 3 new people. Learn what they do and find out how you can help them. Be genuine in your outreach.
4. Can I afford the program?
MBAs can be a pretty expensive venture.
The fees range from US$30,000 for an ‘entry level’ university to as much as a US$120,000 for a ‘branded’ one. This does not include the associated costs of living (if you are studying overseas) and of course, does not factor in the ‘opportunity cost’ of not going to work for the next 12-24 months.
In all, expect to invest at least US$100,000 to US$250,000 for your MBA.
So, the next question that many people ask is, “Can I make that back?”. The truth is that if you’ve done your homework, you probably will. But right question to ask should be “How long will I actually take to break even on the investment?”
5. Do your numbers carefully.
Do you have enough money to last you beyond the duration of study?
You might want to factor in a 3-6 month buffer after you have graduated, just in case you don’t get a job immediately upon graduation. You might also want to budget for the holidays and side trips you will take during the term-breaks.
MBAs are expensive affairs – make sure you budget well and have a healthy stash of cash on standby.
6. Get buy-in from your spouse before you commence.
Studying for your MBA is a full time commitment, even if you are doing it part-time. The long hours needed for group projects, pre-reading, assignments, etc can take a toll on your relationship if not properly managed. Finances can also be strained when suddenly, a dual-income couple becomes a single-income one. Obtaining your MBA should be a joint decision simply because it is a major life event that affects both partners.
In general, many employers regard an MBA as an important part of a senior executive’s training and it does improve your employability. Make sure you get a good one, and remember to enjoy the process!