I Want an MBA. Where Do I Start?

Last week we discussed 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t (and 6 reasons why you should) Get an MBA. This week, we continue the journey. The following is an excerpt from After School.

 

So what should you do? I have some quick recommendations. Just my thoughts though—everyone’s journey is different:

 

  1. Write down what you’re good at functionally.
  2. Write down what interests you.
  3. Map out how your experiences and what you’re good at relate to what interests you.
  4. If you have gaps in this map, take note of these.
  5. Investigate whether an MBA can help you fill these gaps.
  6. Ask yourself whether the MBA is the only way to fill them. Ask yourself why you need to get it. Then ask yourself why you need the answer to that previous question. Keep going until you can’t answer anymore, and think about other ways to obtain what you’re seeking.
  7. Read this book.
  8. Prepare for the GMAT/GRE.
  9. Research and select target schools. Ideally they should be good at what you’re interested in.
  10. Crush the GMAT/GRE.
  11. Apply to your target schools.

 

For a head start and some structure, check out my Four-Day Career Planner at http://www.lifeafterschool.co/#free-workbook.

 

If you would like to participate/be interviewed for the blog, contact me at nkem.nwankwo@lifeafterschool.co.

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t (and 6 reasons why you should) Get an MBA

The following is an excerpt from After School.

 

Let’s take a quick pause. For those of you thinking of going to business school, do you know why you want to go? If you don’t, stop here. You need a plan. If you don’t have a plan, don’t get your MBA. It’s expensive and time-consuming.

 

Reasons not to get an MBA:

  1. Someone you know got one and seems pretty successful. This is your journey, not theirs. You can’t guarantee you have—or better yet, want—the same results.
  2. You want to get promoted at your company. Does your company even have an opening in the position you want? You think an MBA is going to change that? Many employers don’t value an MBA, so don’t be surprised that absolutely nothing happens after you graduate.
  3. You want to start a business. Just go start a business right now. I promise you, it’ll be faster and cheaper.
  4. You want to learn more about business. Go order some books and listen to some podcasts; you’ll learn the same things.
  5. You’re stuck and you need some kind of change. While an MBA can help this, there are cheaper ways to get past this hurdle.

 

What an MBA can do:

  1. Expand your network.
  2. Help you switch industries and functions.
  3. Give you time to think about your career.
  4. Help you experiment with entrepreneurship.
  5. Expose you to different ways of thinking.
  6. Get you to another country.

 

So many students come into school looking to escape the irritations of the corporate world. You might be dealing with too much bureaucracy. Maybe you hit a glass ceiling. Maybe your job is just boring. The hope is that life after school is different. Well, guess what? It’s not at all. It’s the same crap you dealt with before school. You just have more debt now.

So what should you do? Find out next week.

 

If you would like to participate/be interviewed for the blog, contact me at nkem.nwankwo@lifeafterschool.co.

A Job Is a Job Is a Job

It’s finally happening. My MBA class is growing restless with their employment. Those who came before us said it would happen, but I wasn’t sure exactly how long it would take.

We went to school with the hopes of breaking the hold that monotonous corporate jobs had over us. We didn’t have enough influence in our previous roles. We knew what changes needed to be made, but no one was listening to us. Rather than looking forward to getting things done at work, we began to dread coming into the office. I wanted to get fired every day of my last six months before quitting. So with careful planning and execution my classmates and I went to Business School.

 

“The first job out of school is never THE job”

 

Now, a year plus out, it seems like many of us are back right where we started. Alright, maybe not exactly back where we started, but the bureaucracy is still there, the inability to get sh*t done in major ways is still there, and the feeling we’re just another cog in the machine is still there. What do we do now?

Well, they say that the first job out of school is never THE job. It’s more like the job, that will get you the job, that will get you THE job. Now the question is, do you just sit tight and be patient? Power through it? Endure and wait your turn? Nope! It’s time to take a step back and ask yourself some questions.

  1. Are you actually bored with the role, the company, or the industry? Write down what you’re looking for. Your next role may be right in front of you.
  2. Are you learning in your current role? You have a lot of life left to live. Learning should be at the top of your list.
  3. If you are still learning, is what you’re learning beneficial to future roles you are looking at? Be strategic in all your moves.

If you’re bored with where you’re at and you answer no to the other questions, then it may just be time to get on the job search grind. You definitely shouldn’t just quit, but you should start researching, networking, and applying. When you do land an offer, you now have the leverage of already being employed with a decent alternative. Ball is in your court. Just remember that no matter where you go, a job is a job is a job. They all have highs and lows.

If you would like to participate/be interviewed for the blog, contact me at nkem.nwankwo@lifeafterschool.co.

How Much Do You Actually Learn in School

One of the predominant negative stigmas MBA stigmas is that it is a fluff degree. All you have to do is Google the phrase “MBA fluff” and you’ll see things like:

 

  • “Is the MBA the Degree for Slackers?”
  • “MBA = fluff degree. Stick with engineering”
  • “Actually, 40 Years Of Data Show The MBA Effectively Does Nothing — It Has No Impact”

 

This isn’t just an internet sentiment. When I revealed I was quitting to go to business school full time, one of my coworkers said, “An MBA? Why don’t you go to school for something that actually matters?” Ouch. Disregarding these sentiments, I still went on to get my MBA, managing to pick up a few skills along the way. I learned some accounting, finance and valuation, negotiation strategies, business strategy, and management strategy among other things.

Honestly, I could have learned all of these without going to business school. Information is more readily available than ever. There’s a plethora of books, podcasts, internet resources, virtual courses, blogs, etc. You can easily save the time and money going back to school would take by choosing alternative routes.

Keeping this fact in mind, how much does the average business school student learn? That’s up to the individual. You can go all out academically – take a large amount of classes, tackle a number of case competitions, and join the executive board of various clubs. Or you can “network” to your heart’s content and do the minimum the classroom requires to get by.

Each individual will have his or her own lane, but here’s my take: Above all, the most valuable lessons come from interactions with your classmates. You will definitely learn how to deal with difficult people. You will definitely deal with motivating those who have little incentive to do their part. You will definitely learn how to efficiently divide your time among your various work and social groups.

The value of business school lies in the relationships and interactions that stretch your thinking and pull you out of your comfort zone while doing it. When added up, the lessons learned often justify the resources spent.

 

If you would like to participate/be interviewed for the blog, contact me at nkem.nwankwo@lifeafterschool.co.

I Want to Get into Tech

Right now, who DOESN’T want to get into tech? Business school, like many other things has its trends. Currently, a career in technology is all the rage. While I was in school it was consulting, and before that it was investment banking. So how do you get into an industry that everyone wants to be in? It’s going to take some work, but to be honest, it’s simpler than you may be thinking.

Here’s some relief: everyone who works in tech isn’t a developer. Tech, like any other industry has its own functions. It’s just a different industry flavor. Ready to get started?

 

Humble Yourself

The first thing that you have to do is humble yourself. Yep, you have to humble yourself to maximize your learning.  You might have been impressive in your previous role, but those past accomplishments don’t necessarily hold the same weight in the tech world. Tech, more than any other industry typical MBA industry, is a “show me what you’ve made” culture. You can make awesome spreadsheets and strategic presentations that help a small part of a large system, but tech companies will probably still think you’ve always had the safety net of a large team and established systems behind you.

If you’re not applying for a position in one of the huge tech firms, your interviewer is going to be wondering whether you can survive without the system. Added to that, you still have preconceived notions working against you as an MBA. Tech people are still wary of MBAs and while our reputations have been improving lately, we’re still questioned on the value we bring to the table.

 

Get Educated

Once you realize this, you’re ready to get educated about tech. In “The MBA Transition to Product Management” I listed a few resources that can help. Here are some more recommendations:

  • Get the app “Flipboard” on your phone, select the tech categories, and read articles for 20 minutes every morning.
  • Subscribe to the “This Week in Startups” podcast.
  • Check out the “Tech Stuff” podcast and specifically go to the episodes that discuss the  histories of iconic tech companies. It’s pretty fascinating to recollect how they all got started and observe how technology trends have shifted since.
  • Pick the companies you want to target. Learn about them and their strategies. What spaces are they trying to get into? What improvements are they trying to make?  How can you help them get into these spaces? How can you help them improve?

 

Get Your Hands Dirty

Seek out a startup who can use your expertise. It may be for free, but it will be worthy experience. They always need help. Remember how I said that tech is a show me what you’ve made culture? If you have certain skills that businesses can use, check out sites like Upwork or Fiverr and find a project you can pull off in your free time. You’ll not only get paid, but you will also have some pieces of work to show off in your portfolio. Because you’re most likely helping small businesses, you will have, by necessity ,achieved results without the corporate safety net.

That’s all I have for this one. Get to it!

 

If you would like to participate/be interviewed for the blog, contact me at nkem.nwankwo@lifeafterschool.co.

Is Consulting a Cop Out?

Yes. Yes it is.

 

Let me begin with a short story. At my pre-business school job, we brought some consultants in to assess our processes and a a few of our tools that we regularly use. Some dudes came into the office, asked us a bunch of questions about the processes, shadowed us for maybe 2 weeks, then left. Later during one of our team meetings, our manager had some recommendations and proposed changes that we should make. We tried some of these for a month, then fell back to what we normally did.

 

What was the point of this again?

 

This is an extreme example, but many times this is what consultants do. They’re paid a lot of money to assess situations in companies and help them make changes that will result in a benefit. By the way, when I say consultant, I’m referring to the types that provide strategy and operations advice in a number of specialties﹣but don’t necessarily help with implementation.

 

Half the time, the company doesn’t even follow through on the recommendation.

 

Coming into school, it seemed like EVERYONE wanted to do consulting. The sheer number of classmates I had recruiting for consulting was overwhelming. Personally, I was confused at all of this. Weren’t consultants the people that come in, charge a company a ridiculous amount of money, make some high level recommendation, then leave? Half the time, the company doesn’t even follow through on the recommendation. Why would you want to do that?

 

Well, here’s the thing. Half of the people who go into consulting are still trying to figure out what they actually want to do. Sound familiar? That’s because the great majority of individuals who get their MBAs go to school to figure this out. Consulting extends this time. This is the cop out.

 

There’s nothing wrong with this at all though. Consulting was never the path for me, but it’s completely understandably why it’s so popular. When you work for a top consulting firm, there’s a level of prestige that comes with it. You work with top class people. You advise prominent clients. You solve hard problems. And guess what: you make a lot of money. All of this while figuring out what you want to do. The cop out doesn’t sound too bad now does it?

 

If you would like to participate/be interviewed for the blog, contact me at nkem.nwankwo@lifeafterschool.co.

 

I Have Advanced Degrees Already. Does an MBA Make Sense?

Considering becoming the latest member of the career student club? Many of my friends are in this situation. They’re successful engineers, lawyers, and doctors, but business has always alluded them, so an MBA seems like a logical choice. They already make a lot of money, so it’s definitely not a salary boost thing. It’s more of an “I’m not satisfied with what I’m doing” thing.

 

We hear it’s a good way to switch career, so why not? What’s the worst that can happen?

 

Many of us have been there. After all these years of struggling, we were finally kind of comfortable financially. With the paycheck to paycheck life behind us, we’re now free to enjoy living. Life is good until we realize that we’re not satisfied with what we spend most of our time doing. What was once engaging is now mundane and unsatisfying. Time to find a way out. Lots of us have a few friends who got MBAs; their lives look pretty enjoyable. We hear it’s a good way to switch career, so why not? What’s the worst that can happen?

 

Let’s back up a little. Do you know what you actually want to do first? Maybe more importantly, why do you want to do it? An MBA, like many degrees is just a tool that you can utilize to your advantage in the right situation. If you’re not focused, you can end up back where you first started or even worse: in another position that you don’t care about without the prior experience to justify advancing quickly.

 

If you’re not focused, you can end up back where you first started or even worse: in another position that you don’t care about without the prior experience to justify advancing quickly.

 

So what do you do? If you’re familiar with some of my other advice, you know what you need: a plan. From a high level, you should (1) do some research on different post-MBA career paths, (2) determine which ones you’d like and which you’d be good at, and (3) deconstruct why an MBA specifically would help you achieve your aspirations. If you’re really struggling to get past these steps, you might want to pump the brakes on the MBA.

 

I might sound like a broken record here, but an MBA from a quality school costs a good deal of money, time, and effort. If someone gave you your what it would cost to get an MBA, in addition to some free time, what would yo do with it? Think about that before rushing into it.

 

If you would like to participate/be interviewed for the blog, contact me at nkem.nwankwo@lifeafterschool.co.

Why Get an MBA? It’s a Long Term Game

“I think I could’ve gotten the job I’m in now had I not gone back to Business School.”

 

Kevin’s answer to my “Do you think you needed an MBA to do what you do now?” question was the same as mine. So then, why did we go back to school again? Kevin followed his initial statement with this response:

 

…but I think it definitely helps that I have an MBA. You shouldn’t view getting an MBA as help for your first job after school. I view the MBA more of a long term thing, where it enhances my skill set. Regardless of whether that’s true or not, employers will look at it in the future and think,  “Oh, you have the capability to successfully perform many business functions.”

 

In addition, if I want to get another job out of tech or in a different city, having lesser known companies on my resume may make it  harder without an MBA. The MBA hooks me up to a network. Whenever a recruiter looks at my resume now and sees that I have an MBA from a quote unquote top school, it’s an index of how good of a candidate I am.

 

Still, many leaders don’t have one. What do you think about that?

 

Let’s use a sports analogy: say you’re a basketball player, right? If you want to be a three-point specialist all your life, you can do that. There’s some industries where you don’t need an MBA to move up. If that’s an industry you want to be in and that’s a role and a niche you want to carve out for yourself, that’s fine.

 

I think going back and getting an MBA gives you the other skill set. With it, you’re a player that can drive, defend, play point guard, all these things… it will open you up to more opportunities. As your career goes along, it helps you out in the long run. That’s how I view it.

 

So speaking on these skills, what was the most important one you acquired from your MBA?

 

There are three things that come to mind:

  • I think I got better with my analytical skill set. Not that it was bad before, but I think you do enough of it in the course of two years that you really hone in on that skill.
  • The two years really allowed me to get a better understanding of what I’m looking for in a career. Going into Business School, I just wanted to be in Tech. that was a blanket statement. But experiencing classes, talking to classmates who went through recruiting, having an internship, having all those experiences allowed me to figure out what I enjoyed doing and what I didn’t enjoy doing. It allowed me to really focus in and narrow down.
  • I got a lot better at networking. I’m not a good networker by nature, but just by having done it so many times, having gone on so many calls…I just got a lot better at networking and making connections.

 

Life-long benefits, right?

 

If you would like to participate/be interviewed for the blog, contact me at nkem.nwankwo@lifeafterschool.co. Also, if you haven’t already, check out After School: Is Getting an MBA Really Worth It? here.

 

“Oh Sh*t, What If We Don’t Make it?” – The Ups and Downs of Working for a Startup

Today on our first post-book interview, we highlight Kevin, a business analytics manager for a growing subscription box service.

 

When people ask you “What do you do?” what do you say?

 

I tell them that I work for a startup in the for the retail space…the subscription retail model. I work in Business Analytics and Strategy. Anything involved with operations, member experience, thinking about rolling out a new strategic initiative…I’m the guy that gets involved in figuring out (1) does it work, (2) should we do it, and (3) if we do it, thinking through the strategy. Seeing if it was an impactful project or not.

 

What were you doing before this?

 

After school, I worked at an internet grocery delivery startup for 6 months. I was part of their Catalog Operations Team. That team makes sure everything you see on the storefront when you shop for groceries is correct. From the actual item itself, to the pricing, to availability, to the image…we want to make sure that it’s 100% correct if that’s possible.

 

Every week I ask myself, “Am I being challenged? Am I learning something new?” The answer has consistently been “Yes!”

 

What are your hours like?

 

It’s not too bad. Um, maybe 50, 55 a week. 50 to 55 hours a week.

 

It varies depending on what the workload is. I haven’t had to work too many nights or weekends which is nice. Some weeks are later than others. But I will say that it varies from startup to startup. In my last job, I was working quite a few nights and weekends. I worked quite a few nights at my internship as well.

 

Do you like it?

 

It’s been great. Every week I ask myself, “Am I being challenged? Am I learning something new?” The answer has consistently been “Yes!” since I’ve been here. My company is a jewelry subscription business and all it’s customers are women. Being a dude, I don’t know much about jewelry, so it’s kind of nice learning a new industry while I’m going through everything else that I’m doing.

 

That part is challenging and new and I’m learning a lot there. I’m also learning a lot in the actual work that I’m doing. That keeps me engaged and pretty happy. We don’t necessarily have the same perks like free lunch or dinner that I did at my last company, but that doesn’t matter to me. The work itself makes such a huge difference; the people I’m working with are smart and they challenge me.

 

What’s the best part of the job?

 

I think the best part right now is that we’re still small enough that what I’m doing is touching a lot of aspects of the company. I work on things that impact merchandising, member experience, marketing, or ops. I get to see the business from many different angles and think about it in ways that I never thought about it before.

 

I think if I were at a larger company, I’d be siloed to one specific area. I’d never get to see the whole big picture. I’m learning about how a startup works, how to scale a business, what fundraising looks like, what investors look for – things I’ve never really thought about before.

 

There are some days where I sit at my desk and and I think anxiously, “Oh shit what if we don’t make it? Do I have to start looking for a job?”

 

What’s the worst part of the job?

 

The uncertainty. We’re still small enough where we just got our A round funding, We’re still small enough where it’s not a sure thing that it’s going to be a real, profitable company. There are some days where I sit at my desk and and I think anxiously, “Oh shit what if we don’t make it? Do I have to start looking for a job?”

 

That’s probably the worst part of the job. If you work for a large company you don’t necessarily worry about it not existing a few months down the line. Whereas for me, I know what the runway looks like and there’s a real fear of it being the end.

 

If you would like to participate/be interviewed for the blog, contact me at nkem.nwankwo@lifeafterschool.co.

Was My MBA Worth It?

The following is a short excerpt from After School where roles were reversed and I answered my own question: “Was an MBA Worth It?”.

 

I hate the answer I’m about to give, but I don’t know. I won’t be able to answer that for another 10 years. Everything I do now, I could have done before my MBA. All of my potential corporate trajectories could have been achieved without business school because of the intense belief and determination I have in myself.

My faith isn’t isolated to my just my own abilities though. I truly believe that many of my classmates will go on to do great things (and make a bunch of money in the process). When I need help with my ideas, this will be my network and support system to get my ideas off of the ground. It will just take some time.

If anyone tells you a definitive “yes” or “no” without understanding your situation and motivations when you ask them about going to business school, they’re giving you bad advice. The real answer is always “It depends.”

 

If you would like to participate/be interviewed for the blog, contact me at nkem.nwankwo@lifeafterschool.co.