Is An MBA Worth It?

About a year ago I finished my MBA. I expected there would be plenty of opportunities for advancement. That has not happened. What should I do?

That was a question from an analyst in a financial services company. That situation has come up several times in coaching recent MBA’s and Executive MBA graduates. They thought once they got that coveted degree, their company would quickly promote and advance them. When that didn’t happen, they were disappointed, unappreciated and wondered if they should stay or leave.

Your Career Advancement Depends On:

  1. What you can do now that you couldn’t do before your MBA.
Note that I said “do” not “know.” You may know a lot more, but does that translate into concrete tasks or projects that are helping your company? For instance, you may have studied international finance and politics, but if your company’s market is primarily the Midwest United States, it’s not helpful to them.
  1. Where the company is today and will be tomorrow.
You may have started you MBA before or just as the recession started. You had high hopes. The company had high hopes. Now the economy and your company’s future are different. The expectations you had may not be realistic today. So, reevaluate your situation, your company’s viability, and potential opportunities. You may need to make a lateral move to gain more hands-on experience before you are seen as promotion material.
  1. How you are utilizing your MBA.
Think of your MBA in terms of the skills you’ve developed or enhanced and the application of these skills in your present position as well as potential opportunities within your company. Focus on the specific accomplishments and then the specific impact of your work. For example, you increased sales by 15% or cut down time to 3% which then led to what? Can you give a crisp answer to the question: How is your MBA benefiting the company or how will it benefit it in the future?

Smart Moves Tip:

I think MBAs are great, but without underlying experience, they aren’t worth nearly as much. The burden of proof, that you are more valuable now than you would be without the degree lies, firmly on you. It’s not that you have an MBA that counts. It’s what difference you are making with the skills and knowledge you learned from it.

Readers, what do you think? Is an MBA Worth It?

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Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle, The Smart Moves Coach, is a national known board certified coach and keynote leadership speaker who guides organizations that are planning, or in the midst of, ambitious growth and change. As a career strategist, she works with professionals, managers and executives who want to build • shape • brand • change • vitalize their careers. She’s been selected by LinkedIn’s ProFinder as one of the best coaches for 2016!Her clients range from private owned businesses to mid-market companies to professional service firms to NGO’s. With 25 years of management, business consulting and international experience, she brings an expertise in executive and team leadership; employee engagement and innovation; personal and organization change; career building and development; emotional and social intelligence. Your Future Starts Now With Marcia!

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  1. I kept thinking of Daniel Pink and his comments that we must get an MFA (masters in fine arts) so it can help us be both creative and innovative. These are the two things that separate the leaders from the followers.

    My concern with MBAs just like anything from schools is that there is disconnect between academic and industry. I’d like to say this gap is closing. I’d like to, but I don’t believe it. It looks like hyperspecialization is keeping the gap wide open.

    Here in Ontario Canada, the ministry for education needs to get modernized.

    • Chris,
      I agree that there can be a disconnect between academia and industry in terms of real world situations. That’s why, as a career coach, that students find and take advantage of internships in business, government, non-profits, etc during their college years.

  2. Well said Marcia. In the end, if the MBA-trained HR pro uses the business information from the degree to uncover the company’s financial, operating and strategic objectives AND ties various HR services to those objective; top management will notice.

    • Thaks Jack for adding your comments about how an MBA-trained HR pro can utilize the knowledge from the degree.

  3. Excellent information Marcia! Thank you for sharing – as a firm advocate in higher education, trade schools, and any other type of educational program, I genuinely appreciate the message behind the kind words depicted in your article.

    I’ve taught (on the side/evenings) for more than a decade now and I do it because I love spending time with adults who are sincerely interested in adding to their toolbox of knowledge. Just as you’ve illustrated, I’ve run across hundreds and hundreds of students over the years who confuse earning an advanced degree will be the ticket they need.

    In our contemporary workforce, the MBA holds a different type of value than it did many years ago. However, that does not minimize the importance of what is gained by participating in such programs. Yes, we can’t expect a magic wand to appear with a golden promotion or people standing in line to offer us a new, better position/job.

    However, the combination of experience and additional education places us in a position far different than our counterparts. Though it doesn’t happen over night (the wonderful coveted job offer), we can and will expect to see benefits that our counterparts simply aren’t privy to. Some of those include:

    *higher order thinking: the ability to think critically – beyond the obvious – is a gift we need to excel and succeed in our competitive workforce. While this may come more subliminally at first, please don’t discount it’s power. You’ve earned it

    *the ability to realize that any given industry’s practices are bedded with some type of theoretical underpinning. But we need our MBAs and other staff members who are able to digest, articulate, and apply the transformation from theory to practice makes for a much stronger employee

    *the process of going through the educational program is a testament of commitment, tenacity, and perseverance. Those are extremely admirable qualities 🙂

    For those of you with new shiny MBAs who are awaiting the rewards – take heed to Marcia’s assertions within. One last note: don’t stop here – become a life long learner. It doesn’t have to be through additional degrees, but there isn’t a soul on this planet who can’t benefit from continuous improvement opportunities~

    • Jennifer, Thak you fro you thoughtful response based on your professional experience and isnsights. You may want to take a look at today’s (6/6) Wall Street Journal front page article: “Many Colleges Fail in Teaching How t Think”. I would like to know your thoughts on this article.