Should You Do an MBA? | A 5 point analysis.

Let me share two short stories with you.

Story #1:

I graduated from INSEAD in 2015 and then got a job at Dalberg.

Now, Dalberg is one of the most elite consulting firms and recruits very few candidates every year.

You might think that I got a job at Dalberg owing to the brand name of INSEAD. You might be wrong here.

I got a job at Dalberg because I had prepared extensively for my job interview.

I had:

  • Solved over 1000 cases.
  • Prepared my cover letter and resume in an elaborate manner.
  • Researched a lot about this job.

So, a lot of things went into me getting a job at Dalberg. It was not solely due to my MBA.

Story #2:

This story is about a friend who graduated along with me from INSEAD. He ended up coming back to India and starting his career.

Now you must wonder how scary it might be to invest so much time and money into an MBA at INSEAD, only to come back to India.

Again, you are wrong here. He ended up working at a top consulting firm in India with a package close to 50L in the Delhi office.

The point I am trying to portray through these two stories is that:

  • People assume an MBA to be a magic bullet or
  • Sometimes they assume that making a massive investment into an MBA abroad only to come back to India might be detrimental to your career.

Both these perspectives are incorrect. In this read, I am going to discuss 5 specific points to help you assess whether an MBA is for you or not. 

  1. What is the value of an MBA?

There are two primary benefits of doing an MBA. 

  1. Network effect

When you go to an elite business school like Harvard, Wharton, or INSEAD, you build a massive network.

This network can help you:

  • Seek mentorship from your alum.
  • Ask for job favours/internal referrals.
  • Ask for business/investor advice.
  1. Signalling effect

If you are an IIM, Ahmedabad graduate, it indicates to recruiters that you are an intelligent person. They might not even look at your CV, simply because you have the IIM brand on it.

  1. Should you do an MBA?

If your objective is to grow in your corporate career, MBA is a wonderful degree. If you want to work in firms like Bain, McKinsey and BCG, it is almost mandatory to have an MBA.

Majority of these consulting firms actually send their analysts/junior-level employees to pursue a master’s degree, whether it be an MBA or MPP.

You will also notice that the people at the top echelons of companies like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, BCG, Bain, McKinsey, have done their MBAs.

What if I want to become an entrepreneur?

S my personal story, after working in strategy consulting, I started a couple of my own ventures, which did fairly well.

In addition to the networking effect my MBA gave me, it also helped me to explore the option of going to my professor and refining my business plan.

There was an ecosystem at INSEAD where the entire community helped me.

Another option that one can explore is to leverage their school’s network.

The provision of an incubation centre or angel investor network at your school can be of massive help to raise funds for one’s start-up.

Besides this, there are also some indirect benefits of an MBA program for an entrepreneur as well. 

For example, I came from a public policy consulting background. I did not have a lot of sense about how operations or marketing worked.

By taking courses, electives and experiential learning programs at INSEAD, I was able to build the subject matter knowledge, which now helps me grow as an entrepreneur on an everyday basis.

  1. Is an MBA still relevant?

There are so many options to take online courses and pursue alternative degrees like MiM. Let me compare a real world MBA to an online MBA.

The primary advantage of pursuing an MBA offline is the signalling effect.

When you learn that I am from INSEAD, you naturally might take my words more seriously and consider me to be a credible person.

Similarly, learning someone graduated from IIM might automatically signal to you that since this person put in so much effort in terms of getting into this elite institution, he/she might have some useful perspective to share.

The second point is that you won’t get advantage of the networking effect in an online MBA. If you pursue an online MBA from Darden, you won’t get access to Darden’s alumni network.

  1. Will an MBA benefit you?

There is no other degree in the world which is discussed as much as an MBA. But again, you need to do a deeper analysis and keep it goal oriented.

If your goal is to just learn new things, then MBA might not be the right option.

On the flip side, if your goal is to grow your network in the long term or create that signalling effect and brand value on your CV, then an MBA might be very useful.

Comparison of an MBA with technical degrees.

Comparing an MBA to a technical degree will be like comparing apples to oranges. 

If you want to work as a UI/UX developer and want to pursue an MS, that career track cannot be compared with an MBA career track where people usually become product/program managers at Google/Amazon.

You need to understand what role you are aiming for.

If you are aiming for technical roles, an MS might be better. If you are more keen on a business related degree, an MBA is much more useful from that perspective. 

  1. Personal development through an MBA.

When you go to a business school, you don’t necessarily just develop core business skills like operations, finance, and marketing. You also end up building lifelong friendships that impact your perspective. 

You meet people from all across the globe, especially when you are graduating from abroad.

You refine the way you speak, debate, and conduct yourself. You learn all the corporate etiquettes. These are some points that are ubiquitous and are applied across any field you pursue in the future.

In summary, an MBA is a great option. But you should be very clear about your goal. 

The overall value add of an MBA comes from the brand prestige that the business school has. So, the golden rule for doing an MBA is that if you can do it from a top notch program, you should definitely consider it. 

Doing an MBA from an average college could prove to be detrimental to your career.

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