If you've defied those who say MBAs and start-up dreams don't mix and enrolled anyway, a successful entrepreneur offers tips to make the experience pay off.
The value of business school for entrepreneurs is pretty hotly debated with plenty of high-profile names arguing the experience squashes creativity, wastes time, and costs a bucketload of money. But what if getting an MBA is your lifelong dream or you already decided to go and then switched your focus to entrepreneurship? If you're definitely MBA-bound and keen to start a business after you graduate how should you approach the whole experience?
Only get an MBA from a top-5 school. An MBA is expensive and time consuming. It's just not worth the opportunity cost going to a school that does not have access to the best professors, highest quality students, or influential alumni.
If you don't get into Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, MIT or Columbia, then don't waste your time. There might be an argument made for Babson, since it only focuses on entrepreneurship. There are always exceptions to this rule, but then again, the most successful entrepreneurs today (Facebook, Microsoft, Oracle) do not even have college degrees!
So if you're among the lowly mortals studying at a school with less cache, is there no hope to make your expensive, post-grad education support your entrepreneurial dreams? Bhatti actually has plenty of suggestions, including:
Go on all the "tech treks." Most top MBA schools have "treks" either during winter recess or the summer. These are organized trips to places like Silicon Valley, New York, Japan, or other tech hot-spots. These treks are awesome since you meet people that you normally would not get a chance to collaborate with.
Base all your electives and classes around a startup idea or thesis. Every course or elective you take should help you launch a company. Don't waste your time taking another finance course if you're doing a startup that is not a finance company.Even if you don't have that killer idea yet, just come up with the best concept possible and apply it in every course.
Save money during school, because you'll need it to start your business. Given the costs of an MBA, many of you will be tempted to do a few years in consulting or banking to pay back the loans. If you do that, then you have just wasted a lot of years. Your goal after graduating should be to either launch your startup, or join an early stage startup that can serve as a greater learning experience before doing your own. Stay focused on your long-term goal. If you do a good job of keeping your cash burn low during business school (don't go drinking every night, don't rent an expensive apartment off-campus, don't go on unnecessary vacations, do some part-time work to keep cash coming in, etc).
JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist. @EntryLevelRebel