If you're considering getting an MBA, you've probably read and heard plenty of opinions from both sides of this contentious debate.
I got my MBA because I wanted to change industries. I had worked in service industries--investment banking and consulting--for the first five years of my career, and I really wanted to be on the operating side in retail. Personally, I have no regrets.
When making your decision, you have to remember that business school is not a silver bullet for your career or your life. It should be taken seriously, so my advice is to have a specific goal in mind that you want to achieve. Something that would be very difficult without an MBA.
Here's why I'm glad I went to business school, and why it may not be a waste of time for you, either:
It's a great way to make a career change.
When I started exploring a move from banking to retail, I had the same realization everyone does when they try switching careers: it's really difficult.
It's very easy to get pegged in one specific industry, even early on in your career. An MBA is a great way to make a dramatic career change because it lets you reset. It's a fairly general degree, and you'll have access to summer internships you can use to explore a new direction while you're still in school.
Getting a degree doesn't mean your dream career will suddenly land in your lap, but it does give you an opportunity to pursue that career if you've been working in a completely different industry.
It establishes a basic level of credibility.
An MBA alone is never going to get you a job--it's not the magic bullet some people make it out to be.
But it is the type of credential that can get your foot in the door because it establishes a certain level of credibility in many people's eyes. They assume you're hard-working, ambitious, and intelligent.
You'll make choices in your career that give people a sense of who you are, and business school is one that provides an added signal of dependability.
It can give you the confidence to start your own company.
I'm not saying that you need an MBA to start a company.
That said, almost all the female founders I know have MBAs. I think that's partly because women tend to wait until they're more confident in their ability to execute and run a business. They're not usually trying to set up shop at 22-years-old.
If you do get your MBA, you'll definitely feel more prepared to start your own business, but it's not as though you can't fail now that you have those credentials. You're still going to have to learn fast and work hard to be successful.
It expands your network.
The network you leave business school with is invaluable. Both your classmates and alumni constitute a lifelong network that you can have a solid connection with.
It's also a great time to reach out to people and solicit advice from them in a way that doesn't feel as sales-y as it does when you're working full-time.
When I was in my second year at MIT Sloan School of Management, I actually cold called Mickey Drexler, the CEO of J. Crew at the time, to ask if he could come to campus and speak. I honestly didn't expect to get him on the line, so I was pretty flustered when he eventually picked up the phone. Although I didn't make the most compelling case, he was extremely kind while turning down the invitation.
Business school is a unique platform, and it can give you opportunities to do things you'd never be able to otherwise.
An MBA makes sense only if you have a specific goal in mind.
I went into my program with a defined goal, and I didn't let the pressures of business school distract me from it.
In fact, I was one of the last people in my class to get a summer internship because most of the recruiters/companies who came to campus were in consulting or finance. I was trying to leave finance, not get sucked back into it.
Plenty of people go to business school without much of a plan. Their personal statements are about whatever they think will get them in the door, and once they're in school, they're pulled in a million different directions. Some of them end up doing the same thing they were doing before, only now they're $150,000 in debt.
If you do choose to go, have a clear goal of what you want to do--and don't let anything stop you from achieving it.