Twenty years ago this week, I graduated from business school as a newly minted Wharton MBA. Getting an MBA was a great, and huge, investment of time, money and effort 20 years ago. It is an even bigger investment today. Here are six ways today’s MBAs can get the most out of their investment.
- Career Pivot – I got my dream job out of college, but three years into my twenties, my dreams changed. Getting an MBA was a natural way to hit the ‘reset’ button on my career. It made it easy to explain to potential employers why I was looking for a job in a very different field. It also retooled me to compete for jobs in different fields.
- Job Interviews – When I graduated from business school, I had a job with a management consulting firm waiting for me because consulting firms recruited at my school. Perhaps I could have landed interviews with some consulting firms on my own, but my odds were increased dramatically by being at a business school. Beyond just getting interviews, I was much more prepared for those interviews by being around the classmates that could help me prepare (or at least show me what the competition looked like).
- New Brand – I’ve scanned thousands of resumes since business school and that experience has taught me the value of “brands” on resumes. While the reputation of the business school you go to is not a guarantee for success, it can help your resume get noticed out of the crowd of other job applicants. If you went to an undergraduate school that is not well-known to potential employers in your field or geography, your business school brand can give you a chance to get associated with a better-known brand.
- Useful Skills – I have used the skills I learned from my MBA curriculum regularly in my career as a consultant and executive. In particular, the skills I learned in marketing, operations management, people management, and strategy have been the tools I most frequently pull out of my MBA “tool box” at work. I haven’t often applied some other skills like finance and accounting after my MBA classes, but I have found the knowledge is still valuable, as it enables me to ask the right questions when I work with experts in those fields.
- College “Do-over” – Being a full-time graduate student gave me a second chance at a college experience. My undergraduate experience was wonderful, but I focused on getting good grades and internships and not on other aspects of campus life. At business school, I took the opportunity to do the extracurricular activities I de-prioritized in college. As a graduate student, I got to serve as the head of the student government for the whole university, serving 10,000+ students. The lessons I learned from that experience in leadership and university politics has been highly valuable in my career.
- Cohort of Colleagues – I made hundreds of new connections with my classmates at business school. That network has proven invaluable in many ways throughout my career. From friendships to connections to friendly competitors, the cohort I joined at business school has been a great group to run with through the marathon of life since then.
If you are considering getting an MBA, think about how you can get the most out your MBA investment. If you are graduating with your MBA, focus on nurturing the network of relationships you made at business school. Don’t let those relationships erode as you move on… they may be the biggest payoff from your investment.
Editor’s note: This article was originally posted on LinkedIn on May 11, 2016.