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The Right & Wrong Reasons For Getting An MBA

Jeff Schmitt
·8 min read

The Right & Wrong Reasons for Getting an MBA

An MBA can certainly pay off.

For many, the degree can offer a path to a new career, higher pay, and better job prospects.

But it’s also expensive. Very expensive. Top B-schools can cost upwards of $200,000. And it seems like it isn’t getting cheaper any time soon.

Before you decide to invest in an MBA, it’s important to weigh the pros and the cons. Liza Kirkpatrick, managing director of the Career Management Center at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, recently wrote a piece for the Harvard Business Review detailing all the right and wrong reasons for pursuing an MBA.

RIGHT REASONS

One of the best reasons to pursue an MBA, according to Kirkpatrick, is to “future-ready” your career. What exactly does that mean?

“It means that more and more companies are looking to come out of the pandemic stronger than they were before by pivoting and adjusting their business models,” Kirkpatrick writes. “Hiring the right talent with the right skills is an important piece of that. You should have the same mindset. Ask yourself: ‘How can I expand my skillset and capabilities to be the best candidate for these roles?’”

Attending B-school can help develop valuable soft skills and analytical chops. So, if you’re looking to make yourself more competitive and “future-ready” your career, then the MBA may be a smart investment.

The MBA can also be beneficial if you’re looking to make a career pivot.

“Business school is a great time to gain exposure to peers, faculty, and a network of alumni from many professional backgrounds — as well as class projects and case studies that dive deeply into different industries and sectors,” Kirkpatrick writes.

In fact, one of the main benefits of going to B-school is the people that you meet. The connections you make in your program can open you to a number of opportunities.

“I was recently talking with a graduate who was in the running for a job at a large e-commerce tech company, but suddenly became stuck in the hiring process,” Kirkpatrick writes. “An alum with connections at that company made an inquiry, discovered the issue was a delay in HR, and provided a recommendation that moved her application forward.”

WRONG REASONS

Kirkpatrick says one of the biggest misconceptions about the MBA is viewing it as a “magic pill” to success.

While the degree can open up opportunities for a new career, higher pay, and better job prospects, it isn’t always the only way, or the right solution.

“If you are feeling doubts about your current role, or struggling to advance at the pace you want, there are other steps you can take first,” Kirkpatrick writes. “For example, you can step up at work by asking your manager for a stretch project in your area of interest and seeking out their critical feedback. You can also try cultivating relationships with people whose careers you admire to find out what they did to get where they are. With this level of engagement, you might learn more about what you really want, set new goals, and be positioned to take full advantage of an MBA program when, and if, you choose to pursue one later on.”

Most importantly, Kirkpatrick says, prospective applicants need to have a solid reason behind why they want to pursue an MBA and what they hope to gain out of it.

What is one of the worst reasons for pursuing an MBA? Boredom.

“Boredom can take the form of frustration — with not being recognized, not getting better projects, watching others get promoted,” Kirkpatrick writes. “This is an invitation to pause and reflect: Why are these opportunities going to other people and not you? What skills do you need? Will it change how others perceive you? By reflecting on these questions, you can gain insight into your current situation. If you don’t, you could end up asking yourself, ‘Why did I even go to business school?’”

Sources: Harvard Business Review, P&Q

3 Steps To Effective Virtual Networking

Networking via Zoom is the new normal.

The virtual networking experience can be awkward, tense, and filled with too many instances of “you’re on mute.”

Yet, networking and making connections is still an essential component of the MBA experience. Noah Askin, INSEAD assistant professor of organizational behavior, offered a few tips for how to make the most of the experience as part of the recent INSEAD webinar, “Networking in Our New Reality.”

DETERMINE YOUR GOALS

It’s important to set your goals before attending any networking event. Determining your goals will help establish a more effective foundation and allow you to identify who to connect with.

MAKE A CONTACTS LIST

The next step will be mapping out the people in your network.

“What we’re talking about here is not necessarily about establishing totally new ties, although they can be in there,” Askin explains. “It’s about people that you know reasonably well – contact them three to four times a year. And it’s about strengthening weak ties – keep them updated on what you’re doing.”

REGULARLY REACH OUT

A big part of networking is the numbers game. The more people you reach out to, the more possibility for opportunities to come your way. While quantity is important, quality research is even more critical.

“Most people have an array of information about them online, whether it’s LinkedIn or a social media site. Use that to your advantage. Find out who these people are,” Askin explains. “And be prepared with your own story. ‘I’m interested in x and y, you’re somebody who focuses on x and y and would be really helpful to me.’”

Sources: INSEAD Knowledge, INSEAD

Dartmouth Tuck’s Class of 2020 employment report shows declines in jobs offers and acceptances but increases in median salary as the school and its grads navigated the choppy waters of the coronavirus pandemic. Tuck photo

How To Approach The Tuck Essays

Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business ranked number 9 in P&Q’s 2021 “Top Business Schools” rankings.

Gaining admission into Tuck is no easy feat with an acceptance rate of 23% and average GPA of 3.48. But what kind of student does Tuck look for?

Amy Hugo, Expert Coach at Fortuna Admissions, recently broke down the three Tuck admissions essays and offered insight into conveying your story in a way that inspires the admissions committee to want to learn more.

Essay 1

The first prompt asks: Tuck students can articulate how the distinctive Tuck MBA will advance their aspirations. Why are you pursuing an MBA and why Tuck? (300 words)

This is the “Why Tuck” essay. Hugo advises applicants to break the essay into two sections: why an MBA and why Tuck.

The first section on “why an MBA” should introduce your career goals briefly.

“As mentioned, getting straight to the point is vital; 300 words is scant real estate,” Hugo writes. “I would aim for no more than 50 words referencing your goals/vision, then the rest on why an MBA and why Tuck specifically.”

On the “why Tuck” portion of your essay, you’ll want to align your goals to the Tuck program – from electives you’re interested in to clubs you want to partake in.

“Dig deep and really get to know the school before writing this essay,” Hugo advises.

Essay 2

The second prompt asks: Tuck students recognize how their individuality adds to the fabric of Tuck. Tell us who you are. (300 words)

This essay is focused on who you are outside of your test scores, GPA, and titles. The key to this second essay, according to Hugo, is focusing on a couple of aspects rather than too many.

“Identify a couple of your strengths, values, characteristics – whatever you believe defines who you are – and how you have demonstrated those in the past with examples, or how you came to be that way (who/what influenced you?), plus a recognition of a growth area and how you have been working on it,” Hugo writes.

Essay 3

The third prompt asks: Tuck students invest generously in one another’s success even when it is not convenient or easy. Share an example of how you helped someone else succeed. (300 words)

Tuck’s community values collaboration and teamwork. In this essay, Tuck admissions officers want to see if you’ll be a good fit to the community. Examples of your collaborative qualities are key in this essay.

“Think of a time when you really went out of your way to help someone else,” Hugo writes. “Briefly outline the situation or context, and then go on to detail the actions you took and why, including your interactions with others, and then the result or impact for you and the other(s) involved, and finally any learnings from the experience. Anything that can highlight your leadership and impact at the same time as strongly emphasizing your team ethic and putting others first would be ideal.”

Sources: Fortuna Admissions, P&Q, Tuck School of Business

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