Should you get an MBA?

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"I want to prepare for a future role higher up in the organization.

Should I get an MBA?"

FIRST — Awesome that you're thinking about moving into management, we need more women in leadership positions! 

Second — I talk with a lot of women about going back to school (sometimes it's about getting an MBA... other times it's a second Masters, a PhD or one time — a woman was considering getting her second PhD)

I totally get the desire. I was thinking of getting a PhD when I had an infant at home (I ended up dropping to a grad certificate), and I had peers who had kids  of all ages. It's 100% doable — even with children (the fact that you're considering this at ALL tells me that you have the ability to do it 😊

But even without kids, studying for your MBA (or another grad program) isn't easy, so it's important to know what's going to keep you motivated when things get tough.

Here are three thoughts I'll share to help you decide if studying for your MBA will get you the results you desire.


Be Mindful when Asking for Advice

You’re likely asking your friends, family and people in Facebook groups whether you should do it.  

Asking for advice is a completely natural reaction, and there’s nothing wrong with asking people for their thoughts. What I want you to bear in mind is that most people give advice based on their personal lens, experience and worldview... meaning it might not apply to you.

Facebook opinions don’t necessarily reflect the only way things work. They may not be considering your personal circumstances OR they may be putting their own “limiting beliefs” onto you.

When someone gives you advice... take it as one more piece of information that helps you reflect and think.

And as much as you're asking others for their thoughts... make sure you spend time asking yourself for advice. 

Reflection Questions to Solicit Your Own Advice

These reflection questions will help you find out what your own advice looks like. Really sit with these questions and write out everything that comes to mind.

Because once you know your own answers, then you can investigate whether an MBA is the only and/or best path to get there.

  • What's your end goal with going back to school?
  • What’s holding you back from doing it? (For example, maybe you’re worried you won’t see your daughter enough while working and going to school.) How true is that worry? How can you mitigate your concerns?
  • What would be the benefit of going to school and how important is that? What is the drawback of going to school?
  • What would be the benefit of NOT going to school and how important is that? What is the drawback of NOT going to school?
  • If I tossed a coin and told you heads-school, tails-not school... what do you instinctively want me to tell you was the result?
  • What would you tell a friend who was in an identical situation?

Once you have your own answers to these questions, you can start thinking about whether business school is the ONLY way to achieve your end goal.


Consider Whether Business / Grad school is the Only Path

Asking whether business school actually produces better executives and a better career path sparks some debate. 

Some people swear by business school — that an MBA is the only way to be prepared for and land a seat at the executive table. That it prepared them completely for a senior leadership role and there is absolutely no way they would have landed their job without it.

Others (and some academic studies) shrug and say that an MBA does absolutely nothing for your career that you couldn’t have accomplished yourself. (The argument is that if you’re driven enough to complete an MBA (particularly with children!) you’re driven enough to chart your own path in your career).

I can't tell you which side of the debate is "right", but what I’ve noticed is that most people say the main benefit from an MBA is from the networks and connections they made while at school. And for some people, they say they quite literally need the MBA as a checkbox to be eligible for their dream career.

If you really feel that you need to build up your network through an MBA program or that you absolutely NEED the pedigree of an MBA, then yes, an MBA might be the way to go.

However... in terms of building business knowledge, skill and know-how, there is some pretty compelling research that business school is not the only option.  There are a ton of resources (books, articles, podcasts) that you can work through on your own, and often experience is a better teacher than a classroom professor.  

If you're curious about creating your own DIY program that won't cost you anything more than a trip to the library every few months, I created a curated guide to leadership books for women:

>> Click here for the ULTIMATE guide to leadership books for women <<

Ultimately, you'll want to take a step back and look at the situation as objectively as possible. Is an MBA truly necessary for you to achieve your career goals?

Some will say yes, some will say no... so you get to choose which answer gives you the most confidence to make a decision you feel good about.


Do the Internal Work

There's often mindset "stuff" that comes up when thinking about going to the next level, and our brain seeks out a safety net in the form of getting a new degree.

Most people focus on the external part of deciding whether to go to an MBA - Will I make more money, Will it help me get promoted, Can I handle it with a full-time job and 2 kids etc.

But for a lot of people, the decision about business school is actually a mask for an internal fear about moving up in your company. The sneaky inner critic starts to whisper: 

>> "What if you're not good enough / smart enough / confident enough to get promoted? Wouldn't it make sense to go back to school and get a degree to SHOW them that you're ready?" 

The idea of being judged as not good enough is anxiety-provoking (at least for most of us). 

And when the anxiety spikes, your brain goes into protection mode, trying to keep you from being "harmed."  It's a LOT easier to focus on something external to us - like going back to school - rather than face the inner critic (remember, the inner critic is so super sneaky.. . it's whispering in your ear and it's hard to confront a whisper)

When you're having a hard time deciding whether to go back to school, there's a good chance that something's going on internally (#MindDramaIsReal 😂

The most common culprit is that you're facing an "impostor" situation (sometimes called impostor syndrome) - that you're worried you might not be seen as 'good enough' to be promoted. So your brain very happily focuses on getting an MBA (or another degree) as a way to boost your credibility.

If it feels like this is happening with you, it doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't get an MBA... but it most definitely means that you'll want to circle back to the top of this article and go through those reflection questions, to really spend some time making sure that you WANT an MBA.

And if you're ready to tackle that sneaky inner critic, you should definitely get my impostor cleanse kit! 👇

Get the Impostor Cleanse Kit!

Get my four best resources to overcome impostor thoughts as you advance your career. 

December 3, 2023

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