Why Did You Get an MBA?

I know some people are thinking this question when the topic comes up. Why would public relations practitioners need an M.B.A.? Why would they go through the apparent agony or sacrifice if it might not position them on a management-track gig at a Fortune 500 company or blue-chip financial services firm? Well, I have expanded my horizons the last few years and enjoyed taking up more of a holistic marketing communications role, but that’s for another blog perhaps.

Check out this poll that ran on the Phoenix Business Journal web site last majority of the responses show that this degree may no longer be the widely-held blue-chip ticket to the C-suite and all the trappings that usually come with such positions. I suppose I never developed an interest or craving to experience what it is like in a major corporate setting or the financial sector. I have never had aspirations of being in a Fortune 500 environment and I don’t have any start-up projects on my horizon.

I entered the  MBA at the W.P. Carey Business School at Arizona State University at 34; the median age for the evening program was 31 and most of my classmates in the cohort worked in the software and technology sectors while I had professional sports and agency public relations on my C.V. Furthermore, I probably only took two business-related courses as an undergraduate majoring in communications at Cornell.  I really underestimated the power of the GMAT and scored poorly on the first outing; plus sports media relations wasn’t as sexy on the application as I probably thought it was back then.

After I relocated to Arizona, I made a commitment to embark on life-long learning from that day forth and to never get pigeonholed, boxed in or overlooked as one-dimensional or irrelevant. I took the GMAT again in September 2007 and was accepted into the ASU program a month later to begin with the fall 2008 semester.

I’m not in the real estate or financial services sector or up-and-coming entrepreneur. I fully appreciate these positions are generally going to yield higher salaries and lucrative compensation packages. We all have our various interests, specialties and unique experiences that hopefully help mold each individual in the direction of their “ideal gig”.

I didn’t pursue the MBA because I thought there would be an automatic six-figure pot of gold at the end of the academic rainbow, and I don’t care if I am entitled to have an acronym after my name on my business card. I wanted to learn about all of the worldly business disciplines (that I overlooked as a naive aspiring journalist during my undergrad years) while becoming a more knowledgeable leader and augmenting my managerial skills and career-escalating potential. Supply chain was very interesting; I feared it as being very technical going in, but it was a great perspective on how any kind of process can be evaluated and improved, it doesn’t just apply to manufacturing. Yes, accounting and finance really kicked my butt, but I did what I could to get a decent grade and made sure I fared better in economics, marketing , ethics and business law. I ended up getting a 12-credit marketing emphasis, which was great because I loved the CRM, B2B, Global Business and Entrepreneur electives.

It’s now been a little over a year since I graduated. I plan on reviewing a lot of the PowerPoint lectures, my notes this summer to sharpen my aptitude in some areas. When you cram a lot into each 10-week course and you don’t regularly apply such knowledge in your career, your old noodle sure can let a lot slip through.

Not a lot has changed in my life thus far, but that’s not entirely true. I am in the same job, but constantly striving be a more insightful project manager and leader to other employees. I have the capacity now to see beyond and around projects to anticipate issues or challenges that may arise and I am more confident when making preemptive decisions or planning projects accordingly to my discretion and preference within the proper procedures and best practices. I feel I am making concrete contributions on the local association boards that I serve on and enjoy mentoring college students and younger professionals seeking input.

If I could have done things differently, I would have left sports PR at 26 and done the full-time program, but I have had an interesting journey and I continue to learn from all of my experiences and everyone I am surrounded by.

So just like young professionals don’t want to be pigeonholed in a low or mid-level roles the rest of their working lives, the fact that someone is pursuing or has an MBA also can mean removing the dogmatic perception of the type of person that would or should attain such a credential.

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