How Would You Put an MBA to Work [for You!]?

It has been two years since I received my MBA at the W.P. Carey Business School at Arizona State University. During the two-year program, it was stressful to work full time and have classes two nights a week and several full-day sessions on Saturday. While the two years went fast during those challenging evenings, that last two years since completing the program have been good for rebuilding a social life and pursuing other professional activities, such as volunteering on association boards or exploring industry certifications.

I wrote this blog last summer as to why someone in public relations and marketing would need or want to go through the MBA program.

I took it on as a personal goal and challenge. I don’t have the background to explore working in finance, accounting or supply chain, as might be the assumed professions of choice for many professionals who earn an MBA. I think being an entrepreneur is a fantastic route to take, and I surely would love to be one if I had the right idea. I am still in the same job, as are several of my classmates, but I have expanded my leadership abilities by constantly developing new concepts, deploying improved marketing strategies and being more assertive in providing communications counsel to my department management.

I don’t measure the MBA as a status symbol or a special ticket to executive compensation. I look at it as a milestone in my life, even though I lamented not doing several years sooner, and a platform from which I will continue to learn the rest of my career wherever it may lead me for years to come. Going through the various disciplines with other full-time professionals from all types of industries was very beneficial to formulating a managerial mindset that understands the necessary details of transactions, relationships and culture, but drives the initiation and evaluation of objectives, processes, efficiencies and competitive differentiations.

Our program started a month before the September 2008 financial meltdown; so there were two factors that stood out: 1) They say it is always good to go back to school during a recession to reinvent your career and improve your skills; 2) Our professors were constantly dissecting the news of the day coming out of Wall Street, the Federal Reserve and the transition from the Bush Administration to the Obama Administration that occurred after our first trimester. As someone who had been immersed in writing and public relations for more than a decade, it was great to finally learn the nuances of accounting, finance, supply chain, corporate strategy and ethics while we all experienced the economic tribulations that ensued.

What I would tell any person is this, if you have the desire and can manage the work/life/school balance for two years and envision yourself managing a large team or running a small company, pursue the MBA between ages 27 and 31. Students with only a couple years of work really will have a different take on the experience, and their approach and knowledge during the program won’t be as astute and perceptive as those with at least five years of professional experience.

Even if the MBA doesn’t prove to be the fast-pass to an immediate promotion or recruiters aren’t flooding your inbox after graduation, you can put the degree to work in your life however you see fit. Don’t let those three letters burden you with expectations of a standardized position title progression or make you feel you have to show your smarts in the midst of others. Just think deeply and contribute greatly in all of your professional interactions, organization partnerships and career planning, and it will work its way and earn its keep even when you may not realize the impact of how the program shaped your mindset and foresight.

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