How do you know if an MBA is right for you? In my tenure as Admissions Director at Rotterdam School of Management, I've never met anyone who has regretted doing their MBA.
How do you know if an MBA is right for you?
In my tenure as Admissions Director at Rotterdam School of Management, I've never met anyone who has regretted doing their MBA. But that isn't to say an MBA is for everyone.
I routinely meet dedicated, motivated professionals who wonder if the investment in time and money is worth it. They are right to think twice before they commit.
Doing an MBA is a major undertaking. The sacrifices and the effort required are as great as the rewards can be. And rewards there are.
Globally, we're seeing a surge in applications. And it's not surprising. For many employers, an MBA is the number one "hot" credential. In banking, finance, consultancy and other sectors, an MBA is a clear signifier of talent, as well as knowledge, confidence and flexibility. Business-savvy graduates are in high demand in hi-tech and start-up spaces to manage explosive growth.
But doing an MBA is not a decision to take lightly. First, you have to meet stringent admissions criteria.
Then there are a number of important considerations you need to work through - among these, how a given programme aligns to your goals and expectations.
So how do you know if an MBA is right for you?
1. What are your goals?
Even before you start collecting brochures, you should ask yourself this question; Why are you thinking of doing an MBA? What concrete things do you want to achieve? How will the MBA help you accomplish these goals?
When we sit down for the first time with an MBA applicant at RSM, these are the kinds of questions we ask. And answers can vary greatly.
From our perspective, one of the best reasons for committing to an MBA is to acquire technical, marketable skills - skills that can accelerate you in your career and set you off on a journey towards leadership. Often, our candidates are interested in changing some important element of their career - a change of role, sector or geography - and they see that an MBA can give them exposure to the thinking, the skills, the network and the experiences that will help them achieve that change.
These are sound reasons for doing an MBA. Seeing an MBA as a magic bullet that will affect a quantum leap in your career with no clear direction from you is not.
2. How does this programme map to those goals?
Once you are clear about your goals, it's time to undertake due diligence about the programme - and the school - that's going to help you meet those targets.
At RSM, our MBA programmes prioritise things like developing an international outlook, a global mindset, and core leadership competencies - all within a highly diverse and multi-cultural framework.
Take your time to figure out what matters to you most and how any given programme aligns to your priorities. You should also consider things like the reputational clout of the school. Rankings do not by any means tell the whole story when it comes to choosing a top B-School, but they give some indication of cachet, and how the school and its programmes are valued by the wider community. So this is where you have to do your homework.
Think about things like where the school is located; how much international exposure the programme delivers; how many nationalities or different sectors there will be in your cohort, who will you be learning with and from? You might want to think about the values a school has. That and where do you want to be based for a full year or more of your life,
particularly if you are opting for a full-time MBA.
3. Full-time or Part-time?
Most top B-Schools offer a broad portfolio of MBA programmes, some full-time, others part-time.
At RSM, our part-time programmes are generally aimed at students who have more experience under their belts. For this demographic, studying part-time means they can juggle high-impact roles and family life - and even look at the possibility of getting sponsorship from their company. In many schools, full or part-time options might tie to target candidates, programme by programme.
The RSM MBA is offered full-time to younger candidates at early stages in their careers. Our Global MBA, in contrast, is a part-time programme, pitched at senior executives and business leaders who require a greater degree of flexibility.
While B-Schools will differ around the world, there is a broad consensus that after the age of 35, the MBA no longer offers much utility, but I couldn't disagree more. As you progress in your career, you will want to look at executive or global part-time options that bring you into senior cohorts. Learning from other experienced and talented colleagues is critical to focus the skills you've acquired throughout your career. And these programmes will, by extension, require you to bring more to the table in terms of
experience and expertise.
4. Cost and Time
At the end of the day, a majority of candidates will expect their MBA to have a significant impact on their earning potential - wherever they are in their career. But, in the very broadest terms, you only get back what you're prepared to put in.
Good MBA programmes are a significant investment in terms both of cost and time. So the question is: can you afford it? An MBA comes with its tuition price tag; but you will also need to factor in things like accommodation, travel expenses and (in the case of our full-time programme) not earning a salary for the duration of the programme.
It is essential that you sit down and get your finances in order ahead of making your application. Investigate the kinds of financing options open to you, and whether you might be eligible for a scholarship.
And do remember to make time for a cost-benefit analysis.
Yes, an MBA might be one of the most expensive decisions of your life, but try to weigh that up against the financial return on your investment - as well as the return to you professionally and personally.
5. Support From Others
Whether they are full-time MBAs or senior business leaders taking executive programmes, most MBA candidates will have partners, families or ongoing professional or personal commitments. You won't be taking your MBA in isolation and other elements of your life will continue to vie for priority. For that reason, we say it is critical that you secure the buy-in from your loved ones, family and/or employer.
An MBA will change your life. But for it to do so, you must be prepared to immerse yourself in your reading, your classes, your exchange programmes, your projects, and your activities schedule. You are going to want to ensure that the people who matter to you personally and professionally give their fullest support to this experience.
So, on the basis of all this, is an MBA right for you?
There's no doubt that you will have to make sacrifices in terms of money, time and effort. And it won't be easy. You'll be challenged, pushed and stretched more than ever before. But if you are interested in developing practical leadership and management skills, flexibility and confidence that can take you anywhere in the world, the "hottest" credential in the marketplace and a lifelong, global business network, then perhaps we should talk?