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Why You Should Get an MBA, Even if You’re Unsure of Your Career Goals

At Menlo Coaching, we believe in careful decision making about all the ins and outs of your MBA, including what comes after. Founding partner, David White sat down with Jamie Cheney, a 2007 graduate of Harvard Business School (HBS) and the founder of the successful recruiting company, Prokanga, to discuss the value and long term benefits of an MBA as well as what you can do with an MBA even if you don’t have a clear career path. 

Jamie Cheney (HBS ‘07) on the Value of an MBA

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The Value of an MBA For Flexible Work

Jamie’s company, Prokanga, is a rare recruiting company that has a full-time practice, a part-time practice, and a consulting practice. As discussed in another part of this interview, achieving the right work/life balance may mean taking on part-time on temporary consulting work. This may well have you asking, should I get an MBA when I may not be working in the business world full time?

The simple answer is that recruitment centers, including Prokanga, often sort by educational background first. Going to a top educational institution for your MBA is part of what makes you a valuable candidate when it comes to consulting or part-time work. Even though the duration of the role is limited, most companies that recruit for part-time or consulting positions are small and may need their applicant to take on a variety of roles, weigh in on many different business situations, or get up to speed on the particulars of an industry very quickly. Someone with an MBA from a top business school is seen as fully qualified for that kind of challenging work. 

Jamie admits that she does not need to screen the women in her database with MBAs from top-tier institutions as carefully: the degree itself confers a guarantee of competence and excellence. So, especially if you are a woman who is considering taking on part-time or consulting work at some point in your career, the value of an MBA is incalculable as far as opening doors and projecting a high degree of confidence and ability.

Maximizing the Value of Your MBA

If you find yourself asking “what can I do with my MBA that will set me up for success down the line,” the answer may be a bit surprising. Jamie says that one of the hardest resumes for her to sell to patrons of Prokanga is one that seems stable and successful: Goldman Sachs pre-MBA, McKinsey all the way through partner MBA or post-MBA. Let’s take a look at why that is:

In the end, it comes down to having experiences across a number of different industries. Working at a small company before making the move to a gigantic and prestigious firm can be a boon immediately after your MBA. Because an MBA from a top business school gives you experience with and inroads for a number of different career options, it can naturally lead to the kind of diverse portfolio that will be ideal for part-time and consulting recruitment down the road. 

What Can You Do With an MBA?

Many applicants falsely believe that the value of an MBA lies solely in getting the first job (which we dispel in our article, Is an MBA Worth It?). In reality, what you can do with an MBA is diverse enough that your career can weather changes to your personal life, your location, and your goals with ease. You may have a plan for yourself and it may be a good one, but an MBA will serve you well, even when your plan changes. Jamie’s story is one of dynamic personal change that was incompatible with her work-life balance, and it was possible for her to not merely survive but thrive thanks to the diverse benefits of getting her MBA.

What you can do with an MBA is diverse enough that your career can weather changes to your personal life, your location, and your goals with ease.

The MBA gives you access to a wide variety of skill sets that may not be what you originally intended for your career. Jamie regrets not taking more entrepreneurship courses while getting her HBS MBA, but firmly believes that, even with a more focused course of study than she recommends for current MBAs, she benefitted massively from the required breadth of the degree. She says her trump card is the ability to walk into any room and talk to the head of any company about any aspect of the business world. An MBA will give you context for the financial markets for virtually any industry and enough baseline information to steer you towards how to efficiently read up on what you don’t already know. 

She is also thankful that she was able to build and maintain her MBA network in the years since. The alumni network of a top-tier MBA is a source of incredible value unto itself. Being a part of a network of successful and savvy individuals with millennia of experience among them means that there is both incredible marketing potential for entrepreneurship and a trove of knowledge to better prepare you for your next endeavor, even if it is completely outside your area of expertise. 

All in all, the long-term benefits of an MBA are invaluable, whether your career is stable or volatile and no matter your priorities. The value of an MBA continues to increase long after the program is over.

See more from our interview with Jamie: How one HBS Alum Leveraged her MBA for Entrepreneurship and Achieving Work-Life Balance as a Top MBA Graduate