The MBA is worth it for the right people, but what business school isn’t for you? We’ve talked to thousands of MBA candidates over the years, and there are three types of people who really shouldn’t do an MBA. Not because they aren’t intelligent or won’t be successful in their careers, just that the MBA isn’t a good fit for them or they’re not quite ready yet. It’s a huge investment! So you have to be sure that it’s worth it. This week, Angela Guido lays out the kinds of people who should think twice before doing an MBA. Are you one of them?

Play Video

Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

Last week we talked about the three types of people who should get an MBA. Well, guess what? Now I'm going to tell you if you're one of the shouldn't. I'm Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol, and you've landed on MBA Monday. Every week on this channel right here I am talking about how to apply to business school and how to do it in a logical, painless, and slightly more intelligent way than some of the other advice you might find on the Internet. Today we're talking about are you someone who maybe shouldn't pursue an MBA? Here we are. We're talking about should you not apply to business school. The decision to apply to business school is ultimately a really personal decision, and it's up to you to look inside yourself and make the choice that's right for you, because there is no one-size-fits-all approach. There is no binary answer to any question in the world ever about should or shouldn't. It just really depends on you. So today I'm going to talk about the three kinds of people, the three categories of candidates, where when they come into my free MBA strategy calls, I try to talk them out of applying to business school, or if I don't try to talk them out of it, I give them a ton of advice of things they need to do before ultimately making the decision about whether or not they're going to go ahead and apply.


1.    The Clueless

The first category of MBA “shouldn'ts” are the clueless. That's not the kindest way to refer to it. We're all doing our best, right? So wherever you started your career, maybe you made a good choice. Maybe looking back, you would do it differently. But in the first four, five, or six years of our career, we're all doing the very best that we can do, and we've only had the experiences that we've had. So there's a whole universe of opportunities that you know nothing about because you've only got one life and you're doing the things that you're doing. But if you're like a lot of people who are looking at the MBA as their next step, you're in the category of people who, you don't really know what you want, you just know what you don't want. And what you don't want is what you're doing right now. The MBA is actually really good for that. In my last video, I talked about how it can help you make a very radical pivot from something you don't like to something that you do like. But it's really important to know what you want out of business school. If you enter the MBA application process sort of drifting, hoping that the MBA is going to give you a sense of purpose, that it's going to give you time to contemplate what you want to do post MBA and find your passion, or that it's going to magically shuttle you into a job that you love more than the job that you love now, without you doing the work to figure out what you genuinely love, you are in for a very rude awakening post MBA. You're going to spend all that money and you're going to end up in a post-MBA job that you don't love any more than the job you have now. You're just deeper in debt. So if you're looking at the MBA as an escape route from a career that you're not satisfied with, I'm not saying don't apply, I'm saying don't apply yet. Think about what you really want. Hire a career coach, do some work to figure out where you want to go in your career, and answer that question independent of the MBA. Really look at what are your skills? What are your strengths? What are your values? What's the impact that you want to have? And then see if you can formulate a career game plan. And then ask yourself, does the MBA help me fulfill this career game plan faster or in a way that I couldn't without an MBA? If the answer is yes, then go for the MBA. But for many people, the answer is not really. Not really. You don't need an MBA to do most jobs, not even most jobs in business. So do that hard work of looking at what you want before you embark on your application journey. Trust me, you will be glad you did. Not only because you'll save yourself time, money, and effort, but because your application will be that much stronger.


2.    You Want The MBA To Do It To You

The second category of person who shouldn't get an MBA is really closely related to the first, and I'm going to call this the people who want the MBA to do it to you. It's like you want to change, you want to be a better leader, you want to make more money and have more influence, and you're hoping that the MBA is going to be a magic wand that will transform you into a great leader. As Elon Musk put it, it will allow you to parachute in and run a business post MBA. Of course, the MBA doesn't really work that way. In fact, the MBA doesn't solve many problems. In fact, it creates more. You got a lot more debt, and you're still going to have to work your way up. You're still going to have to build a network. You're still going to have to earn the right to lead. So if you're hoping that the MBA is going to magically transform you into a better business person or a better leader, it's not really going to do that. Ultimately, the hard work is still going to rest on your shoulders, but you're going to be saddled with a lot more debt while you're doing it. So if you're hoping that the MBA is going to magically change your career, I'm going to go back to the advice I gave to category one, which is do that work now. Figure out exactly how do you need to grow to achieve what you want to achieve in your career? This speaks to having a direction, having a sense of where you want to head. You don't have to know the job title or the company or even the function in the industry that you want to go into. But you do need to identify, what do I want to be doing? What are the pieces that I need in my day-to-day work life and in the long term to actually be happy at work? And then go after those right now. If the MBA is going to help you get there, that will become apparent and you can apply for business school at that time. But if you're not already taking action to actualize and to become the person that you want to be post MBA, the MBA probably isn't going to help. So do that work first.


3.    The Overnight Entrepreneur

The third type of person who probably shouldn't apply to business school is what I call the overnight entrepreneur. This is someone who again, they don't love their work, and when I probe deeply on what they don't love about their work, it often comes down to the fact that they just lost the boss lottery. They got a bad boss. They got someone who's micromanaging them, who's telling them what to do, who isn't giving them the chance to express themselves and to be creative and to own their work. And so the remedy for that is to become an entrepreneur. Or alternatively, they have like an area of passion, something that they really care about, maybe they believe in the importance of education and so they want to start an EdTech company, but they've never worked in education or tech, they just have this passion that they care about, but with no track record yet of doing anything in that space. These are two flavors of the overnight entrepreneur, but basically what it amounts to is not having really thought through what you really want in your career. You're still moving away from something that you don't want or moving towards some nebulous vision that doesn't have any pragmatic reality to it. Both of these scenarios are not just situations for big disappointment post MBA, but there are also situations for crappy MBA essays. The admissions committee is really good at vetting your goals. They can tell if you’ve done the work to develop the self-knowledge so that when you say what you want to do, it has heart behind it and it has credibility, it has gravitas. Even if you're trying to make a major pivot, there's a way to do it in a way that makes you seem credible and reasonable, and there's a way to do it in a way that makes you seem like you don't really know what you want. You're just throwing darts at the board. And frequently, people who say they want to go into entrepreneurship post MBA fall into this category because entrepreneurship is an entirely different animal. The MBA, frankly, isn't the best preparation for what most of us mean when we talk about starting a business. When you're starting a business, you're going from zero to ten, not from a hundred to a thousand. Growing a company from a hundred to a thousand is a completely different challenge than going from zero to ten or zero to a hundred. Going from zero to ten is guerrilla warfare. It's about staying up all night. It's about eating ramen while you're building things. It's about being crafty, innovative, resourceful. It's not about corporate strategy and marketing. It's about being in the trenches, rolling up your sleeves, and doing really hard work. The MBA doesn't help with that, frankly. All that helps with that is intention and hard work and just basically never giving up. So, when I talk to people who want to go into entrepreneurship post MBA, my most frequent advice is don't go to business school, take out a business loan for that amount of money, and just start the company now. Just make it happen. If you really have something that you want to bring into the world, go do it. You don't need an MBA for that. And in fact, an MBA might just slow you down. That doesn't mean that you can't go into entrepreneurship post MBA. It also doesn't mean that you can't talk about wanting to go into entrepreneurship post MBA. It just means that if you're going to do that, the plan has to have teeth. It has to be credible. Meaning you have to have either an idea, or you have to have some kind of track record already of entrepreneurship. You have to have started something on the side. You have to have created a club, at least maybe it's not a company, but you started a club, you started an organization, you started a nonprofit. You've gotten your feet wet in what it takes to get something off the ground from zero. If that's your situation, then by all means consider an MBA as an accelerator for your own sense of entrepreneurship. Though frequently, in some cases, it's still not the right call. The most important thing, though, is to know what you want and to talk about it with credibility and authority in your MBA applications. If you can't do that, then you're not ready to apply. So be sure to watch all of the videos we have on developing your career game plan. And if you want to talk to us about working together to build a career game plan, you can request a call anytime.

The whole reason MBA Monday exists is because I genuinely care about whether or not you achieve your career dreams, about whether you achieve your potential and give everything that you've got to give in this life through your career. I genuinely care about that. The MBA is one pathway to doing that, which is great for some people, but not for everyone. So whether the MBA is right for you. I'm rooting for you to get everything that you want in your career. Come back next week and we'll talk more about MBA stuff. Bye!

Sign up for a free MBA strategy call right here:

Free Strategy Call

Picture of Angela Guido

Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder and
Chief Education Officer of Career Protocol

All Posts

The highest quality MBA resources you’ll find this month. (Jonny’s MBA Bulletin, March 2024)

Read More

The highest quality MBA resources you’ll find this month. (Jonny’s MBA Bulletin, February 2024)

Read More

The highest quality MBA resources you’ll find this month. (Jonny’s MBA Bulletin, January 2024)

Read More