Is It Time For You To Get an MBA?

When’s the right time for you to go to business school? Great question! And one we keep getting in the comments, so we’re here to settle the matter once and for all at the cost of our engagement statistics.

Angela Guido walks you through how to think about whether YOU (not the school) are ready, what “right time” means and then what to do with the answer.

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Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

Hello and welcome back to MBA Monday. I'm Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol, and I am here to help you navigate this awesomely fun, interesting, amazing, challenging, rewarding process of applying to business school. I need more coffee. Today I'm going to answer a question that is on everyone's mind at some point on the MBA journey, and that is, “Is now my moment?”. Is this the right time for you to apply to business school? As with almost all of my videos, there are three things that I'm going to cover today, three things that you really need to think about as you're deciding when to apply to business school. The first is to choose the right mindset for the decision. Second, I'm going to encourage you to think about your career, how the MBA fits into your career, where you are in your career, and therefore, whether the MBA is right for you now or not. And then finally, I'm going to tell you what to do once you've decided that this is your moment.

1. The Right Mindset

  • What business schools want? Forget about it.
  • Be egoistic for once.
  • Is it your time?
  • Are you ready to contribute?

Okay, so let's start with the right mindset. When most people ask me this question of “Am I ready to apply to business school?”, they're inherently looking at it from the perspective of schools. “Will schools think I'm good enough now?” is inherently the real question that's being asked, “Or do I need to wait to be good enough to get into my target schools?”. I really want to encourage you to just get rid of that entire framing. Forget about what school admissions committees want. Forget about what you think they want, what you know they want, what they actually want. This is your career we're talking about. So don't decide the right moment to apply to business school because you imagine that some person you're never going to meet is going to believe that it's the right time for you versus they're going to think that you need to wait. Just forget all that. The way to approach this is you're about to make a huge investment in yourself and you want to pick the time to apply to business school when the moment is really right for you, meaning, when you're positioned to reap the most benefit from the MBA program, and when you're positioned to add value as a participant in the MBA program. It's really about you. It's about where you are in your career. So, as you're looking to decide when to apply, to apply to business school, whether it's this year or next year or four years from now, the decision has to be based on when it's best for you to go. It's also not based necessarily on when your candidacy is going to be the strongest (that's what I'm going to talk about in part three).

2. The Right Moment

  • Accelerators / Seekers / Hunters
  • Do I have enough experience in my field to add value to a classroom discussion?
  • Where am I on the learning curve in my organization?

All right, so you've got the right mindset, you're focused on yourself, you've got a self-centered approach to your MBA application timing. Now, how to figure out if this is really the right moment for you or not based on where you are in your career? So if you think about who goes to business school, and I'm mostly talking about full-time MBA programs here. Part-time MBA programs have a slightly different framing. Executive programs, likewise, have a different framing. Even online MBA programs, those are going to come at slightly different stages in your career and add differential value depending on where you are. But I'm talking mainly about the programs where you're going to stop work, go to school for a year or two, and then reenter the workforce. The people who go to full-time MBA programs are usually in one of three places. Either they're already on the career path that they know they're going to stay on. They're in a job that they love, in a field that they love. They plan to come back to this industry and maybe even the same firm after business school. And they just need the MBA so that they can rocket themselves up within the career they have already chosen. These are what we call the accelerators. So the MBA for them is an accelerator of their career, it's not helping them make a switch. Then we've got the people who know they're going to make a big change and they know exactly what that change is. They're moving from PR to marketing, or they're switching from consulting to product management. They're making a move that is changing either industry or function or both, and they're planning to do that through the MBA. This is what we call seekers. And then the third group of people who go to full-time MBA programs are the ones who have done a lot of things in their career, they've learned a lot, they've enjoyed some of the things that they've done, they know they don't want to continue in the field that they're in, but they're not entirely sure exactly where they want to end up, and they're going to use the MBA to make a pivot in a direction to be determined ASAP. These are what we call the hunters. All right, so the first thing to do is to locate yourself in one of those three categories. At this moment, can you definitively say that you are either an accelerator, a seeker, or a hunter? The answer could be you're not sure yet. So here's where to look. Look at your current career and ask yourself these questions.

  • Number one, do I have enough experience in my field to be able to add value to my classmates in a classroom discussion? Most people need somewhere between two and four years to be able to answer yes to that question. Whatever field you're in, whether you're in technology or you're an engineer or you're in the nonprofit space or you're a management consultant, you need time to develop some experience so that when you get into the classroom, you can actually talk practically about business matters with at least a little bit of experience from whatever domain you've chosen. So you need at least some experience to be able to contribute.

  • The second question you want to ask yourself is, where am I at in my learning curve within my current organization? So what most of our clients find that the moment is time to apply is when they're in a job that they don't hate. So they're not needing to get away from the job that they're in, but if they're honest, as they look ahead at the next year or two years in that job, they've pretty much already learned everything that they can learn in this job that's interesting to them and they're ready to make a change either to a higher level of leadership (this is the accelerators) or to some other job in a different space (these are the seekers and the hunters). So thinking in terms of where you are in your current work life. Do you have a steep learning curve in the next year? Are you still going to be learning interesting things for the next eighteen months to two years? If so, then consider waiting another year before you apply. On the other hand, have you already been in that job for two years, three years, four years, and feel like you don't want to make a change now (so this is not the moment to change jobs into a different field) and if you stick around in your current firm for more than another six months to a year or so, you're going to start to get bored. If that's the case, then now is probably the right time to apply to business school because business school is an investment in learning. It's an investment in your learning curve. It's really like cutting out a huge part of the learning curve that it takes to go from being a college graduate to being a great leader. The MBA gives you a step change on that curve and so you want to make that investment at the moment when you're ready for that learning and when you're most going to benefit from it.

3. What To Do?

  • A lot of things, all of them are great
  • Beware the test score (or at least the time it takes)

Okay, so you've decided that now is your time to apply to business school. Well, you've got to submit the very best application possible, and that means that you need a great test score, you need great recommendations, you need a great resume, you need great essays. You need a lot of things that are going to really showcase that you are truly ready to contribute and to excel post MBA. The test score is the thing that causes the most problems for people on that trajectory. It can take anywhere from a month to six months to possibly even more to put up the test score that you need to be competitive at the schools that you want to apply for. Thinking ahead, you really want to budget time to take that test. So if you're asking yourself “Is now the right time to apply?” and the answer is yes, let's say hypothetically, you're watching this video in August and the deadlines you want to apply for are in September and you haven't taken the test yet, now is not the right moment for you. You're going to at the very least want to wait for a later round when you can get the test score that you need to submit your best application. But I really encourage you to make the decision to apply based on when it's best for your career, and then commit and do whatever it takes to create your best application in the time that you have before the upcoming or second deadline after the moment you decide it's time to apply.

All right, so that's it. Focus on yourself and your career needs, determine where you are in your career in your learning curve and where the MBA is going to fit best, and then finally, commit and put up the best MBA application that you can submit. We're rooting for you one way or the other. I will see you next week right here on MBA Monday!

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Angela Guido

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

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