If you’re embroiled in the great MBA debate, there’s a way to finally make your decision. But it may not involve what you’d expect.
Should I get an MBA?
Ah, the great MBA debate.
Like any heavy decision, a myriad of moving pieces and puzzling parts are involved. And there’s no shortage of internal voices and talking heads offering their unsolicited advice. For , you find . Whichever argument you choose to make, you don’t have to look far for support.
The reasons to get an MBA are plenty. To advance your career. To pivot in your career. Because someone else is paying for it. Because you want a two-year party to figure out what the hell you want to do with your life.
And there are just as many reasons against an MBA. Because an MBA education is becoming obsolete. Because you could self-educate yourself. Because your time is better spent learning how to code. Oh yeah, and because of .
The reality is that the stars will likely never align on a definitive yes or no if we try to answer the question on this level. So we need to take the MBA debate to a higher altitude.
What does a good decision look like?
The secret to figuring out your stance in the MBA debate is remembering that it’s a fraction of a much bigger and broader debate. ( to tweet this thought.) It’s not just about deciding whether or not an MBA is important for your career — it’s figuring out whether an MBA fits within what’s important to you and what you want to get out of life. Which means we may need to crack open our psychology books and rip out a page or two.
Before we can make a good decision, we need to know what constitutes a good decision. To do that, we first have to define our decision criteria. This means working out our values – that which is most important to us. — career psychologist Rob Archer.
What’s your decision criteria?
As Archer reveals, until we know our decision criteria, we can’t recognize (let alone make) a good decision. For our MBA , the factors for deciding to do an MBA might be:
- Intellectual stimulation
- Being surrounded by like-minded peers
- Location (the chance to live in a new city)
- Prestige (or name/brand recognition)
- Career opportunities or access to alumni (or a broader network)
- Salary increase, among others
Only you can determine your own decision criteria. Until you do, it’s hard to know what a good decision might look like.
What do you value most?
The next step to cracking the MBA conundrum is understanding our values — what’s most important to you individually. Not your parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, the Financial Times, Richard Branson or even . It’s easy to confuse our values with the values that have been passed down or piled onto us.
Without knowing our own values, we risk getting lost in a spider web inside our heads, pulled in multiple directions without an anchor to guide us down a specific path. Our values provide us with gravity in situations when we risk floating into oblivion. And keeping our values in mind grounds us and helps us to focus our decision-making process as we align them to our MBA decision criteria.
What do you value you most in work and life? Check out this to spark some ideas.
In her guide 8 Ways to Escape the MBA Debate, Adele Barlow practiced this exercise in exploring her own MBA decision. Some of her winning values included (her quotes parenthetically):
- Self-expression and creativity (“freedom trumps status”)
- The pursuit of excellence (“prestige is sometimes part of this, sometimes not”)
- Providing value (“sometimes indicated by cash flow, sometimes not”)
- Location independence (“ideally, I can combine travel and work”)
- Collaboration opportunities
Decision criteria + values = clarity
The decision to do an MBA (or not) is a personal one. It depends on what kind of person you are and who you want to become. It requires you define what a good decision looks like. And perhaps most importantly, it requires you to know your values — which is sometimes easier said than done.
Because at the end of the day, the person who has to live longest with your MBA decision is you.
is the director of , an organization providing online & offline events, courses, and guides to help unfulfilled corporate professionals escape into more meaningful work. Their guide is available now.