Deciding to go back to school to get an MBA is not a quick and easy decision. Going to business school requires you to pause your career for two years and shift from industry back to the classroom. Depending on what school you attend, you may have to relocate to another city, possibly bringing partners and families along for the ride. Not to mention that just getting into school is a heavy lift of time and effort.
Plus, even after making the choice to go to business school, applying, and then being accepted, you must ensure that you have a well-organized plan to pay for school without stretching your finances thin.
Therefore, it is critical that business school applicants have a good reason for why they are pursuing an MBA degree. You will be asked "Why business school?” numerous times in the admissions process. Weak answers will automatically weed you out of applicant pools at competitive programs.
But more importantly, if you don’t have a clear and genuine reason for seeking an MBA degree, you will not be able to strategically capitalize on all that business school has to offer. Without a clear objective, two years in business school may be misguided and less valuable than if you walked in day one with a desired outcome in mind.
So what are good reasons to go to b-school? What are valid motivations to uproot your life for two years and invest the time, money, and effort required to earn an MBA? And perhaps most importantly, what reasons for going to business school pay off after earning the degree?
Most incoming students cite that they are seeking an MBA in order to:
1) Transition careers or industries
2) Earn a more senior role
3) Solve a knowledge gap
Let’s dive into each of these responses to see how CommonBond’s own MBA alumni set their intentions for getting the most out of their MBA.
Reason 1: To Transition Careers or Industries
With the average age of business school students hovering right under 30-years-old, most applicants have at least five to six years of experience in the workforce prior to business school (1). It is likely that during this time, new industries have piqued your interest. Perhaps new technologies are being developed in an emerging sector that you find compelling. Or, maybe the career path you’re currently in is not facilitating the type of development you seek. Take it from Dave Carter, CommonBond’s Senior Director of Business Development and Partnerships and Stern alum:
“I decided to get an MBA because I wanted to switch careers. I was working in consulting and I wanted to move to work at a fintech company. Consulting is great because you get high level access to awesome companies, but you are not the person making decisions because you are not the person driving the business. I wanted to be a decision maker.”
Additionally, during your time in the workforce, it is likely that you have encountered other business functions that seem intriguing. Maybe you work in partnership with clients or companies that have exposed you to new, fascinating roles or industries. CommonBond’s Senior Marketing Manager, Jessie Taylor, alumna of Kellogg, explains how this related to her experience:
“I was working at an advertising agency. My clients at the time were large, global consumer products companies - like P&G and Kellogg's. I slowly realized I wanted to be the client. So I went to b-school to transition from working in marketing on the agency side to working on "the client side." I wanted to be the one to identify new opportunities and target segments, guide pricing and new product development. I wanted to get an MBA to further hone my technical skills but also get exposure to a myriad of companies through on-campus recruiting and doing an internship to test whether I really enjoyed working in that field.”
Reason 2: To Earn a More Senior Role
Another common reason applicants seek the MBA degree is to more quickly accelerate into leadership roles. It is no secret that having an MBA on your resume will help signal to employers that you can instantly provide heightened value to their enterprise. The analytical skills acquired in business school will build your legitimacy to be the vanguard of a team, product line, or department. Vinayak Gurjar, CommonBond’s CFO and a Kenan-Flagler alum, explains:
“I had been doing systems consulting for about four years and I realized that an MBA creates a different ballgame when it comes to business decision-making. An MBA helps you get to a spot where you can own decisions, whether they are related to systems, finance, marketing, or something else. That was the spark: if I get an MBA I can have responsibility, I can grow more in my career.”
In addition, in certain sectors within the business world, the majority of senior leaders have an MBA. To join the pack and advance upward, an MBA makes sense. Veena Ramaswamy, HBS alumna and CommonBond’s VP of Strategy, sheds light on her experience:
“I was in investment baking after college in a two to three-year training program. Getting an MBA was a way for me to get a break – I was burnt out. I also noticed that all the senior leaders in financial services had an MBA or JD, and I wanted to have those career advancement options.”
Simultaneously, the MBA experience may transplant you to a new city where you can create valuable connections in a new environment. These connections serve as instrumental when recruiting for senior roles in a new location. Wharton alumna and CommonBond’s Director of Product, Alison Bloom-Kiefer shares:
“I was in a job where I wanted more seniority. An MBA was a good path that would push me into a managerial role. I also grew up in DC and an MBA would broaden my network and allow me to access a broader swath of jobs. I also liked that the MBA was very practical and only two years.”
Reason 3: To Solve a Knowledge Gap
Finally, the most straightforward reason for going to business school: to learn about business! Perhaps you studied liberal arts in college and want to formally bolster your more technical business skills, such as accounting, financial modeling, or negotiating. Maybe you work in an industry tangentially related to business such as politics, science, education, or law, to name just a few. An MBA will let you either shift into the business world permanently or take your b-school acumen back to your former industry to lead change there. For example, Robb Granado, CommonBond’s COO, shares his story of shifting from the military to Columbia Business School:
“I was in the military for five years before getting my MBA. I had never really been exposed to the private sector or the business world. The military provided a very fixed and defined path for growth. I wanted to find a less defined path. I knew business school was a way to get core skills that I didn’t have and a way to reset and refresh early in my career. I also knew I could find myself a diverse group of peers by getting an MBA.”
Still figuring out your answer to “Why business school”? We can help. Get connected to one of CommonBond’s own MBA alumni. They can answer your questions and help guide you down the right path to b-school.
And don't forget to join CommonBond's Pre-MBA group on LinkedIn, where you can ask questions, connect to other "pre-MBAs," and be first to see exclusive b-school content.