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MBA Lessons Learned

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Joined: 08 Feb 2016
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GMAT 1: 700 Q46 V41
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MBA Lessons Learned  [#permalink]

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New post 29 May 2018, 09:52
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I just completed an MBA at Cornell Johnson (with scholarship). After living the experience and helping many prospective students, I have learned how lucky I am to have attended a top-tier program. On the flip-side, I have also learned how naïve I was about certain aspects of the MBA journey. As with many things, there are pros and cons of an MBA. And with anything uncertain, there will be surprising benefits and downsides that were not considered. Here are some tips I wish I had known before applying:

Know yourself and your goals (not just for the application essay): This is very important for your program selection. I am not talking about which school, but rather which program. There are the obvious part-time, one-year, and two-year programs, but there are also dual degree programs. If you are 100% certain you want to be in healthcare, consider doing an MHA/MBA in the same time it would take for a traditional two-year program. This is a no-brainer. Be careful of the advertising hype around the two-year programs. Depending on your situation, you could be making a very costly mistake which you will regret. Some things to consider:

    1. Part-time MBA: you are making >= post-mba salary in a career path you want to stay in. The opportunity cost is huge for leaving work.
    2. One-year MBA: you qualify for the program, you are making approx. post-mba salary, and you want to do something relevant to your experience – a complete career transition is difficult (changing both industry and title/job description simultaneously). You will get the same on-campus job opportunities as the two-year MBAs.
    3. Two-year MBA: you are light on experience and make below average MBA salary, or if you want to go into investment banking – the recruiting process for banking is very strict. I also recommend this to international students (usually); they have an internship job conversion opportunity.
    4. Dual degree: you are light on experience and certain of your career goals. You will learn more, network better, get two degrees, and have better job prospects at about the same cost as a two-year program – it’s a no brainer.

Consider opportunity cost: Charlie Munger once asserted, “intelligent people base decisions on opportunity costs. The alternative returns available should weigh on whether you make a particular investment. It’s freshman economics."

Be wary of the rankings game: It is easy to get caught up in the rankings game. All things equal, it is probably best to pick the highest-ranked school you get into – there is something to be said for a brand name. But consider your situation and consider opportunity cost. If not, you will make a decision that you will regret. Rankings do not make as big a difference as the MBA media might lead you to believe.

How recruiting really works:

You will have up to three opportunities to find a post-MBA job:

    1. Internship conversion: this is straightforward. Do well in your internship and you will get a standard, MBA job offer. Therefore, I recommend a two-year or dual-degree program for international students; you get an additional chance of a job offer – in recent years, sponsorship has been increasingly difficult to get.
    2. On-campus recruiting: These are “cookie-cutter” jobs – these jobs are given by the same employers for the same roles at all top-tier MBA programs with few exceptions. If you don’t believe me, look at the publicly available MBA employment reports published by each school. Depending on your experience, you could be overqualified and frustrated by your on-campus job prospects – consider this when picking an MBA program (part-time, one-year, dual degree, etc.) Also, you MBA is a commodity with on-campus recruiting -- experience and interview abilities will set you apart.
    3. Off-campus recruiting: 95% of this occurs in the last 2-3 months of business school. Depending on your work experience, this is where you get job offers that are much better/higher paying than the “cookie-cutter, on-campus” jobs. PE, VC, senior management positions, etc. The highest salaries posted in MBA employment reports are not because of the MBA, but rather the work experience before.

Don’t downplay academics: So many people focus on the “networking” of an MBA. While this is important, developing you knowledge and capabilities are significantly more important -- what matters is crushing your future jobs and adding value. In addition, you want to be remembered as someone who is responsible, intelligent, and has the right values. There are many MBAs that I have “networked" with, which I would never hire or recommend. Remember, “it takes a lifetime to build a good reputation and only minutes to destroy it.” Keep this mind when you are working on the dozen of team-based projects you will encounter during the MBA.

On-campus Networking: On-campus networking through corporate briefings is almost always a waste of time. You will almost always be chosen for an interview by an HR person based on your resume and an excel sheet that says if you attended the relevant corporate briefing. The reason being, is it is very difficult to network with hundreds of other MBAs at the same time -- if a company representative remembers your name, you are lucky. Don’t be hyper focused on networking though corporate briefings. Instead, focus on learning about the job/company and let that show in your interviews later down the road. "Real networking" is helpful for off-campus recruiting.

Getting in: GMAT, GPA, diversity, salary (pre and post), etc. are the most important criteria for admissions. No matter what anyone says, MBA programs significantly over-emphasis metrics that play into rankings (higher ranking translates to more MBA revenue -- it's a business). Think of a proprietary equation of all of your metrics as they relate to ranking criteria. This equation outputs your score, and your score will be 99% of what determines if you get in -- it's that simple. It is a shame that the future leaders of business are chosen on so few dimensions. That said, if you want to get into the highest ranked schools, you have to play this game.
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Joined: 17 Jul 2017
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GMAT 1: 680 Q44 V39
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Re: MBA Lessons Learned  [#permalink]

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New post 08 Jun 2018, 02:54
This is such a good post. Thank you for outlining this so clearly. I am now considering a 2-year program even though I fear I may be too old by the time I graduate, I turn 28 this year and am hoping to resume next September, about to write GMAT.
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Location: United States
Concentration: Entrepreneurship, Technology
Schools: Kelley (A)
GPA: 3.5
Re: MBA Lessons Learned  [#permalink]

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New post 29 Jan 2019, 12:09
Thank you for the great insight. Never looked at the opportunity cost in part time/full time program decision, but it’s clear after reading your post.

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Re: MBA Lessons Learned   [#permalink] 29 Jan 2019, 12:09
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