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The Runaway MBA: Insecurity and immaturity made me join the MBA masses. Don’t make the same mistake

Don't pressure me into doing an MBA!

Don't pressure me into doing an MBA!

I can’t remember the exact point at which my interest in pursuing an MBA first arose. But I know it was sometime during my undergraduate years because I attended an institution that housed one of the best MBA programmes in the world, so I thought “perhaps someday”.

My school’s career services instilled in us the need to establish five-year objectives, which included ambitions for our first job followed, naturally, by graduate school. An MBA symbolised achievement and was “necessary” both to open doors and to complete my over-achieving academic career.

My undergraduate degree was a Bachelor of Arts, and subconsciously I felt like a fraud for working in finance without a finance degree. For some reason I believed that an MBA could erase this insecurity.

The first five years of my career flew by; I found myself earning more money than most MBA graduates I knew. I couldn’t justify the time and expense of more study. And when I looked at my college classmates who were now at top business schools, I found that they were partying and travelling most of the time. I though it was irresponsible to goof off and couldn’t see how that would benefit me. I had established credibility and was respected by my peers. I held no interest in switching fields or becoming a consultant.

My immature MBA decision

A GMAT preparation guide sat on my bookshelf unopened as I continued to defer my MBA decision. After five years I needed a break. I resigned from my good job and flew to South America to enjoy life before accepting my next role. I was earning good money and gaining great experience, yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that I lacked credibility without the degree. It did not matter who I worked for, or that I participated in large successful transactions. Immaturely, I believed that I was not legit as long as this item on my to-do list remained outstanding.

As my career progressed I earned a well-respected master’s degree specialised to my industry. But as I applied for new roles and spoke to recruiters, I realised that this degree was of little value in securing interviews. They wanted someone with an MBA. Eventually, after enough recruiters and leaders that I admired criticised me, I found myself taking the GMAT and applying to schools.

The younger the better

Perhaps to a large extent, it was my own insecurity that led me down the path of adding an MBA to my resume. I should have told those people to bugger off and focus on my competencies. But I did not, and in cowardice I joined the masses. I realise now that it would have been more appropriate to pursue the degree earlier, for example after I got back from South America. But I don’t believe in living life with regrets. I learn from my mistakes and move on.

Please do not misunderstand my message. An MBA is valuable early in your career, especially if you have a significant interest in changing fields and entering consulting. However, for someone like myself with more than 10 years’ experience, it was less a career enhancer and more an experience in which I got to laugh a lot and occasionally be a teenager again. If I sound angry or cynical, it’s largely because I spent a lot of money and time in order to be viewed in the same light as an associate who used to report to me.

There’s this implicit belief or understanding that an MBA will change your life. And for some it provides the confidence needed to start making those changes. In reality, only you can put yourself on the right path. The journey may be rougher or longer than you expect, but it will all come down to your own abilities and focus.

The Runaway MBA is an American financial professional looking for work in Asia. The views expressed are her own and not those of eFinancialCareers.

Comments (2)

  1. It’s really nice to read your posts. I’m in the same boat as you are. I’m a Masters grad from a decent university, but in a country where they don’t understand anything except an MBA. When I came back to my country, recruiters actually asked me if my degree was some kind of a certification course. My degree is highly regarded in your country, however here, I’m still paid lower than the so-called top-B -School from my country (and this school doesn’t figure even in the top 100 schools in the world).

    Two years now and I’m desperate to leave. Only that no one would take me back to the country where I got my Masters. And now I plan to do another mistake – get an MBA, ’cause that’s the only way I can leave this shit-hole. Problem would be when I get an MBA again in your country as employers in your country don’t think much of it these days. Hopefully it won’t be the same story again i.e. returning home. It’s like the story of Sisyphus :)

  2. Thanks for the article – i am 33 and i have worked for 10 years in IB/PE and i was considering pursuing MBA until i read your article. I am sure many in my situation would find your article very helpful and enlightening. Having obtained both CFA and CPA, i honestly don’t think MBA would add much value from technical perspective. It may however enhance my network although like what you have pointed out, the average age of MBA candidates are probably a lot younger with lesser experience than you and me. That said, i understand that the average age for part-time MBA is generally higher than full-time MBA, since they target the working class with much higher opportunity cost to leave their jobs.

    What do you think of EMBA? Again i dont think it would add anything from technical perspective but the network should be good? I am just not sure if its worth the hefty price tag….Would appreciate your thoughts. Thanks.

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