By Ashok Som, Associate Dean & Director of the Global MBA
What is the job of a manager? Simply put it is to plan & execute, organize & set objectives, staff & develop people, motivate & communicate, direct & control. If it was so easy why does one need an MBA? It is because the main job of a manager is also to take decisions under uncertain environments for which (s)he expects to be paid a premium. These days, in the midst of an economic recession and with the proliferation (and expense) of MBA programs climbing, many skeptics are questioning the value of the MBA and whether the degree actually teaches or atleast enhances the decision making capability of a manager. Is an MBA really the ticket to guaranteed career success? Is it really necessary to get into the executive level? And is all that time, effort, and investment going to pay for itself within a few years? Well, the answer is not in black and white.
What is an MBA? An MBA provides you with the well-rounded management skills and knowledge that will serve you well in capitalizing on various opportunities that present it to you, depending on your background. A student with an engineering degree may not have a solid grasp of business theory. A person with several years of experience in marketing and sales may be well served by a deeper understanding of basic finance and accounting. Learning about operations at a strategic level may help you understand why things weren’t working so well at your old company, or may help you make better decisions going forward. An MBA provides this knowledge and training that are essential for a successful career in management, as well as coursework in topics like negotiation and decision-making that are complex and not necessarily intuitive.
And perhaps the most valuable element of an MBA, the word that you can hardly assign a dollar value to because it’s so priceless? Network, network, network. The people you meet in your MBA will be lifetime career contacts, whether they are fellow students, professors, or members of your school’s alumni community. At ESSEC, we have students representing 90 nationalities on our campus, we have professors from the most prestigious institutions the world over, and we have a robust international network of 40,000 alumni in key positions with major companies. That’s a rich resource, and as the adage goes, it’s not what you know; it’s who you know. The people you meet through an MBA will enable your success, and you, in turn, will help other members of the network be successful. This is why choosing a high-caliber school, a school with character, heritage and those that has proved itself for over a century, is so important.
So why an MBA? Many successful MBA’s today agree that the degree alone is not a guarantor of success; that comes from hard work and your own drive and abilities and a little bit of luck. But they do agree that it is a key in getting started, and as with most journeys, the first step is often the most crucial in establishing a career path, both in terms of starting salary and the sort of position in which you begin. Aside from the strong well rounded knowledge base, aside from the classroom learning that will make you an asset to a company, the MBA as the excellent tool, resource, and building block that it has proven itself to be over time, this degree will prove to be an investment both lucrative and invaluable. That starting point has a ripple effect over the rest of your career trajectory.
Pursuing an MBA, as with other graduate degrees, demonstrates that you are dedicated, and value continued growth and learning; these are important traits in the eyes of potential employers. People want to hire people who are ambitious, who are motivated, and who are willing to work hard to grow their knowledge, expand their skill set, and who recognize that a job requires life-long learning.
An MBA is just one building block in that process, but it’s an important one, and this is one of the less tangible assets of having an MBA that makes you a more appealing candidate when you’re looking for work. And things are improving. After several lackluster (to say the least) years in the job market, hiring is picking up. According to Forbes, 57% of business school grads already having a job offer in hand several months before graduation, as compared to 40% in 2010.
At ESSEC, we also believe that classroom training is made more valuable by alternating it with experiential learning. This accrues further more value if one already has worked and with management experience. Learning abstract academic concepts is one thing; having the firsthand knowledge and understanding that comes from real practice to apply to classroom learning and bring to class discussions creates a rich, varied, and ultimately more powerful learning experience. This is why we require that our students have four to six years of work experience, with two in a managerial role. When they come from that environment into school, they are ready to reconsider the experience they’ve had, to learn to think differently, and that is exactly what our MBA program aims to help them to do.
We are a school. We believe firmly in the value of education. We have been doing that for over a century. An MBA is an investment that will be rewarding, that will have returns, and will open doors for you, but as with anything, what you get out of it depends very much on what you put in. Need some visual convincing? Check out this infographic that illustrates the ROI of an MBA : http://www.knewton.com/gmat/mba/worth-it/