A Word from the Associate Dean: Pursuing an MBA during trying economic times

By Ashok Som, Associate Dean and Program Director of the Global MBA

While the financial burden of pursuing an MBA might seem even more daunting during difficult economic times, the degree’s value still holds and an economically dark period might just be the perfect moment to build your profile and re-assess your career. Even as our society changes and different economic situations evolve, the MBA is still honored and recognized as a degree that results in well- rounded business knowledge and leadership skills.

An MBA sets you apart from the crowd during hiring processes and recruiting. Having an MBA on your resume makes you attractive to employers, assuring a certain level of experience and knowledge. Additionally, MBA degree holders are more likely to obtain high-up positions in a company, with many employers even requiring an MBA as a qualification for certain positions in upper management. Once in a role with a company, having an MBA makes you a more valuable asset and thus less susceptible to dismissal during lay-offs or other tough periods.

Similarly, an MBA provides you with a launching pad for when the economy rebounds. Once hiring picks up and more opportunities are available, a professional newly equipped with an MBA is more prepared

than ever to embrace them. If big companies aren’t hiring, MBA’s provide the well-rounded general knowledge required to be successful entrepreneurs. An MBA student works rigorously to develop a thorough understanding of accounting, finance, marketing and broader management topics, building a knowledge base that sets the foundation for a thriving business. Many successful ventures have been launched in difficult economic times, including GE (1873), Revlon (1932), and Hewlett-Packard (1939).

Pursuing an MBA during a complicated economic period may even prove to be more useful and interesting than studying when times are “easy.” Classroom curriculum in general will naturally adjust to reflect the challenges of the time, offering experiential learning that will prove valuable in the future, as well as the tools to identify and prevent problematic trends. An MBA equips you with skills and new knowledge that are particularly useful and applicable in crisis times. Students build a skill-set that allows them to be especially successful in leading restructuring or streamlining activities, in maximizing teamwork, and in taking a strategic approach to new policy, products, and processes. An additional benefit that MBAs bring to companies is the ability to share knowledge, and to train other employees in new techniques and strategies to improve overall efficiency. Investing in an MBA is investing in your future, offering a long-term return on interest even if short-term opportunities seem discouraging in a difficult economic climate.

Good schools can open doors to international networks of fellow students and alumni, a major bonus for those looking to move into a globally influential role. As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and the contacts you will make in your MBA cohort, through networking and professional events planned by your program, and with influential alumni from your chosen university will be a life-long resource and a major career asset.

And in today’s increasingly globalized environment, programs that give you a global scope and perspective will make you an even more desirable candidate. Currently, we are seeing the remarkable growth of emerging markets. At ESSEC Business School, our Global MBA program is geared towards preparing students to better understand the challenges and opportunities of an increasingly globalized business world, particularly in these emerging markets of Asia, Latin America, and Africa. These markets offer not only opportunities, but also present their own unique risks and complex issues. To that end, we focus our programs on the new frontiers of business, from thinking ‘green’ to considering broader social and political questions surrounding such issues as transportation, access to water, health care, aging populating, poverty, education, urbanization, etc. And we emphasize our students’ ability to think differently, focusing on experiential learning, critical thinking, creativity, and innovation.

A major element in working to achieve these program goals is the active immersion of our Global MBA students in global economies. A five week module in Singapore focuses on geopolitics and how to do business in Asia. A field trip takes students to Eastern Europe. And the experience-based learning project places small groups of students in an emergent country for a five week period, where they work in the field to devise concrete solutions to real problems. This experience allows them to implement multicultural approaches in an environment fundamentally different from their own, while simultaneously developing their capacity for innovation and teamwork in a new economic context. This knowledge and skill set will serve them powerfully when they re-enter what is today a rapidly changing marketplace. Financial crises in developed countries have, if anything, only hastened the shift in global economic power toward emerging economies. This means more opportunities to do business in these economies, and more spending power on the part of these economies to reinvest in developed nations.

This global environment is particularly interesting, particularly challenging, and makes an MBA a particularly valuable pursuit if one wishes to remain competitive and on the side of innovation when the economy is in a constant state of flux and reversal.

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