You are sailing along, in a job you love, with a terrific and successful company, the envy of your college friends and the pride of your loving family. Every day is a good day, every meeting is energizing, every challenge results in a confirmation of your skill and a testament to your hard work. So why would you head back to the classroom, why polish up your quantitative skills, why take the GMAT, and why find a way to spend your formerly spare time on homework, research, and papers? Why commit to a challenging multi-year advanced business education? Here’s an even dozen reasons why:
- You will learn, practice and master new and important skills that are (not surprisingly) relevant to your commercial life. Even if you already have a lot of business experience, you will gain new depth and new perspectives.
- You will learn a new language. Words you thought you understood take on new meanings and you participate in conversations at work with new filters and new comprehension.
- It provides you with a competitive credential that will have value for the rest of your career. The MBA credential makes a very big difference in who you are, in the talent marketplace.
- You will discover talents, interests, skills, and aptitudes you did not know you had. I promise you that you will uncover at least three things that you did not know about yourself that will probably change you in ways you did not expect. And maybe change your life.
- And… you will discover things about yourself, surprising deficits, that you know you must change in order to be successful in the career you want.
- You will make new friends. Friends. Are. Your. Network. I don’t know how many times I have to say this, but there are no LinkedIn, Facebook, or Spoke connections or contacts that can ever replace—or help you as much as—your real friends.
- You learn what working in interdependent groups really means. Whether you are the strong team player or the weaker one, or anywhere in between, you get the same lesson: your fate is in the hands of the team. It is a very important lesson.
- It is just so darn much fun! Unlike jobs and workday work, school is organized around you and your need to learn. That’s nourishing and pleasurable, even when it’s difficult.
- You will gain esteem for yourself and confidence in your capability, for having risen to and met a major intellectual challenge. And if you get really good grades, you will really have a new perspective on what you can do.
- There is an important humbling element to realizing that you don’t know as much as you thought you did. If you are exceptional at workplace politics, if you are popular for just being you, if you are an accomplished specialist, if you are a fast-rising star, or if you are merely brilliantly creative, an MBA program is a great place to locate your limits. We all need to know what we don’t know and may never be able to learn.
- You will approach everything that happens in business more objectively. You find out that what you thought was true, wasn’t; it was just your opinion, which you liked a lot. This place of understanding comes through in your behavior and conversations, and people realize that you know things. This is good for your career and for your leadership role.
- In the end, if you can do it, do it just because you can. Opportunities don’t come along every day, and there is no time like now. If you have space in your life and the means or support to take on the challenge of an MBA program, just do it. If your employer is willing to support you in this endeavor, know that such support is like cash compensation, and willing employers who do that for employees are rare and getting scarcer.
Full disclosure—I went back to school to get an MBA in 2006 (shout out to Stetson University and my classmates) and I was pretty much older than everyone when I did that. I loved it. It was one of the best things I ever did; I just wish I’d done it sooner.
Throughout your career, when it comes to advancing your education, know that it gets harder to justify the time when you have the money. And harder still to justify the money when you have the time. Don’t wait as long as I did.