full time MBA Bay Area

Why you should, or shouldn’t, apply for an MBA in the Bay Area this year

By Rahul Sampat

If you ask any graduate about their decision to pursue a full- or part-time MBA, and what their life was like after earning their degree, they’ll likely tell you the journey was filled with obstacles and lessons learned. Some may even second guess their decision to attend B-School in the first place.

However, the vast majority of graduates will also tell you that the MBA journey was worth it. The trick is going in with realistic expectations. If you’re on the fence about getting an MBA, consider these top reasons supporting the decision, and a handful of arguments why you might not be well-suited for B-School.

4 reasons you should go for an MBA

1. Improve your network

Many MBA students enter a program because they are conscious of their network’s limitations. Maybe it’s small by count or it isn’t curated with like-minded people.

Obtaining an MBA can improve your networking abilities in a number of ways, including:

  • The tremendous alumni networks at top MBA programs make it easy to reach out to alumni for meaningful conversations. Even before you graduate, you can reach out to people who are working in your current industry or the industry you want to transition into. Start by scheduling coffee chats, and don’t be surprised if informal sessions lead to formal interviews.
  • The relationships you form with your classmates will be valuable. Think of each of your classmates as a future boss. By showing up with this in mind you are, in effect, having an informal interview with a host of future directors, managers, and CEOs. You couldn’t ask for a more comprehensive and personal level of networking.

Networking with peers and alumni is a useful tool to help change your professional trajectory or change your job title in your desired industry.

2. Learn the language of an MBA

Do you feel stuck in your current role? If so, are you confident in your ability to contribute to business conversations and put yourself out there? For many, the answer is ‘no.’

A lack of confidence to contribute to discussions means that you’re unable to prove yourself as a thought leader, which hinders your upward mobility.

While earning your MBA, you can expect to zero in on soft skills like:

  • Communication
  • Cross-cultural competence
  • Critical thinking

The combination of these skills helps you speak effectively (even when you don’t know the answer), gives you the ability to make snap, but sound judgment decisions, and gives you the confidence to contribute to the conversation.

The poise and self-possession of an MBA student can only be learned through specialized training. Over time, these traits will position you as a leader in your profession.

3. Become a leader

Just because you excel in your current role doesn’t mean you have the natural ability to be a leader. That’s why the best MBA programs offer classes about managing people and what authentic leadership looks like.

Great leadership often means playing to your weaknesses so you can continue to build your strengths. By tackling new techniques head-on, you start to develop your confidence as a leader in any role or industry.

Rachel Adams, MBA 17, describes the process well:

“As people advance in their careers, they often try to seem perfect to their colleagues. What I saw from my teachers, classmates, and the business leaders we worked with was that authenticity gets you much further, and that recognizing and communicating both your strengths and weaknesses is key to authentic leadership.”

B-School will teach you how to be a well-rounded leader in a fast-paced environment. These skills allow you to make a positive change within any organization you work for.

4. Gain a global perspective

For many MBA hopefuls, selecting a full-time MBA program with a diverse student body is essential.

Diversity means your classmates came from varied educational, professional, and cultural backgrounds which are critical components of your overall learning experience.

Diversity transforms classroom discussions. Each unique perspective helps to analyze and uncover various ways to solve problems. Having the opportunity to learn and debate distinct strategies for tackling topics like global entrepreneurship or the methodology behind product price points is an irreplaceable learning experience.

A diverse classroom provides multiple global perspectives. It helps all students think deeply about new trends and issues in the modern economy without getting tunnel vision about the ideation you are accustomed to.

4 reasons you shouldn’t go for an MBA

1. You are following someone else’s path

Some students consider going for an MBA because they know someone who has one and seems to be doing well professionally. Remember, an MBA isn’t for everyone, especially for those who are following someone else’s career path.

Before going to B-School consider your interests.

For example, do you want a leadership role, or would you prefer to advance in your current position, like programming or engineering? If the answer is to remain in an engineering role, investing in a master’s degree in engineering would be more strategic. If you want to move into a leadership role, an MBA program is an asset that can improve your ability to make strategic decisions that move your company in the right direction, technologically.

2. You aren’t a forever student

Just because you earn your MBA doesn’t mean you’ve unlocked the door to unlimited success. Business and science are the foundational topics of B-School and also are two of the fastest-changing sectors in the new economy.

To be successful post-MBA, you need the intrinsic ‘forever a student’ spirit, which will keep you dedicated to learning cutting-edge technologies and updates as your career progresses.

3. You’re only going for an immediate salary boost

An MBA is a great tool to position yourself in your career, and making the investment will eventually maximize your earnings, but it won’t happen overnight.

MBA graduates still need to work hard, make contacts, and take career risks. Top business schools place emphasis on how businesses function and provide you the tools to be a more productive and effective member of the business sector. The MBA, in of itself, is not a means to an end.

4. You only want the resume update

MBA programs aren’t created equally. Adding an MBA to your resume tends to be most effective when you go to a top business school.

The ranking of your school will determine:

  • The quality of your education
  • The network of alumni you can leverage after graduation
  • The opportunities for immersion while you’re in school
  • How employers will view your degree after graduation

Going for an MBA, just for the sake of it, is a poor investment. Take time to research programs that will advance you post-graduation.

If this article furthered your interest in obtaining a part- or full-time MBA in the Bay Area, discover how Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley could be a fit for you.

Learn more about the Full-Time MBA program

Posted on October 10, 2019
Themes: Applying
Rahul Sampat
Rahul was Director of Admissions for the Berkeley MBA Programs for Working Professionals from 2015-2019. He hopes these blog posts provide you with useful insights into the Berkeley MBA experience and questions you may have about the MBA in general.