Why Now Is (Still) A Great Time To Get An MBA
Let me start by saying that I believe an MBA makes more sense for some career paths than others. Someone looking to switch professions or functions may find more value than those looking to return to the same industry. That being said, I was ecstatic when I was accepted to The Wharton School earlier this year as pursuing an MBA has been a goal of mine for several years. However, I never imagined that my first decision as an MBA candidate would be picking out a desk for my apartment to create a comfortable “hybrid” learning experience.
Like many other students, I have no idea what the format of this upcoming semester will look like. Unlike some of those students, I’m just as optimistic about getting an MBA (if not more so) as I was pre-COVID. I believe now is still a great time to get an MBA, and not for the conventional reasons (e.g., it will help you stand out to employers in turbulent markets), but because of the unique opportunity to be surrounded by leaders, both present and future, that will help define a new era of business.
First, let me address the elephant in the room…
Upon hearing that I was going to Wharton, several colleagues said I should consider deferring citing drawbacks such as a loss of networking opportunities and decreased engagement with school staff. However, I’ve found that my future classmates have all been extremely active in creating opportunities to connect, establishing virtual game nights, affinity club meetings, and small breakout groups to discuss the future of work. By meeting my peers through these forums (and countless Zoom coffee chats), I’ve been able to create a strong connection with many of them before classes have even started. Some may argue that these relationships will not be as rich as those built in-person, becoming mere acquaintances (or weak ties…shout out @Adam Grant). Well, these so called “weak ties” have already referred me to pre-MBA internships based on my interests and made introductions to people at their company.
Connecting to Wharton faculty has been frictionless as well. Wharton set up a platform called WhartonHQ, where everyone from the Vice Dean to career advisors have been active with live, daily video updates and Q&A sessions. They say you need to overcommunicate during a crisis, and Wharton has done that to the point where I feel as though I already know the entire admissions team personally.
Now that that’s out of the way…
There’s no better place to be right now than at an institution that equips its students with the tools to identify areas ripe for disruption and effectively lead under any condition. Why? The environment that businesses operate in changed overnight — the companies that have successfully pivoted contain leaders that can manage in a crisis and identify emerging opportunities.
Identifying Emerging Opportunities
There will be more opportunities to reinvent the way we do business — from the consulting industry, where clients are being served remotely, to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, where consumer behavior is changing before our very eyes. To highlight these shifts, Wharton quickly created a class that covered the effects of COVID-19 on businesses and economies. During a class that I was able to stream, Professor Mauro Guillen passionately discussed topics ranging from disruptions in supply chains to changes in telecommuting/teleworking. This single lecture presented many ideas on how companies can continue to engage their customers, and it only scratched the surface on potential shifts in business. I believe that classes will continue to be more captivating this semester as the impacts from COVID-19 touch almost every area of our professors’ work and research.
Leading Effectively In A New Business Climate
Finally, leadership and communication skills have never been more important. An MBA offers the opportunity to learn about leading in a crisis as it unfolds. Schools have quickly adjusted the formats of their classes to provide students with more relevant leadership and communication skills for today’s environment. Wharton’s ‘advanced persuasion’ classes now operate over video to reflect how business is being conducted right now. Effectively communicating and leading over these new mediums will be essential to succeed in this new climate.
Of course this semester’s experience won’t be the same. Am I upset that not all of my peers will be able to make it to campus this fall? Yes. Am I disheartened by the fact that I won’t have as much face time with professors and guest lecturers? Yes. Am I disappointed that my pre-MBA summer travel plans were cancelled? Not anymore.(Find out why) However, like most activities in life, you get out what you put in. I have no doubt that the students who choose to commit to an MBA this year will find innovative ways to network (I’m already seeing signs of this) and capitalize on emerging opportunities. I am looking forward to making the most out of my MBA experience this fall!
Check back for updates on my MBA experience in a new “hybrid” model or follow me on Twitter for my latest musings.