The MBA Choice

I wrote in my last post that I decided on a new direction, a new path in life, and so went with the MBA option. Now beyond the decision, I wanted to write about the reasoning behind my decision. Please understand that the following is my perspective and my opinion, and is based sometimes only loosely on facts and reality. I also have a terrible tendency to go off on tangents. Those who have met me can attest to this, though I take pride in circling around to come back to the point…eventually. Just enjoy the trip along the tangents I say. So with that being said, please take everything with a grain of salt.

I was talking with a friend over dinner this last week. She is a lawyer that is in the process of jumping industries and taking the huge plunge of starting medical school to be a doctor. Now that was a heck of a surprise and sounded like quite a risk to me. I can understand it as I’ve changed jobs myself. Life is far too short to spend time in something that you don’t like, or how she put it, “I felt like every day I was dying a little inside.” When I expressed my surprise, she said that I was taking quite a risk myself, going for my MBA. I did the impolite thing and laughed a little. I told her that while it’s a risk, MBA candidates and graduates are usually incredibly risk averse.

Hey now, before you get excited and say that you love risk, are an extreme sport enthusiast, or have a general death wish, let me explain…

Now in accounting we are taught to weigh the cost versus the benefit, or in business to understand the opportunity cost. These concepts are related, though a bit different, and boil down to economics. I live these concepts and I believe that others do as well. So taking that and following it to the natural conclusion, I feel like I’ve weighed my options for the direction of my life. Now life is of course fluid and we can plan and try to steer things all we like with sometimes sad and sometimes funny results. I mean, I wanted to be an astronaut when I was little, not an accountant! But sh** happens as they say, or life happens as I say (okay, I’m going to abandon that tangent though I could go on about childhood career ideas). So this past summer, I was looking at what I wanted, where my career was and where I wanted it to go. I also looked at the time commitment as well as the monetary commitment of my options, even outside the MBA option. In the end, the numbers made sense to me. Still, it’s a risk.

Now you might be saying, “wait Vince, you said you were risk averse,” to which I’d reply, “No comments from the peanut gallery! I’m not done with my story. Oh, and it’s rude to interrupt.”

So back to the conversation with my friend, she said that MBAs are risk-takers as we are often entrepreneurs, to which I said that if we were truly risk-takers, why do we need the MBA? Why not just go and open a business and to heck with the time and money? So why? To me, it’s the safer bet. We as MBAs, and more largely as business people, do take risks. What it condenses to at its simplest is that we take measured risks. So this MBA option was analyzed and I found it a solid option, after I measured my options.

We as MBA candidates are betting a portion of our lives and money that our commitment will pay off. We have weighed the choices, the options, the cost versus benefit, and come up with this path being the best of the options. Some of the criteria being weighed is the education to be received, the faculty of the program, the relative rank of the program, the networking possibilities, and of course the likely boost to our careers. This is countered with the time commitment that takes us away from our life and loved ones, the stress, and of course the money (I’m sure there are more but those were the biggies for me). I think each of the 140+ students in my class have arrived at their decision for different reasons. In fact, I’d wager that some didn’t even weigh things too much but thought it’d be cool (okay…I fall into that category a little tiny bit as we ARE talking about going to Duke after all!). Some may truly be risk-takers, but I argue that they are the outliers and aren’t necessarily representative of the larger group.

So what do I take out of this? I think that I arrived at my decision through mostly cold hard facts (with some emotional weight as again we are talking about going to Duke for goodness’ sakes!). I feel like I’ve weighed things. I made a decision to pursue my MBA after looking at my options. I went with a specific GMAT study course after weighing the options. I picked the schools I was going to apply to. I compared the programs that I was accepted and went with the best of the best. I made all sorts of choices, and along the way, at every step of the way, I weighed my options with the cost versus benefit strictly in mind. Heck, I’m an accountant after all.

So how about everyone else in the program? I mean, maybe I’m wrong about this. Maybe I’m the outlier here?

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