MBA Options & Tips for Aspiring Business Leaders – Brooke Faulkner

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Getting an MBA can transform your career and your view of leadership. Even if you’re already a working professional, it is very possible to obtain an MBA. There are plenty of articles out there that provide information for undergraduates looking to pursue an MBA, but what about business professionals who have spent years away from academia? This article will cover some basic options and tips for business professionals looking to take the next step in their careers. But first, let’s take a look at why and how an MBA degree might benefit you:

Become a Better Leader

An MBA is one of the most versatile leadership degrees out there. Since business permeates almost every industry today, the teachings from your MBA program can be applied to many different situations. In this way, an MBA will help you become a more holistic leader.

The nature of most MBA programs is such that it forces you to reevaluate your way of thinking, making you a better critical thinker. Through debate seminars and projects that require complex analyses, you will also learn to communicate better and solve problems quickly. All this comes together in your development as a leader. Being a great leader opens up a multitude of career opportunities and will allow you to succeed in your professional life.

Build a Network

In business, it’s not just about what you know, but also about who you know. An MBA program allows you to build a network with a variety of professionals that will later hold you in good stead.

As we’ve mentioned in a previous article,“As an MBA student, you’ll get to meet and form relationships with present and future business leaders. And if the program has registered international students, you even get to extend your networks across the globe and learn more about the global business climate. Somewhere in the future, these networks will come in handy, and might end up giving you an edge over the competition.”

Additionally, you might also find yourself a mentor, to guide you through the many perils of the business world. All these relationships are extremely valuable, and can come to your aid at various stages of your career.

These are just a couple of benefits of getting your MBA, amongst many others. For working professionals especially, tapping into a network of like-minded people and learning from those across different spectrums makes for a distinct advantage. These things will come in handy for both business professionals who are looking to pursue new careers in different industries, and those looking to advance their current careers.

That being said, balancing work and the MBA program is no easy feat. To successfully do so, you have to be dedicated, learn to prioritize, and manage your time excellently. Here are some options you might want to consider:

Consider an Online MBA

If you simply can’t find the time to take classes in person, an online MBA makes for a good alternative. In an article on Monster.com, Jamie Klein, founder of Inspire Human Resources says, “online programs enable you to tackle the workload on your own schedule.” The tradeoff here is a reduced amount of personal interaction with your professors and peers, making it harder (but not impossible) to expand your network. Today, there are a number of online MBA programs that are specifically designed for working professionals.

Some of these, such as Whitman Syracuse’s online MBA program, recognize that working professionals might not have taken their GMAT in the past, and currently don’t have time to prepare for it. In these cases, the program offers a GMAT waiver for those who have five or more years of professional experience. The Martin J. Whitman School of Management states, “Though standardized test scores can play a role in evaluating an MBA student’s potential, extensive professional experience is an even better indicator of workplace success.”

If you haven’t had a chance to prepare for the rigorous standardized testing certain MBA programs require and don’t foresee having the time to do so, a low-residency or online program that allows testing waivers just might be the perfect fit.

Check with Your Employer and Set Expectations

Before committing to the massive course load of an MBA, you will need to get your manager’s support. Set up a private meeting with your boss, and thoroughly discuss your career plans with them. Make sure you fully explain why getting an MBA is beneficial to your employer too so that your boss is more amenable to making adjustments to suit your course schedule.

It’s important to set realistic expectations with your employer from the very beginning, to avoid professional conflict later. In Monster’s article, Julie Cohen, leadership coach and CEO of Work Life Leader, states, “Employers understand the commitment of time, energy, and attention that’s required of MBA students.” With a little bit of advance planning, you should be able to come to an arrangement that suits both you and your boss.

Sometimes, companies will sponsor your MBA degree, or contribute towards a part of it. For instance, USPS offers numerous training and development opportunities for their employees, which can greatly enhance your MBA education. Most government entities tend to do the same, and if you work for the military, there’s a good chance you will have access to generous tuition assistance.

Be sure to check any “continuing education” policies your company follows, and get all the necessary paperwork ready in time. Once you start the program, take the initiative to keep your manager updated on your progress. Set up quarterly meetings to discuss your growth and sort out any issues you might be having.

Be Ready to Make Sacrifices

Time management is essential to succeeding in your program as a working professional.

As stated by Joe Matar of Brazen,“Because you’re balancing schoolwork and a full-time job, it’s essential to gain control over how you divvy up your time to ensure your performance doesn’t suffer in either area. It can be tempting to procrastinate when overwhelmed, but doing so will only lead to more stress in the long run.” That being said, no matter how effectively you plan your time, you will have to make sacrifices at some point.

Accepting early-on that pursuing your degree comes with short-term sacrifices will make it easier to cope as the workload increases. Sacrifices can be as small as watching less Netflix, to more significant ones such as missing a family reunion due to course deadlines.

While it’s not easy balancing life, work, and an MBA, remember that the end product is worth the temporary struggle. When your MBA is complete, you will automatically become a more marketable candidate and qualify for a higher salary due to your advanced qualification. And if you’re worried about being too late to the MBA game, remind yourself that it’s never too late to take the next step in your career!

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Brooke Faulkner is a full-time writer and full-time mom of two.

She spends her days pondering what makes a good leader, and dreaming up ways to teach these virtues to her sons creativity enough that she’ll get more than groans and eye rolls in response. To read more of her work, follow her on Twitter @faulknercreek