It seems so strange to me that we continue with a system where 18 year olds are allowed to take on copious debt in order to fund expensive, wasteful college educations. Students are taking out huge sums of money that are “bankruptcy-proof” to take four years of classes, ~30% of which are required but have nothing to do with the degree/career desired. Teachers are, most of the time, academics-only with no hands on work experience in their field (regardless of how hard most of them try) which makes they’re teachings less career relevant. The argument usually is that college is explorative, and the end goal should be to learn and not simply to get a job. Maybe this is true, but then job creators need to relinquish this deeply engrained need for their candidates to require degrees. Otherwise that is exactly what colleges become, a mandatory but inefficient employee creator factory.
A change to this inefficient model will require companies to boldly act to discourage the need for these inefficient institutions. This will admittedly be extremely difficult because this will take those individuals hiring new employees (who have degrees themselves most likely) to admit that they’d be able to do the jobs that they have without a degree — without the debt, without the time spent. People resist making these types of admissions, and therefore this change will require a collective bravery in admitting that our own degrees are over rated. Instead of making weak, bloated arguments that colleges teach independence, methods for learning, time management, and educational exploration. Bull shit. Most of these skills are not taught at college, and those that are, are certainly not exclusive to university learning. Many could be learned through an hourly job, mowing your neighborhood lawns, tutoring children, raising a family, leading a church choir, starting up a rec softball team, creating and managing a blog, and on and on and on.
I’m fully willing to admit, I could have performed (well) every job I’ve had with two to three semesters worth of classes maximum. Everything else I had to learn on the job regardless. And to top it off those two to three semesters worth of classes could be learned for free or for a small percentage of the cost via online offerings (YouTube, udemy, coursera, edx, etc). And many of these options are much more easy to understand because they aren’t enveloped in academic jargon and formats that are not convertible to career-based knowledge. I say all this from the perspective of someone that went to five years of undergrad and two years of a full time MBA program (both Ohio State University). I’m not saying there isn’t a need for colleges and universities — there most certainly is for things like engineering, medical, and perhaps law degrees etc. But for the vast majority of the population, the “true” return on investment just isn’t there. I put true in quotes because with the employment system rigged as it now is (requiring degrees for consideration) no degree is sometimes a zero sum game. But that’s what I contest. Companies should relinquish this long held belief that degrees are required. Instead they should determine which skills are absolutely fundamental and they should accept candidates that have satisfied those requirements specifically. Does your candidate need to know excel, business writing, and basic financial concepts? Then allow them to take an online excel course, a finance course at the local community college, and allow them to submit their blog as their writing portfolio for review of quality. Requiring a degree effectively means you wanted them to take a large amount of irrelevant classes, go into debt, and there is still no guarantee they learned what was necessary for the job. I’m my mind, candidate one is smarter with their time and money, and they’re who I want on my team. However, these types of candidates aren’t out there because they’re presently locked up in a debt riddled for year commitment with an “institution of higher learning” because companies have determined if they don’t see these credentials on an applicants resume, they get immediately chucked into the trash.
At times during your MBA, you may be asked to research a trend that you find interesting or that you think will have a profound impact on business. If you are looking for topics, or even if you are simply interested in exploring different trends for you upcoming career search, consider these options.
1. Healthcare. Clearly a broad topic, but it was left this way intentionally. There are many sub components of healthcare that will dramatically impact business, and any one of them would provide excellent research fodder. For instance:
a.) The Affordable Care Act. This legislation will have broad reaching impacts on the entire healthcare industry and on our economy as a whole. Consider who will be winners and losers. For instance, will this potential increase in overall employment cost, slow the growth of new business. Will it decrease the attractiveness of U.S. Exports? Will it encourage companies to hire more contract labor or freelancers? Will it impact costs at all? Will there be massive job and new company growth in the healthcare space?
b.) Hearing Health – if the research request requires a narrower focus, consider audio health. I haven’t heard this topic discussed much, but (intuitively) with the current and upcoming generations long term exposure to earbud usage I envision this being a growth market. Not only will this specialization see an uptick in popularity, so too will surrounding industries. For instance hearing aid manufacturers, audio equipment modifications, etc.
c.) Patient Transport – with the introduction of Uber and Lyft, and their growing acceptance of use, I see a potential for similar services that focus on patient transport. At the moment, baby boomers and younger generations are seeing the difficulties of transporting their parents and grandparents to their ever growing number of doctor appointments. By offering a simple, safe, and reliable way to consolidate the present patient transport offerings into an Uber-like network, would be a massive opportunity for startup potential.
2. Education – this topic was also left intentionally broad, and any number of sub categories could be your focus.
a.) Online Education – the good and the bad. As for the bad, for-profit online colleges are being rapidly depleted of their already poor reputation through probes in their predatory lending habits. These online graduates are taking on huge debt loads, and either attaining poorly paying jobs or dropping out pre graduation in high percentages. The other side of this coin is free online education offering recorded classes from Ivy League and other top ranked schools. Will taking these courses gain in popularity? Increase in recognition and validity? It is my opinion that they will grow in popularity and companies will encourage employees to stay current by taking these courses. Once this practice becomes more accepted for current employees, it will slowly gain in acceptance for incoming candidates to prove their knowledge/skills. Full-time (and more importantly full tuition) institutions will maintain their luster in some industries while losing it in others.
b.) Technical Degrees – with generation Z entering middle school, they will soon face the choice of taking on the ever growing cost of a secondary degree. With the current and recent college grads struggling to find well paying jobs, and/or paying back their loans, upcoming generations will question the value of colleges and universities. Much of the knowledge learned in college either does not translate into work-related skills, or the skills learned can be done cheaper, and more effectively overseas. What cannot be outsourced (as easily) are skilled laborers. Masons, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, dental assistants, and particularly truck drivers cannot be outsourced. I call out truck drivers explicitly because their shortage will cause major issues for the U.S. economy if it is not addressed soon. The DOT regulations of 2013 have effectively shortened the allowable working hours for an already constrained workforce. The average age of over the road drivers is steadily climbing, as younger drivers do not enter the field. Drivers are retiring, (and/or passing away — the average lifespan of an OTR driver is surprisingly low) while new driver numbers are dropping. This job market is ripe for immediate employment at fairly attractive salaries for non-college degrees.
3. Energy – as the North American shale gas revolution nears, the energy industry is starting to rumble in its adjustments to the change. As new fracking, and drilling operations come online, so to do the plants that process hydrocarbons into their various derivatives. New jobs will be created as chemists, laborers, transporters, etc. are required to support the new industry. Another aspect of this revolution will be North American energy (near independence and overall security.)
4. China Slowdown – the paper (economic) dragon theory is slowly showing signs of truth. The Chinese economic growth trajectory has finally slowed considerably. What will this mean for global currencies and international trade? What will happen to industries that were forced to shutdown elsewhere due to Chinese overcapacity and lower prices? Is global war a fear ((I don’t think this is a crazy question) China has a predominantly male population that will soon be facing ever increasing unemployment rates…what happens when you have a country full of unhappy males with no money and lack of suitable partners…this is not a simple question to answer when you have a small group of government officials making major decisions for a country)?
5. Crypto Currency – who will win? I do not think it’s a question of ifcrypto currency will take over (at least in select countries and for certain demographics) but when. The idea of a more transparent monetary system is a very attractive notion. Of course the current versions have their idiosyncrasies and flaws, but they already show tremendous promise with their low transaction rates, immediate exchange, and their public ledger system. I’m very bullish in the ultimate acceptance of some form of crypto currency in the near to mid future (10-15 years). What will this do to foreign exchange rates? What are the issues that need to be answered to increase adoption? What countries will be the first to adopt? Who will be the biggest resistors?
Top ranked MBA programs application deadlines by round.
|Top MBA School’s 2014 Application Deadlines by Round|
|School Name||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3|
|Max||10/22/13||UCLA Anderson||01/21/14||Texas McCombs||04/24/14||Yale SOM|
|Min||09/16/13||Harvard||10/21/13||Duke Fuqua||01/03/14||Dartmouth Tuck|
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One of the key MBA courses offered in most b-schools is Negotiations. I highly recommend that everyone take this course if their schedule allows it. The course offers negotiation basics and provides excellent insight into various negotiation tactics. I regularly call on information I learned in this class, even after graduation. In fact, one of the tools I consistently use from this class is the Negotiation Planning Document (found below). I still use this document to set up negotiation strategies when entering salary negotiations, negotiations with suppliers, etc. It’s a simple, yet valuable negotiations tool. Knowing where you stand, and where you want to go before a negotiation begins, results in confidence and preparedness.
Please feel free to use the document below to help in your future negotiations. Also consider reading Getting to Yes
by: Roger Fisher. Having read this book before taking the class was invaluable. It allowed me to fully soak up the course content, having already understood the negotiation basics outlined in the book. I will include an Amazon link to the book below the Negotiation Planning Document.
Negotiation: ___________________ Role: ___________________
What issues are most important to you? (list in order of importance)
What is your BATNA? Reservation Price? Target?
What are your sources of power?
What issues are most important to your opponent? (list in order of importance)
What is your opponent’s BATNA? Reservation Price? Target?
What are your opponent’s sources of power?
What is your opening move/first strategy? Other important information?
Link to Roger Fisher’s book:
Why are MBAs Assholes?
It seems that MBAs have quite the negative connotation these days. Some companies have begun to question the value of the degree all together, while others simply view MBAs as: soon-to-be-overpaid, drunk, assholes in suits. While there certainly are some bad eggs in the group, they most certainly are not all assholes. (And as for my take on the value of an MBA, please read my MBA After Undergrad article.) However, I admit that there are many reasons why the stereotypical MBA is viewed in this less than favorable light. You can find these reasons listed below:
Type-A MBAs are Self-Selected
Most people who return to get their MBA do so to become high level business leaders. By nature, individuals who crave leadership positions often possess larger-than-average egos, and exhibit type-A personalities. Add in the fact that these students are risk-loving enough to leave full-time incomes to go back to school for two years, means they are a special type of confident (or crazy). Therefore, MBAs will sometimes walk about with an “I’m braver than you” façade, which to many is perceived as asshole-ish. I simply view it as possessing an inordinate amount of confidence. It should also be noted that being an MBA is similar to withstanding a two year long game of high-stakes poker. MBAs are regularly wondering if their return to school will be a profitable gamble? MBAs are confident, risk-loving, and nervous — a very odd concoction indeed.
MBAs Aspire to Stress
To many MBAs, the ideal career path after graduation is through Investment Banking (IB) or consulting. Both career choices eliminate any semblance of work-life balance and are oftentimes extremely stressful (particularly IB). Almost all MBAs know this going into their degree. Horror stories of these careers are discussed frequently, and tales can be found all over the internet – for examples check out these two sites: Slate & Business Insider. If you desire these types of jobs, you obviously have a slightly skewed set of priorities. You seek high stress situations, and you crave high-paying, prestigious positions. Given that an MBA is an excellent entry point for many of these positions, you therefore have a higher percentage of these off-kilter people in this degree than any other. These individuals again, because of their confidence and their difference from the norm, can be perceived as being assholes by non-MBAs
MBAs Are Hung-Over
I’ve found that some MBAs deal with their stress, and “high-stringedness” through self-medication with alcohol. You will find that some MBAs drink before class, presentations, and tests. Most are able to keep their drinking contained to standard late-night and weekend, hours…but others clearly use the sauce to keep their daily nerves and stress at bay. Mix this drinking with the mass consumption of coffee and energy drinks (things that are prevalent in all demanding graduate programs), and you have a recipe for grouchy, and misunderstood people. If you were to interact with one of these simultaneously stressed out, amped up, and buzzed out MBAs, no one could fault you for confusing them with an asshole. Hmm, may MBAs are assholes.
The Value of an MBA?
A common theme emerging in the media, is the constant questioning of the value of an MBA. Periodicals such as the Atlantic and Forbes have both taken a crack at the degree’s proposed value. They contend that the ROI is eroding given the increased tuition rates and the decreased salaries extended to MBA’s. As a recent MBA, I do find myself periodically questioning my decision to go back; but it’s important to note, the value proposition equations that these sources are using are not complete in their assessment. Let’s take a look at 3 key factors that oftentimes get overlooked in these ROI calculations.
While the MBA degree may not produce a monetary ROI for some; for others, the value of switching to a more exciting career is immeasurable. For instance, there were many MBA’s in my class that were ecstatic to leave stressful political positions, or boring accounting jobs to pivot into more exciting marketing or consulting roles. In today’s job search climate, it is virtually impossible to make this drastic of a short-term, external career change. Recruiters are inundated with applicants possessing numerous years of experience, and those looking to change careers from unrelated fields find their resumes falling to the bottom of the stack. Even internal career shifts such as this, would take far longer than the two years required for an MBA — at least in most cases. For these career switching individuals, the MBA is a phenomenal tool — one which is well worth the price of admission.
Promotion Hungry and Time Wise
I classify myself into this category. In my first leadership position after undergrad, I began watching the actions of those in high level leadership roles. I knew that my ultimate career progression would lead me to these positions, and I wanted to better understand these individual’s life challenges, lifestyles, and life plans. One of the most alarming trends I noticed was the glass ceiling that was placed over the leaders not holding MBA’s. These aspiring individuals would then have to find a way balance their 60+ hour work week and their hectic family life, with a Part-Time or Executive MBA program. Knowing that I aspired to their leadership level or higher, I saw the value in getting this career hurdle out of the way while I still had the most time. As a single male, with no children and no pressing financial obligations, I knew this was the best time to get my “MBA check box” checked.
Scholarships, Graduate Assistant-ship, & Employer Funded
It seems silly to have to say, but if you can get a Master’s Degree for free — DO IT! I understand the concept of opportunity cost, and living expenses, etc., but the ROI equation for an MBA without tuition is almost always positive. My suggestion here is to spend the money up front on GMAT prep materials. Try to generate the highest score possible, and apply EARLY. Most schools will throw around the notion that they care “more about your story than your scores,” but from my own observations high GMAT’s = Free/Reduced Tuition. Most schools will extend Graduate Assistant-ships (GA’s) or Scholarships to those with the highest GMAT’s, and to those who applied earliest. While some GA positions consume as much time as 40-hour/week jobs, they usually result in 100% tuition reimbursement. In addition to this insanely positive trade-off, you also have front line access to professors, visiting recruiters, etc. Plan far enough in advance to ensure a GMAT retake or two before the early admission’s deadline. Apply to a few schools, and aggressively court admissions for graduate assitant-ships…(I flubbed this up royally.) (I was surprised to find that very few, if any of my classmates paid full ticket price for their MBA. I’m not saying it was cheap, but it certainly wasn’t the full amount that was listed on the MBA website.)
Please Bring Experience – MBA After Undergrad
One thing I can add to the non-monetary equation of an MBA, is the unique friendships and valuable alliances that you build in your MBA. MBA programs are typically small, and everyone knows their classmates well within the first few months. Unlike law school, the competitiveness and backbiting rarely if ever occurs. While there may be contests for acquiring the most prestigious job, or getting the highest grades, it’s a very amicable environment for the most part. The beauty of an MBA, is that if your classmates are successful, your network simply gets more “powerful.” This is in steep contrast to a law degree, where jobs and clients are finite and difficult to attain. I would argue that MBA’s, although typically type-A personalities are some of the closest-knit and most encouraging group of graduate students (at most schools). A huge chunk of the MBA’s value comes from these classmate interactions and the bonds that you build. The one caveat I have here is the need for your program to have experienced B-Schoolers (i.e., 3+years of work experience). I feel that you do yourself and your classmates a huge disservice if you come to an MBA directly from undergrad. The greatest learning experiences I had were from fellow classmates that had worked in industry for multiple years. I learned far more from peers than from professors over the course of my two years. Direct from undergrad students, however, brought little to no insight to the rest of the class. I know at times they felt outgunned, and perhaps rightfully so. I understand that these individuals were simply getting their MBA’s out of the way early (which I hypocritically listed as my own motivation) and these were extremely bright individuals, but I feel more value is gained from having an experienced cohort of students. That being said, I would advise that you check the “average years of work experience” statistic for whichever school you choose. This way you have a higher likelihood of a positive ROI on your MBA!