Career and Money Advice At The Intersection Of Business And Technology

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Should you go back to business school to hide from recession? (Part 1)

October 29th, 2008 · 3 Comments

I applied for business school when the dotcom bubble was bursting in 2001.  Many people told me that I was lucky to attend an excellent business school from 2002 to 2004 because my timing was great — I was able to "hide" myself in business school (and presumably "partying and having a good time") while recession was in fully force and everyone else was suffering. ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s NOT true. Business school is not a place to hide from recession. It is a substantial commitment in term  of time, money, and opportunity cost. You should attend business school for the right reasons.

First, there are a lot of opportunities during recession. In fact, great companies tend to be built during recessions. I could have joined Google in its early days if I didn’t go back to business school. I could have joined VMware. I could have started a web 2.0 start-up. My industry (Internet/high tech industry) moves so fast that there are tremendous opportunity costs to leave the industry for two years. You might be working at a different industry. But, I suggest you to consider the opportunity cost before you make up your  mind to go back to school.

Second, business school is not about "partying and having a good time". Academically, business school is probably not as challenging as law school and other rigorous graduate programs. And there are plenty of social events for you to attend. However, the recruiting process could be very difficult and stressful. My early post "Several lessons I learned from attending business school during recession" gives you the realistic picture of attending business school during recession.

Third, business school is not a place to figure out what to do next because you’re laid off and confused about your career. Most business school career office will offer you "personality/career test" to help you figure out your strengths and career orientation. I haven’t known a single person who tells me that he/she finds his/her calling because of taking the test. And I have helped a lot of my friends to get into top business schools and continue to consult with them on their career issues.

To figure out what you really want to do, you need time to think. You need time to try out different things. But, time is the most scarce resource in business school — you’ll be assigned hundreds of pages of reading each week. You’ll have tons of team projects and course work. You need to attend social clubs. And you will devote a lot of time to corporate presentations, case practices, and job interviews. You’ll be so busy that you will barely have time to sleep. How could you find time to think, reflect, and figure out what you want to do? On top of that, you’ll be under tremendous peer pressure to get a job. To beat the competition and get an internship or full-time job, you need to be laser focused. If you couldn’t make up your mind and keep "experimenting" with different career options, you probably won’t get any internship/job.

So, make up your mind and know what you want before you start business school.

Fourth, don’t apply business school because your MBA admission consultant told you so. ๐Ÿ™‚ Several MBA admission consulting firms have message boards/blogs. When someone posts the question "should I attend business school during recession", the consistent answer from the consultant is "MBA is a great investment. Regardless of recession, you should make the investment. And there is no better time than recession to attend business school". This is like asking a restaurant waiter if the food tastes great in the restaurant. ๐Ÿ™‚ The decision to attend business is a very personal decision. Your situation is different and unique, so make your own decision.

Fifth, don’t apply business school because you’re fed up with your current job and you need an escape. There is no escape. If you’re fed up with corporate politics, unless you become an entrepreneur, you’ll continue to encounter office politics. If you’re fed up with a bad boss, the chance is that you’ll encounter another bad boss. True power is within. You’ll gain a lot of confidence if you can handle the office politics, deal with the bad boss, and overcome whatever obstacles coming your way. Using business school as an escape will only delay your progress, not accelerate your progress. You go to business school to get an education. You’re not going there to solve your personal issues and work problems.

Part 2: 4 compelling reasons and 3 overrated reasons to attend business school during recession.

Tags: Beat Recession · Go Back to School · MBA

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anshuman Jaiswal // Oct 30, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Wonderful post!!!

  • 2 Career Profiles // Mar 4, 2009 at 4:10 am

    I'm not sure you can really hide from a recession, but certainly getting a better education can only improve your chances of career retention.

  • 3 Career Profiles // Mar 4, 2009 at 9:10 am

    I'm not sure you can really hide from a recession, but certainly getting a better education can only improve your chances of career retention.

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