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Sometimes it's what you don't know that counts

Nobody Cares If You Have an MBA

By Guest Blogger, Mary Schmidt, Marketing Troubleshooter

Guy Kawasaki NYT Interview: "Jobs for college graduates should make them gain knowledge in at least one of these three areas: how to make something, how to sell something or how to support something."

Images A friend of mine called, asking for help.  An old friend of hers is (increasingly desperately) looking for a job, after a long career in banking.  She started by saying, "If you know of anyone looking for someone with an MBA..."

Well, sad to say, I don't.  Once you've been out in the job market for a few years, nobody asks about your education. They want to know what you've done. (And never ONCE have I heard a VC ask an entrepreneur, "Do you have an MBA?") 

This rose to top of mind when I ran across a long advertising insert in the newspaper  - promoting how getting an MBA would enable the newly unemployed find another job in today's tough economy.  I give the advertisers credit for an interesting marketing spin, but that's all it is - spin.

I'm a huge proponent of education - but handing someone a piece of paper and expecting him or her to run a business successfully right from the start is like...handing someone The French Laundry cookbook and expecting them to turn out a flawless gourmet dinner for 45, the first time. (I own the book, and it's more like food porn for professional chefs.  Not easy.)

If every problem could be reduced to a formula or spreadsheet, we wouldn't need risk-lovin', crazy entrepreneurs.

(Kawasaki on MBAs going to work in consulting: "You can develop an absolutely incorrect perception of yourself as a great manager when, in fact, you haven’t implemented anything. You haven’t fired anybody. You haven’t introduced a product. You haven’t supported a customer. All you’ve done is make spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.")


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Kate Hutchinson

I just completed my MBA in December, and I went to get it to learn about business, and particularly finance, not to get 3 letters after my name. If I could have foreseen the market crash that happened during my first semester, I probably would have thought twice about racking up that debt, and here I am, still on the job market anyway.

Sandra Fernandez

I keep thinking about going back to school to get a graduate degree, but I always postpone it. Eventually what tips me back from the decision is the reality that it won't make a difference to my career. What matters is what I've done, am doing, have accomplished.

Still, I do think I want a graduate degree... for me.

Mary Schmidt

Of course, it does depend on the people with whom you're involved. However, I've worked for decades in male-dominated engineering, high-tech companies and it never really came up for me. (Of course, I was also managing MBAs and even PhDs...and I don't have an MBA.)

Chelsey, good point. learning isn't the same as getting that piece of paper.


One other thing - for women, sometimes it matters. I have been in plenty of companies where my male counterparts don't treat me that well until I mention that I have an MBA. After I mention this, they listen to me a little more.

Seems to be the same reason why people care about how you look or your appearance or what your background is.


I think it depends on how you utilize that MBA. Lots of times, people with MBA's care and I've found that there are a lot of people with MBA's. So, yes, if the person you are talking to doesn't have an MBA, they probably don't care as much. However, if you are talking to someone who does, then they probably care a bit more.

Yvonne DiVita

Mary, we are increasingly moving to a model of innovation and accomplishment, and that's where the jobs will be. I so agree it's what you've done, what you've accomplished, and how you manage change, that makes a difference in today's business world. An MBA prepares you for nothing more than studying how things "might" be...not how things really are.

Chelsey H.

Thanks for this post- I went straight to grad school after college and although I finished all the classes, I never received my "offical" graduate degree because I did not complete my thesis. I just decided I had learned enough, did not have the time & energy to complete an intense research project and wanted to focus on my new full-time job. I never regretted that decision even though others gave me a hard time about it.

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