Question: I’m 35. I feel like I hit the rock bottom in my career path and I’m totally lost. Some people I know recommended getting an MBA. Others say it is a waste of time and money, since I am too OLD by the time I get the degree, and no one would hire me. Actually I know some unemployed MBAs around me. It is scary! So my question is, does MBA open a lot of doors? Or, should I just keep the money to start my own company?
That’s a tough one: MBA vs. start your own business.
If ever there were a good reason for business planning, this is it. Do that business plan first, to break your uncertainty down into more manageable pieces. Be honest about what you can sell, how much, and how much it will cost you. It’s not just generic start a business vs MBA, but rather, start this specific business, given this business plan, vs. MBA. That’s a huge difference. Are you hitting the startup sweet spot or just dreaming?
If you come to me with some generalized idea of a new business, or looking for what kind of business to start, selecting from lists of interesting new businesses, then forget it. Do the MBA. Or don’t. But a vague general longing to start some business or other isn’t the same as wanting to start a specific business, based on your strengths and weaknesses and what you want to do, defined in a business plan that makes sense and indicates it is a viable business.
I suspect you emailed me because of my Read This Before You Get an MBA post on this blog earlier this month. And for your situation, I stick with some of the things I said in that post. Specifically:
To your specific question, though, about an MBA opening a lot of doors: not necessarily. A lot of MBA programs include strong career resource programs that put a high priority on placing their graduates into good jobs; but some are better than others. Some times are better than others. I was 33 when I finished my MBA, and being that old was not a disadvantage at all. But times change. I had classmates at Stanford who were in their late 30s (a very few) and some thought their age was a recruiting disadvantage.
What worked for me, and might work in your case as well, was the MBA came at a time when I was bored and uninspired with the career I was in, and looking for a change.
But you also should realize that there are no guarantees. There are a lot of unemployed people with fancy degrees, and that includes MBAs. The degree is something you do for yourself, for your own personal growth, and not just to find a job. Or at least that’s what I think.
So do a business plan. Then ask yourself that question again.
(Illustration: Daria Filimonova/Shutterstock)