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chileanseabass

OT - career advice / is an MBA worth it?

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Looking for some career-oriented advice here, and thought of no better place to get some opinions.  I'm 39, currently a VP of Sales & Marketing for a small company (12 employees, $3-5 million in revenue annually).  I've been here for almost 12 years and am essentially the #2 person in the company.  The owner is planning to retire by the end of 2021, and I tried to buy the company from him back in April, but it fell through 3 days before closing (investor I brought in backed out).  So, he decided to give the company to his daughter.  Now we're trying to transition leadership.

I like what I do, am in a niche industry, but wonder if I could do more/better for myself elsewhere, plus I'm not convinced I can work here long term with the new "leadership."  The job market has been really good here in Charlotte for the past 2 years and I've put plenty of feelers out there for similar VP-level jobs (or Director-level at large companies) and I get nowhere.  Everything I apply for says MBA preferred, which I don't have (I have a BS and BA). I've had one interview, facilitated by a friend, and they basically said my experience was too niche for them.

If I stay here for the long haul, I don't really see a need for an MBA, but if I want to look elsewhere I almost feel like I need to have one.  Is this really the case?  If I do go the MBA route, I'm not going to spend $70-100K, because I don't think I'll make the money back based on what I'm making now, but some people I've spoken to say if you don't go to a top school then don't bother.  I'm considering some mid-level state schools offering online MBAs that cost $15-20k, but is this even worth it?  I'd rather not waste my time and money (still paying off student loans from undergrad) if it's not something that will pay dividends.

If anyone has thoughts/opinions/advice on this I'd love to hear it!

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There’s no better investment than in yourself. MBA Go for it. A job/position can always change. It’s another feather in your cap that will benefit you at some point in your future. 

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My sister ran into something similar.  What we discussed was potential increase in income vs debt of education 

Will you increase your salary enough with this degree to pay for the debt incurred for getting it, plus profit 

To put it simply ROI

Edited by miles
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Never a bad idea to invest in yourself.

Being in a niche' position, the MBA will broaden your horizons and potentially make you even better at your current job. That could pay off the investment right there.

Or, the MBA will provide the entry point to other career opportunities and a new line of friends/peers/other MBA students to have as resources in a job search.

Sounds like you are in a good spot that has some changes taking place. The MBA could be your insurance policy for whatever happens.

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I'm in a similar boat with respect to the MBA thing. I'm in a spot right now where advancement is not really an option, so ultimately I need to make a lateral slide to a path where getting an MBA makes sense because it's probably my only real career option.

It sounds like you're already in a position/field where getting an MBA makes sense, so I would say go for it. Like oregelbundet said, it'll broaden you professionally and open a lot of doors to help you escape the niche you're in.

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Talk to some HR people if you can to see if they are looking for people with MBAs.  

I have a Law Degree and work in financial services.  Anything that teaches improved skills has value.

Right now I’d suggest learning to code 

 

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Would suggest you really figure out which reason you'd be getting the MBA.  If it is simply / strictly to be able to check a box when looking at other opportunities would seriously look at going as low end as possible.  (Least $'s out of pocket, probably the lowest time / effort commitment as well.)

If it is to increase your knowledge base and perhaps open doors to a significantly different career path, then would go as high end as is reasonable for your location and budget.  (Any mid-level program won't gain you much more than a budget program would.)

Have my MBA and it allowed me to (accidentally, more or less) significantly alter my career path.  To date, monetarily, I'd've been better off continuing doing what I'd been doing; but from a quality of life standpoint it was absolutely worth it (have been able to get very involved in volunteer activities I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise and actually got to see my kids grow up).   Personally, wouldn't go low/mid-tier but you have to decide what your goals are.

And if you are looking for a significant change of direction, some other program may make more sense.


Good luck figuring out which way you decide will be best to move forward.

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1 hour ago, Zamboni said:

There’s no better investment than in yourself. MBA Go for it. A job/position can always change. It’s another feather in your cap that will benefit you at some point in your future. 

Lies!  I would like it so much better if he invested in me instead of in himself.😁

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Go for it, seriously the schmucks that run the hospital and are my "bosses" all have MBA's, terrible personalities, and not much else to offer. That MBA is pretty priceless in my experiences in life, I think it would suit you nicely having that title after your name and would open up a lot of doors you may not recognize. 

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Thanks for the feedback so far, I appreciate it.  Most of what you've all said is in line with how I'm leaning.  Whether or not I get the MBA won't impact my earnings at all with my current position (my boss says it's a waste of money), so there'd be no financial help in paying for it from my current employer either.

I guess it just comes to down to the estimated cost vs. potential earnings if I leave and move elsewhere.  Because of my current job, I travel a lot internationally, I have to find something that's 100% online and flexible.  In-state programs that would work for me, include UNC Chapel Hill (~$100k), NC State ($46k), UNC Greensboro ($20k), UNC Wilmington ($15k).

I can't justify paying $100k.  I'm still paying off around $18k in undergrad loans, and would like to keep the MBA cost as low as possible, plus my wife is graduating with her Bachelors next month, so now we'll have to pay off $30k in her loans 😞  My two eldest step sons will be graduating high school in the next two years, but they'll probably join the military or just join the workforce.  

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1 hour ago, Taro T said:

If it is to increase your knowledge base and perhaps open doors to a significantly different career path, then would go as high end as is reasonable for your location and budget.  (Any mid-level program won't gain you much more than a budget program would.)

Personally, wouldn't go low/mid-tier but you have to decide what your goals are.

A friend of mine got his MBA at Georgia Tech right after he finished undergrad, and he pretty much said the same thing - go big or go home.  He said no one cares if you have one from a smaller state or private school (he works in HR for a major bank), it's all about the name of the school on the diploma.

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6 minutes ago, chileanseabass said:

A friend of mine got his MBA at Georgia Tech right after he finished undergrad, and he pretty much said the same thing - go big or go home.  He said no one cares if you have one from a smaller state or private school (he works in HR for a major bank), it's all about the name of the school on the diploma.

Right after undergrad, it's all about the name of the school, sure.  I'm not certain the same is true when you have almost two decades of work experience.

Can I ask whether you *want* to get an MBA?  That should drive the decision.  

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1 hour ago, GASabresIUFAN said:

Right now I’d suggest learning to code

I do coding for the last 20 years. Its giving me a great living but surprisingly the stress is unreal. Not doctor or soldier stress, but there is a lot. 

 

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9 minutes ago, Eleven said:

Right after undergrad, it's all about the name of the school, sure.  I'm not certain the same is true when you have almost two decades of work experience.

Can I ask whether you *want* to get an MBA?  That should drive the decision.  

Part of me wants to do it, and part of me doesn't.  Overall, I'd probably rather not do it, to be honest, but I don't see how I can maintain the same income level without it, were I to leave my current job (by my choice or management's).  The other plus side to doing it is that down the road I would really like to teach part-time at the community college/small college level, which would require a master's degree.  That has always been a "winding down my career" interest of mine.

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One thing that I would recommend would be to make sure to do the MBA in a city where you're likely to stay for a long time.  A lot of what you gain with an MBA is networking (from both teachers and students) - and they can help you find a better job (or a new job should you lose your current one).   

Very strange that this is my first post...

Edited by Drag0nDan
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3 minutes ago, Drag0nDan said:

One thing that I would recommend would be to make sure to do the MBA in a city where you're likely to stay for a long time.  A lot of what you gain with an MBA is networking (from both teachers and students) - and they can help you find a better job (or a new job should you lose your current one).   

Very strange that this is my first post...

Good point.

Also, welcome to our little family.  We love each other very much, but like most families we are very dysfunctional.

Sent you a welcome beer.

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One thing I will say. Education is way to expensive now. I went to a community college for 2 years and then a computer school. I was able to find a job right at graduation and I have been there since, 20 years now.

I haven't looked for a job, but I would hate if I had to go back to school now. I would never be able to recover the money with how much education costs today.

 

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10 minutes ago, Drag0nDan said:

One thing that I would recommend would be to make sure to do the MBA in a city where you're likely to stay for a long time.  A lot of what you gain with an MBA is networking (from both teachers and students) - and they can help you find a better job (or a new job should you lose your current one).   

Very strange that this is my first post...

Welcome and thanks for chiming in!  That's a hurdle for me.  I live in a major city (Charlotte), but the only local MBA programs are in-person, and I can't do that.  I have other school options 2-4 hours from Charlotte that offer fully online MBAs, but I've heard you lose those networking benefits when doing an MBA online.  I have no plans to leave the Charlotte area for 7-10 years at least.

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4 minutes ago, chileanseabass said:

Welcome and thanks for chiming in!  That's a hurdle for me.  I live in a major city (Charlotte), but the only local MBA programs are in-person, and I can't do that.  I have other school options 2-4 hours from Charlotte that offer fully online MBAs, but I've heard you lose those networking benefits when doing an MBA online.  I have no plans to leave the Charlotte area for 7-10 years at least.

Does Charlotte have an "executive" MBA program at any of the schools?  Those end up in person, but are designed to minimize work interruptions (they expect most of the students to be working as executives) and have many Friday / weekend classes and set curriculums.  Those still may not working with your work schedule, but oftentimes they will videotape classes if you absolutely have to miss a small # of them.  Something that may be worth looking into.

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40 minutes ago, chileanseabass said:

Part of me wants to do it, and part of me doesn't.  Overall, I'd probably rather not do it, to be honest, but I don't see how I can maintain the same income level without it, were I to leave my current job (by my choice or management's).  The other plus side to doing it is that down the road I would really like to teach part-time at the community college/small college level, which would require a master's degree.  That has always been a "winding down my career" interest of mine.

Would a master's degree in another field be more interesting to you, while still contributing to occupational mobility/income?  Also, I agree with the posts about building connections.

5 minutes ago, Taro T said:

Does Charlotte have an "executive" MBA program at any of the schools?  Those end up in person, but are designed to minimize work interruptions (they expect most of the students to be working as executives) and have many Friday / weekend classes and set curriculums.  Those still may not working with your work schedule, but oftentimes they will videotape classes if you absolutely have to miss a small # of them.  Something that may be worth looking into.

I have a friend who did this at Simon.  He didn't need the connections, though.  (He's from one of those families that has its name on buildings.)  But he did enjoy it.

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I'd suggest your decade plus of business experience and apparent success, especially at a small business requiring a diverse skill set, is far greater than an MBA.  I'd take that angle with applications / interviews if it comes up.  Ultimately if the place you are applying is an MBA club (all the key people have theirs), yeah it's probably not a fit without it.

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I think committing to any post-bachelor's should involve some degree of planning for it to be worthwhile. Like, what role are you interested in moving into and in what industry (or industries)? Answer those, do the appropriate research into those markets, make a decision, and then act.  

My guess would be that if you're asking the question, you're sensing a disturbance in the force somewhere and are subconsciously trying to plan for it.

Another way to look at it, though, is to leverage what you have. Look at certifications in areas that interest you and pursue them, adding the certificates to the resume you will update, refresh, and perhaps have re-imagined by a professional who has real results and credibility. Develop and nurture your LinkedIn profile.  If you travel internationally, does that mean you are fluent in another language? That can be a huge asset, depending on the industry.

Believe it or not, not all companies operate within the old-boys' network and therefore require some sort of paper credibility. So, you might have to widen your gaze on the market. 

For networking, join a board or chamber of commerce. The former is better, IMHO, than other options in business networking, because of the nature of the activity.

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They shouldn't be teaching you anything you don't already know in an MBA program.  It's glorified networking.  And because it's networking, make sure whatever school you go to is in the area you want to end up, or commonly sends people out to industries you are actually interested in.  Unfortunately, there's no shortage of completely self-unaware idiots with MBAs out there, so it looks bad if you don't have one.  I am sorry your current deal isn't working out in your favor.

Edited by triumph_communes
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@chileanseabass.  I have a different take.  While I'm all for an MBA (it does help), I'm not sure that is the best use of dollars in your circumstance.  I've hired many SVP's and Directors.  When I see you are an SVP for a 12 person company, that experience may not demonstrate managing down through several layers of management, (and potentially hundreds of employees), a core skill set that a Fortune 500 SVP/Director would have to demonstrate..  Instead of plunking down 25-100k for an MBA, my advice would be to looking into potential  non-executive level opportunities that allow you to gain experience managing a larger portfolio and workforce even if the pay is not as great.  You're young and will have plenty of time to recoup any potential lost earnings.  And who knows, maybe your next company will offer tuition reimbursement!  

I wish you well however you decide to proceed.

 

Edited by Tondas
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