“Is an MBA worth it” is one of the most searched keywords related to business school.
You no longer need an MBA for many job positions that used to require the degree. If you’re already in debt, do you really want more debt? Is the network worth it? Can I get good networks without an MBA?
For me, an MBA is absolutely worth it, but not for the reason most people think.
Prior to Fuqua, I spent two years thinking about what I should do for the next 5 to 10 years. I did every personality test I could find. I bugged my mentors with the same questions again and again. “What do you think I’m good at? What do you think I should do as a career?” I meditated. I read every article I could find about “how to find your passion”.
For sure, I’ve gotten some good ideas around those big questions: I think I like client-facing jobs; I like intellectually stimulating jobs; I watch a lot of talk shows. But I still wasn’t sure about my strengths. People say I’m good at talking to people. OK, but what should I do as a career? Sales? Product Manager? After research I arrived at this—I think I will be interested in being a management consultant.
Since an MBA would be very helpful in transitioning into a management consultant, I embarked on the business school journey. But it wasn’t that straightforward either. As an international student, I didn’t want to bet my future on just one industry, so I recruited for the tech industry too. Tech jobs are very different from consulting—strategy, business planning, product marketing, and product development. I was presented with more possibilities. I became even more confused than before I joined Fuqua, but only for a little while.
Tech Clubs organize many sharing sessions where alumni working in various companies and positions come to share with us the details about their jobs. They give us their 9 to 5. I was able to visualize very quickly whether I’d be happy doing those jobs.
Meanwhile, John Nance, a professor teaching my Leadership Communication class told me that my presentations were captivating and that he “can see me on camera one day.” That comment was illuminating, like the light at end of a tunnel. Many of us have imposter syndrome. We doubt our abilities. We don’t think we’re good at anything. But John’s comment hit me, somewhere deep down.
Later on, I received more feedback from coaches at the Career Management Center, including “You’re one of the best story-tellers I’ve come across” and “You’re really good at public speaking.” Wow, those comments gave me the clarity I never had about my strengths. Prior to Fuqua, I might have some idea that I could be good at public speaking, but is it 6 out of 10 or 9 out of 10? I had no idea.
My Eureka Moment
One of the best things about an MBA is that you will be able to see your strengths very clearly and quickly because you’re thrown into a pool of very talented people. Once you see it, you no longer doubt yourself.
The most “life-changing” feedback came from an interviewer at Adobe. It was my last round with a general manager. After giving my “tell me about yourself” introduction, he paused, and said, “I must have interviewed hundreds if not thousands of candidates. Your introduction is the best I’ve ever heard.”
That was my eureka moment. Something inside me screamed that I should do something about it. I should build on my strength. I should pursue a “passion project” during my MBA.
I realized that my self-introduction was different because it is professional but also personal and memorable. I used tricks I learned from talk shows, advertising and digital marketing to stand out. I realized that my hobby of watching and analyzing talk shows can be more impactful than I had ever imagined.
I immediately started organizing the talk show notes I’ve kept for years into a course on how anyone can be wittier in everyday situations. I also launched my YouTube and TikTok channels following the suggestion of David Solloway, a Fuqua career coach, and gathered 5 million views within two months. I’m very grateful that many people have improved their capabilities of doing coffee chats, job interviews, and bonding with new friends in a new environment.
An MBA is worth it. Fuqua is worth it. 100%. But not necessarily for the reason you expected. Changing jobs and accessing the network are no doubt very important reasons. But the #1 value of an MBA, in my opinion, is fast-tracking your self-discovery. I’ve learned more about myself within two months of my MBA than I have in the past two years. Self-discovery is crucial because whatever you do for the rest of your life, it probably will only be a success if it’s the overlap of your strength and passion. And that’s what I’ve gained from Fuqua.