Hello everyone! Welcome to BirthMay 2020! Today, I thought it’d be nice to reflect on my MBA journey, a year later.
I had gone through last year’s BirthMay to see if there was anything I should follow up on and though that my MBA life would be perfect to revisit! It was such a huge part of my life, and now that we’re a year after graduation, I figured, why not?
In case you’re new, BirthMay is my annual birthday celebration where I blog every day for the month of May. This is the fourth annual BirthMay and no matter how many BirthMays you’ve been here for, thank you for your support!
MBA Reflection: One Year Later
I can’t believe it’s been a year already! I blogged throughout my experience attending Elmhurst College as an MBA student, so I don’t want to repeat too much here but in case you missed it, here’s a bit of the journey!
I applied for the Elmhurst College (soon to be Elmhurst University) back in July of 2017. I was quickly accepted and attended my first grad school class in August of 2017. I graduated at the end of May 2019 although classes for me ended in March 2019. During those two years I took ten total classes, mostly evening classes one or two days a week but a ton of weekend classes too, all while working full time and even balancing travel (personal and work related) with it all too. Looking back, it was a crazy busy time, but super fun and I loved it! I met many amazing and some annoying people during my classes, all of whom taught me a ton.
I figured I’d talk a bit about the classes I took since that was the main part of the MBA!
The best classes I took was my sales class and my leadership class, hands down. There were also some workshops that were really great bonuses, including a weekend workshop based on communication and a few Saturday workshops of Excel classes too. Those were all really cool and helpful throughout the entire MBA journey and beyond.
I found my sales class to be a really cool, fun challenge for me. If we’re being honest, I only took that class because it was highly recommended by a friend from undergrad who went through the MBA program a year before I did. I really didn’t have an interest in sales. While I still don’t want to actually be in sales, the lessons in the class were really helpful overall as it focused on selling anything. Not just products but ideas too, so we all were prepared for advocating for projects or presenting ideas too.
My leadership class was absolutely amazing. It was a weekend class so it was a lot of work during the semester but it was so worth it. During the class we were encouraged to challenge each other’s thinking, as well as our own. Honestly, if there was one class I would recommend over any others it would be this one. We did everything from learning and researching about different leadership styles to practicing being a leader and even to changing the entire dynamic of our entire class project just by deciding we were going to try something new. I firmly believe this class changed my entire outlook on leadership and was the most important class I took.
I would normally say all the “basic” classes at the start of the program were the “worst”, even though they really weren’t. I personally felt that they were just so similar to the last few classes I took in undergrad, so it felt like a continuation of those upper level courses. But in reality it was a great refresher and a really nice transition back into the academic life and student mentality.
The absolute worst class I took was corporate finance. Not because of the material, but because of the faculty issue. So, the first part of the class was amazing. The professor was insanely smart and even though he would constantly confuse us with his emails, the class itself was great and we were learning a lot. We were putting together complicated but helpful spreadsheets to solve real world problems, asking so many questions, and completely engaged during class. Then our professor was suddenly fired and we got a new one that was complete garbage! He refused to even acknowledge there was a computer in the room so when we kept asking how we could recreate these weird solutions to problems he presented using current technology, he had no idea. He kept insisting we were going to be challenged by executives in the future to “show our work” using pen and paper in the middle of a board meeting someday which is beyond ridiculous. He also gave us photocopies of spreadsheets full of random numbers which he claimed were really important but wouldn’t tell us how he came up with the numbers or how they were important. We were just expected to use them in the formulas he gave us without question. I even asked if I were to Google them, would they come up anywhere on any legitimate website and he said no because he was the “only one would had those numbers”. Great, so he literally made them up?? Ugh, it still makes me mad how much time and effort was wasted for that class and the fact that I never got a refund.
There are many things that I’ve noticed as direct result of my grad school studies. The most notable is that I’m so much more critical of leaders. Political leaders, social media influences, my former bosses (I was furloughed as I was in the event industry before the virus stuff) were all people that I was much more critical of. My former bosses in particular, as I realized how horrible they were! I remember telling my classmates about them and everyone being absolutely horrified at the stories I was telling them. I’m super grateful to have learned enough to see through their crap and now I’m much more aware of how I would NOT want to act as a manager in the future.
Another thing I noticed was how many people view continuing graduation so differently. There were so many people at my old workplace who just didn’t seem to value a higher degree. Mostly they were people who had joined the company before degrees were really required, so they didn’t seem to understand or appreciate the level of education that came with an MBA. I would apply for jobs internally and be told I wasn’t qualified even though I had actual work experience AND a degree, but they were focused on the fact that I hadn’t had that job title before. It was so strange. Again though, it was a horribly run company, so my higher standards weren’t in line with theirs in any way. I’m actually super happy I didn’t get any of those other positions as they all proved to be really bad fits based on the “feedback” I got after applying. (Which was mostly, “you haven’t had this job title before” so clearly, it wouldn’t have worked out if job titles was all we were looking at.)
One funny thing was how many people didn’t realize how fast the program was! This was at work as well, since I would run into people in the break room who would constantly ask me how school was going. I think the last time I got asked was one of the last days I was in the office before the quarantine started in Illinois (and I never went back due to the furlough). Again, lots of people have been working there for decades and don’t have much higher education, which is perfectly fine, but they clearly just weren’t up to date with how these programs work! So I kept explaining that I was done with classes.
Now, as I’m job hunting, I’m also a lot more aware of what kind of workplace I want. I might be unemployed but I still have standards! There’s multiple times where I’ve been on phone interviews (or even in person prior to all this going on) when there’s been some major red flags raised based on something the interviewer says. For example, I always ask what the company culture is like and for some pros and cons on it, especially if the position is remote. If that question stumps the interviewer, then I automatically know it’s going to be a bad fit. Not having an answer to that one means that the company doesn’t care about the culture and honestly that’s something that’s super important to me, so right there is a huge “nope” from me!
Do I regret it or recommend it?
I always recommend more education over less but I know it’s different for everyone. I do recommend an MBA at the end of the day if you’re someone who wants to advance in your career and be a leader. I don’t think the hard skills are necessarily a driving point for the MBA, but soft skills are incredibly important and that’s what you will get the most education on in an MBA program. Or at least that’s what I got from my program. Others may be different!
That’s something I really recommend overall, do a ton of research into the program you’re interested in. For my program, mine was two years as a part time student, which was a good time frame in my mind. They also didn’t require any standardized testing, which was super important to me. Plus, I’d already gone to the school for undergrad so I knew how classes were run and knew it would resonate well with me. This program was a great fit for me and I’m super happy I picked it.
I think the weirdest thing after the program is how much free time I have now! I really miss having my days filled with stuff to do because of the amount of studying I had. While I really like having down time too, and really enjoy having more flexibility to make plans (during normal times, not quarantine times), I just really love learning and studying. I miss that part of school, even if it was always pretty stressful at the time. I have joked that I’m about to sign up for a summer online class through the local community college just to have a class again! I miss it!
So those are some of my thoughts on my MBA experience a year after graduation. I have to say, I feel terrible for every graduate, at any level, who didn’t get their full graduation experience. Yes, the important part is that they graduated and quarantine doesn’t take away their accomplishment but I totally feel for them if they’re disappointed or anything else. Congrats to any grad out there!
Thanks for reading!
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