Everything you didn't learn in school that will help you survive the world of work. A place for newbies, for working moms, for seasoned professionals and "free agents" to share strategies, tips and tales from the trenches.

Nov 20, 2009

Should I Get Another Degree?

BWFS sits down with business professional and student "Diane Chambers," a friend of the Finishing School, who is pursing an MBA -- 15 years after receiving her PhD.

CB: Congratulations on your admission to the Simmons School of Management.
DC: Why, thank you. It's #1 in opportunities for women, per Princeton Review, by the way.

CB: I was so glad to hear how much you are enjoying it.
DC: Indeed, it is such a pleasure.

CB: I was surprised at first that you would seek another degree, after having achieved the PhD. What do you hope the MBA experience will provide that the PhD hasn't?

DC: Well, the Ph.D. has gotten me to where I am now - but I'm bored and underutilized and looking for that next thing. I've actually prepared a list for you, of reasons why I decided to join the Simmons MBA program, if you'd like to hear it?
CB: You don't have to ask me twice to hear a list.

(*rumple* *dig* *sound of unfolding scrap of paper*)
While you're getting ready to share, let me ask, are there others in the program who are likewise pedigreed?

DC: There are! One has her Ph.D. in bio, one is nearly complete with her dissertation, and there are several with multiple masters' degrees, a surprising number of which are from the Harvard Ed School.

CB: Wow, well, there you go. So, to your list, then?
DC: Certainly

(*the throat clearing that signals the onset of a great bit of pontification*)

1. Those with an MBA get benefits - they are eligible for management development programs, and lately I've found those of interest.

2. Opportunities typically not offered freely at my resource-constrained workplace are now plentiful. It seems, at work, it's about fighting for and guarding an ever smaller slice of the pie, in terms of budget and headcount and office space. At B-school, the faculty and administration is invested in making sure matriculants get resources, support, connections, and opportunities. Frankly, I would be delighted to become a fat-walleted, generous alumna benefactor to Simmons SOM.

3. To gain information and tips, of which I was heretofore hopelessly ignorant, like "mentor" and "sponsor" and "how not to disappear yourself in the workplace" and "on the line" and "where to look on a 10K for the real dirt on a company."

4. To be able to ask extremely elementary questions about business with no damage to my credibility.

5. The career strategies course requirement (yes, I get CREDIT for polishing my resume - even if I outsource the actual work), presents a sly excuse to take charge of my career without negative ramifications. "Hi, friendly VP-type, would you be willing to review my resume? It's for school."

6. To become part of a different "in-crowd" and to adopt their language (but use it properly).

The languages and approaches between social science and business differ immensely. Now I am positioned to know where those obnoxious little buzzwords thrown around the workplace originated and what they really mean. Hint: the true meaning of these concepts often differs from the meaning batted around.

7. To arm myself with a credential and "insider knowledge" that can't be dismissed.

8. An answer to those who discouraged me rather than helped me along my path. You are oblivious, but I haven't forgotten (see point 5).

9. To fix some mistakes of graduate school.  Ex: Now I know how to engage faculty around research. Now I know to become involved in things like clubs and panels and brown bags, rather than focusing exclusively on labwork and papers and grades.

10. A VP I respect recommended it.

11. To get the heck out of the position I'm currently in and make a hell of a lot more money.

12. Oh please, we all know this is really an excuse to search for expensive suits on eBay and to recite lines from Wall Street (hey, it's for school).

CB:  You exceeded ten.  That distresses Miss Bender somewhat.
DC: I strive harder now.
CB:  I don't know if I can take you any Smarty McSmarter than you already are.
DC:  I'll remember you when I get to the corner office.

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Lady Executives....

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