Why An MBA Doesn’t Guarantee a Promotion

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MBA has to be one of the most criticized advanced courses of the recent times. It’s viewed as generic and useless by many and some speaking from experience say that it doesn’t get you ahead. I’ve been thinking about it as well and I think I can see why an MBA wouldn’t get some over to the management side. An MBA teaches you how to deal with people, it teaches leadership skills, management skills as well as how to deal with clients, investors, employees, managers and public speaking. It could be said that an MBA gives its holder valuable accounting and social skills not taught in any course. But that still wouldn’t answer the question anyone interviewing would ask, “do you know the core business of the firm?”

Let’s say you’re an engineer at a telecommunications firm and want to move up the ladder because everything looks better from a higher view. the person considering your skills will have to ask what you know about the core business, how good an engineer are you really? It’s not worth it to promote someone who’s not a good engineer to management level after all what are they going to develop? How will you leave them in charge of a group of scientists and technicians? It looks bad when the leader can’t come up with a plan and can’t keep up with the smartest guy in the room.

Let’s look at another scenario. Let’s say you were the one evaluating potentials at the same company, all the people being evaluated graduated from university the same year and took the following career paths: Candidate A: Graduated with 2nd Class upper, worked for 4 years with an equivalent firm took a year off to do a masters in Engineering then worked at the firm for a year and has proved exceptional. Candidate B: Graduated with a first class, worked at one firm for 4 years before being headhunted by the firm where they have worked for 2 also provides exceptional work. Candidate C: Graduated with a second lower, worked for the firm for 6 years and has grown with it, knows many of the people and provides good quality work. Candidate D: Graduated with second upper, has worked for 4 years, took a year off to do their MBA and was then employed by the firm. Their work is good quality but not as high as the other two candidates but people like them.

I guess for some that the answer is candidate D because they know how to get along with people but that’s not necessarily what higher level management would see. They’d see that it’s not worth it to get somebody who’s likable if they aren’t going to also supervise quality. It might even be better to hire the one who will supervise quality and have them go for a leadership program or management program to develop their leadership skills. If you ask me I see it like this, if you are confident that your work is exceptional then yes go for it. On the other hand if you think that at best your work is average it would be better to get a specialized degree, it would make you more valuable in the field as a professional and maybe after you specialize consider the MBA. For someone who’s already proved themselves before, the MBA will just be you smoothing out the edges to move on to the next level. What are your thoughts?

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