Meri Paterson

The ideas business and other interests

Why I’m doing an MBA

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It’s the end of my third week at Imperial College Business School, where I’m doing an MBA. I can tell it’s going to be a lot of work – in some ways more work than my job at Little, Brown was, because the student timetable eats into my Me-Time quite a lot. So it’s important to know why I’m doing it. I’ve already self-diagnosed as a Questioner (see this post about Gretchen Rubin’s expectations framework), which means that when it comes to expectations I set for myself or others set for me, I can do it all as long as it’s clear to me why I should. Let this post be a reminder to myself…

Why do you want to do an MBA?

I’m kind of in love with business and how it all works. A few years ago I read a great book and had an aha moment: business is the most powerful force for good in the world. Better than charity, wealth redistribution or government subsidies, trade is the best and most effective way to stimulate progress, innovation, the economy and on a more individual level, raise people’s standards of living. Business makes the world go around, and that’s very exciting to me. I want to be a more central part of it, and that’s where the MBA comes in. I hope it will open me doors to jobs that otherwise would be out of my reach as someone with a Humanities degree and work experience from only one sector.

Why now?

Now I finally can. I’ve been a part of the first cohort of the No-Pay MBA for a year, and it’s been great, but up until this summer it was my only option because of financial necessity and not wanting to take time out of my job. Now the time feels right, and I’ve managed to arrange the funding.

But isn’t it horribly expensive?

It is expensive. The way MBA schools justify the cost is with quite impressive stats on graduates’ post-MBA salaries. I think the Imperial figure from two years ago was an increase of 83%. The accompanying number of graduates who get a job in the first three months after graduation was 92% that year. So unless I’m in the bottom 7%, I have no reason to believe I won’t be able to recoup the investment.

However, the implication is that I must set my sights for a future salary quite high, which narrows my options for new careers. This sounds quite appealing in one sense, but I fear it may mean that something like publishing might not make financial sense, and that those high-paid careers often come with quite unsatisfactory lifestyles. This is the trade-off for many MBAs, as I understand it, but I’m holding out hope that there is a job out there that both pays me enough to be a good return on investment and lets me see my fiance every now and then. Maybe even read a book at lunchtime…

So you’re saying goodbye to publishing?

For now. When I decided I wanted to go into it many moons ago, it was a decision guided by a passion for reading – which seemed to tell me that these are my people, I belong here. I still feel that way, so to come back as a new edition as it were (har har) would be wonderful.

On the other hand, some aspects of publishing drive me crazy! There can be major groupthink. Profit is a dirty word. Compensation is poor, and so on.

But… how to put this… aren’t MBAs all insufferable spreadsheet whizzkids?

Anecdotal evidence would support this, but I’ll just have to find a way not to be.

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