Friday, June 21, 2013

That Time I Decided to go to Graduate School: Why?

If you are just tuning in, I recently wrote about a few steps in the graduate school application process. I did this all a little backwards, but that's because I wrote about what was easiest first. Taking the GMAT, writing the essays, getting in.

But now, what you may still be wondering, is why. Why business school, why part-time versus full-time, why now. I'm not sure I can fully answer those questions completely on the internet, but I'm going to try.

The background: Nearly 3 years ago, I found my dream job. I'm talking this job was made for me. I started 3 years ago and haven't looked back. Since then I've been promoted twice, watched others come & go, and never questioned my own career. I have a phenomenal relationship with my boss, I have colleagues that I respect, look up to, and admire. I am respected, looked up to, and admired. I receive constructive feedback, I get to voice my opinion, and I truly feel like I belong.

But 2.5, nearly 3 years, is a long time to be doing the same thing. Don't get me wrong. I work in Human Resources - every day is different. I work in a project based industry. Every day is even more different. But the ebbs and flows, the processes, some of those things started to become less challenging. I was still obsessed with my job, loving the people I was working with, but I was starting to miss something. I was starting to miss the excitement that comes along with a new challenge.

First try: So I started tossing around the idea of graduate school. I actually even purchased a GMAT study guide with the intention of studying for and taking the GMAT back in 2011. I wasn't quite ready at the time, and consciously or subconsciously I'm not sure, but I didn't push myself. I was barely a year into my job, I still had tons to learn, and I think deep down I knew I wasn't ready.

Second try is a charm: But then I got the itch. I was primarily motivated by some of my closest friends who were also applying to business school. I walked alongside and watched as they stressed about essays, GMAT scores, recommendations, and so much more. I offered my mostly unsolicited advice, and watched with joy as they succeeded and with tears when they didn't. After a particularly stressful night of tossing around essay ideas, talking about what the path would look like without business school, and generally depressing ourselves, my best friend said, "GOD I can't wait until you go through this process so you can see what it feels like."

And away we go: Click. Just like that, something went off. I didn't say anything then, or for a long time. In fact, I didn't tell anyone but my roommate until I went to Iceland, but by then I had already started the process. I was scared. I was nervous that I wouldn't write appropriate essays, that my college GPA wasn't good enough, that my GMAT wouldn't be high enough.

The real why: I knew my career path was stunted without an MBA. I would continuously compare myself to those with an MBA and feel inferior. I would lose out on potential opportunities, internally or externally.  I am comfortable in my role, but I am always looking for new opportunities or ways to advance within the company, and having an MBA will help me get there that much faster. Could I have gone on to be extremely successful without it? Absolutely.  I like to think of the MBA as the fast-track to where I want to be. So that was my motivation. That's why I did it, and I am 100% sure it was the right choice for me, at this point in my career.

Is it right for you? I can't answer that question. The criteria for me included feeling comfortable enough in my job that I was willing to basically take on another part-time job for 3 years, being fully supported financially to take on something like this, and being supported by my colleagues and managers. Check, check, and check.

Why part-time versus full-time, you may ask? I don't think it's worth $100,000 plus the loss in salary for me to go back to school full time. In fact, I feel pretty strongly that it's not worth it for most people who pay out of pocket. Some of you may feel differently, but that's my take. If your company is paying, that's an entirely different story. I just think there aren't many jobs that are worth the sacrifice. But, all that being said, I commend those of you who do it. It's a risk I certainly couldn't and wouldn't take.

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