Author Topic: Career advice and MBA  (Read 1218 times)


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Career advice and MBA
« on: September 16, 2020, 09:21:20 PM »
Right now I'm 32 I work at a credit union in the back office working in operations to support our branches. I've worked in my current place for about 2 years and for 8 years before that at a large national bank in a branch. I went to college and graduated with a finance related degree.

I haven't been at my current job that long but I feel I'm in a bit of a rut. I like the company I work for and the people are good but I don't understand career wise how to "break out." Case in point, a lot of the people I know who have obtained their positions in management or risen quickly have benefited greatly from timing that is just phenomenal. Being at the right place at the right time and being friends with the decision makers that get them promoted. Don't get me wrong these people aren't necessarily unqualified but clearly their relationships got them very far. My current and last manager didn't even have a college degree and have far less experience in the department and managerial experience than some people in the department.

I've been at my company long enough to know of good, hardworking employees that sought promotion and movement that were denied with no real explanation given and in one case for reasons that were clear that a manger hired a former friend and co worker from their former company.

I understand the realities of the workplace environment mean that these factors will always be a condition it seems of our modern workplace. I have seen so much evidence that it doesn't really matter how well I do my current job but the right conversation and clicking with the right people just turns things around so much. Personally I try to be well liked but also show my capacity to learn and do well. I would like to get into management one day.  Yes I'm working on building those relationships but I sometimes feel I'm not a natural at it and although I know I can come across as friendly I'm just not there when it comes to building those deep relationships with the people at the workplace that matter. Working on it but ofcourse it could take time and the right timing!

So, on the other front I've thought maybe more education would help. The only thing logically I can see that may prepare me more eventually for a management role is pursuing an MBA. However a part of me thinks that overkill for what I'm trying to do. As I've said none of the previous 3 managers in the department in the past 10 years have had an MBA and it's certainly not a requirement of the position but in the collective experience on this forum would it give me an edge? Will it demonstrate or teach me something practical? Also, I'm likely not going to be able to go to a well known business school but possibly a state school with a good regional reputation. Another option is going to one of those online looks like it will cost about $20K or more and eat up about 2 years of my evenings. I just have this fear of being to complacent as I was in my last job or being that hard working and capable co worker who has been in my department 5+ years and has gone no where because he wasn't quite "liked" enough.

In the short term there is a good chance that I can get "promoted" to the next level within this year but after that it's another 4+ years to the final level or management. Is there some kind of role within a company that isn't management but might position to take advantage of going up? I know it's a bit of a specific question but maybe someone has an idea given that many companies have roles and jobs that do the same thing but are just called something different. Perhaps there is some skill set that I'm not seeing that could be universally useful that i can leverage? From very early starting in the company I made it clear I wanted to advance to the next level and to one day enter management. I've enrolled in workshops our company has on management but I don't know if it's of a any real help. I've taken some practical courses in getting better at learning Excel for instance but none of the work I do really needs to use any advanced function of Excel. Learning the subject matter in my department seems largely to be a function of time yet I've known this to be true that it is not necessary for management to be the most well versed on the material anyway.   
« Last Edit: September 16, 2020, 09:28:33 PM by dragonwalker »


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Re: Career advice and MBA
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2020, 07:18:43 AM »
There was a CEO survey that came out just as I was graduating from college.  They asked what was the most important factor in their career.  The #1 answer, North of 60% of responses, was "luck."  Like you, they survey went on to say that it wasn't that they felt unqualified, but just that there were other qualified people they knew, who didn't get the same opportunities.  So yes, your observation is right.  The other people know it, too, and it works at every level of an organization.

So while it is always good to take an honest look at yourself, you do need to understand there is no firm path to results; it might be useful or necessary to ante into the game, but there is still a lot of luck.  I say this, because despite your first observation, you seem to be searching for a silver bullet for your situation, when there is none.

Looking at the details, you mention in several ways that you aren't comfortable networking,  while this may be part of an MBA,, there are far simpler ways to go about it.  I have no idea how they are operating in a Covid environment, but I would recommend looking into Toastmasters or Dale Carnegie.

Which isn't to say an MBA won't help.  How comfortable would you be hiring and firing people?  Facing a challenging 10% department budget cut?  Deciding on an advertising campaign or changing an account offering?  While your first management job won't involve all of that, that is the path you are determined to head down.  While a background in finance is an excellent starting point, particularly for a bank, an MBA can also expose uou to these other disciplines, so you won't have your first encounter with them be a point of decision or crisis in your job--and hopefully, it will help you make fewer mistakes when the time comes.  But management itself is a discipline, and there are many people who wanted the bigger paychecks of management, without realizing that they were saying goodbye to the disciplinw they loved, one promotion at a time.

As far as school reputation is concerned, I don't see a problem with a local school with a good reputation.  If you had said you were looking to leave your current org ASAP, and that it was way too small for your ambitions, then shooting for the best alumni association you could might be worth it.  But your requirements seem to be directly about the training you want to get, not about the contacts.

For what it's worth, I got my MBA at a regional campus of a Big 10 school.  I also considered a program at the main campus of another Big 10 school.  A lot of hard-charging people in my megacorp employer were going there.  But it was a 2-week on, 6-week off quasi-executive MBA, which due to the time structure meant these people still kept their day jobs.  I have no idea how they did it, but let's say I received plenty of work emails from them past midnight, and it still took 2 years.  My program, though less well-networked, was still well regarded.  And the smaller campus attracted a lot of professors who were former practitioners in their field.  So a lot of their examples, either from personal experience or pulled from media sources, were likewise very practical.  I loved it--it was just what I was looking for.  And my classmates were a diverse bunch too; yes, there were a number of us from the several megacorp in the area.  But there were also a number of entrepreneurs, and people working at nonprofits.  I loved that, too, although I saw no direct use in it for career development.

Good luck in your choices.  The first step is to be self-aware, and knowing your career is in your hands.  Many people at larger organizations never even get to that point.  So, you have already taken the first step.


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Re: Career advice and MBA
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2020, 11:38:18 PM »
Thank you for the information I'm going to be doing more research before making a choice.


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Re: Career advice and MBA
« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2020, 06:24:10 AM »
I'm one of those lucky people whose career is based off of being "lucky" enough to be in the right place at the right time.

Another interpretation is that I hustle my ass off and have bent over backwards to be useful to the kind of people who make decisions.

Networking isn't a part of our "modern" work world, it's a fundamental basis of the professional world and has been since the advent of work. It's also something you can learn.

An MBA *might* help you, especially if it's one of those MBAs that teaches you about networking.

You don't have to be buddies with everyone above you in order to network either. Hell, they don't even need to remotely like you in order to network effectively. You have to be *valuable* to them in some way.

Sometimes that means identifying the work that no one wants to do and very visibly excelling at it. Or identifying the knowledge gap in your workplace and training to fill it. 

Often a way to become the most valuable is to have a rare combination of skills that makes you uniquely valuable to management.

An MBA may be the way to do that, but it also could be the most well trodden path and not result in much of a boost with respect to promotability if you don't master the other elements as well.

I wouldn't take on an expensive graduate degree with the vague hope that it would help me. I would do the business-y thing of analyzing the cost-benefit analysis and seeing if there's anything else that I could dedicate that many resources to and possibly get a higher value outcome for my particular goals.

I know A LOT of people who do MBAs with no particular plan for success, and I rarely see the investment pay off without a clear plan.


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Re: Career advice and MBA
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2020, 04:53:18 PM »
Dragonwalker - I would not recommend an MBA for you.

I retired early out of mid level / executive management from regional banking and would suggest an alternate investment of your time and money:

Get involved in your industry association.  You work for a credit union and have experience in banking.

Have you attended any of your state level banking association meetings?  What about their continuing education?  How big of a city are you in?  Are there Risk Management Association meetings?  If you like the credit union world, what about the NAFCU?  You are in an industry where you have to network hard within your industry to get opportunities. 

The biggest thing you can do for these associations is reach out and say you want to volunteer, email/call them and tell them you're a younger employee trying to get involved.  What can you do?   

Also - what is your involvement in your local chamber of commerce?  Those are crawling with bankers.  Volunteer there.

Best of luck.


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