You Can't Think Your Way Out of This One

Hi Janet,

A couple of questions for you: 

1. I have still been thinking quite a bit about changing career paths and getting my MBA but I have two concerns with this path.  A) Is the cost (roughly 40K) worth the payoff?  B) Will I like the career path more than my current one? I have visited an MBA class and found the topic being discussed that day very engaging and something I was generally excited about, but it really was just one class session.  Also, since I already have a graduate degree, is earning a second one really a value add?    

2. If I stay in my current job, in Academia, I will likely not go on to a doctoral program since I have no interest in research work, but I worry that this course of action may stunt my career growth.  

I think what I'm looking for is just a few guiding questions to help me better frame my ideas on these paths.  I have tried to think of questions that would help me work it out, but it just isn't as good as asking you.  


- MBA Confused


I think that for you an MBA will probably continue to feel like an "I'm not sure if this is the right thing to be doing" until you really figure out where you're going to go next professionally. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do one, though. The things you're saying about the MBA remind me a lot of my feelings about my own masters degree. I went into it thinking "This is really expensive, and I'm not really sure what I'm going to do with it, and I don't really know if it's going to pay off....but I don't really know what I want to do instead and this seems like a plausible next step so..." I did it, and then I spent the next 3 years questioning the decision pretty much every quarter. It wasn't until I got a job later doing consistent career counseling that I was like "Ok yeah that was a great decision and I'm totes where I should be and yeah I'll handle these student loans okay." 

I know you've been coming back to the idea of an MBA pretty consistently, but that you're also not clear on what you want to do with it, and that makes the decision to do it harder, because it's hard to "justify" something with no information about what you're going to get out of it next. It's hard to draw the line between this decision and the possible outcome without really knowing what you want the outcome to be. But from your note my guess is that you've put some thought into that, and you're feeling open. Indecisive. Uncertain as to what your options are exactly. 

I think my advice to you is that you may be at a stage where you have thunk yourself into a rut on this one, and it might be time for a leap of faith. A feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway kind of moment. The "it" might be an MBA or a new job or an entrepreneurial venture or travel or lots of different things, but I think it very possible that you're at a stage in this career decision-making process for yourself where more thinking or research (or guiding questions from me) isn't going to resolve it. This is hard to have to tell you but you may not get the certainty about your next step that you're hoping to feel. I think that in this case, taking an action that is different from what you've been doing, that provides exposure to new ideas and different environments might be the shake-up you need to move these thoughts forward in a more productive way. Because you'll get new information that will help illuminate both your desires and your options, which seem to be feeling cloudy from where you're standing now. 

So maybe turn your attention there. What can you do now that will create a shake-up? Think less about what career outcome you're hoping for in the long-term and whether grad school will get you there, and more about actions you can take now or in the next few months that will give you some new information about yourself, that will disrupt the marketplace of your head. Maybe just go for it, or maybe I'll see you down here in Australia.