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Should I Work Before Getting my MBA?

Q: I'm currently going into my senior year of undergraduate studies at Marquette University and will graduate in May 2001 with a GPA hovering around a 3.0. I am contemplating whether to go on for my MBA or search for employment after graduation. I would really like to get my MBA, however, I am hearing from many people that schools look for students with experience. I have a summer marketing internship right now, and also have great experience with my job at school (working with the Annual Fund). I believe I have what it takes to get my MBA and move on in the business world. Despite this, people still say to work for three to five years and then go get my MBA. By that time, I plan on being married and possibly starting a family. I don't want to spend too much time away from that. If someone could help me with my ordeal, I would appreciate it. Thanks!

A: I certainly can appreciate your desire to complete an MBA program in order to have more time to start a new family. The feedback you're getting, though you haven't mentioned from whom (if they're MBA program advisers, faculty or graduates - listen carefully) seems to be accurate.

Not having additional work experience will limit what you'll gain from an MBA program experience. Many group projects are involved that incorporate real world experience. You'll be at a disadvantage both in that you'll have less to contribute to others (which itself is not a good feeling) and less to gain for yourself (unable to apply, in great depth, what's being discussed). With so much time and money needing to be invested you'll want to think twice about entering an MBA program so early (in fact, many schools require more work experience prior to acceptance).

With regard to your goal of starting a family, many have achieved balance between education, work and family, but it demands the following:

  • Solid organization, time management and planning skills
  • Excellent communication and relationship skills
  • Some flexibility on the job/reasonable work hours


If you already have these in place (or continue to develop) you'll increase the possibility of achieving satisfactory work/life balance, though it will always be challenging. It may seem like getting your education out of the way will mean that you will have time for relationships and family, but it may be just as difficult to manage everything regardless of whether you are working or studying.

The unfortunate truth is that someone with both career and family goals will always need to work at both. Hurrying up to get started on one or the other won't change that fact. It is much more likely that you will need to learn how to handle multiple obligations at the same time. Learning to manage your obligations and stress will help you succeed both professionally and personally.

Finally, although you mention plans to marry and start a family there is no indication that you have actually started down this path. Foresight and planning are positive, but if you aren't in the relationship you believe will develop into the marriage and family you describe you might consider making your plans based on the immediate reality of what schools require to admit a student into an MBA program.

At present, it is hard to say what you or your future spouse might need to have a healthy family life. Your future job and its requirements are similarly difficult to predict. You should continue to account for your goals in life and try to plan accordingly, but if you can't get admitted to an MBA program, or get in and can't find work afterward, you may find that you have complicated your future family life by trying to simplify it.

Your continued networking with people in the field will help you determine how to best manage your career and family goals by providing practical examples. However you proceed, we hope things work out for the best. Good luck in your educational, career and family goals.

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