Switching jobs before applying for an MBA
April 14, 2010 9:37 PM   Subscribe

Should I take a new job shortly before applying to MBA programs?

I am very tired of my current job - the long hours, constant overcommittment, and lack of advancement opportunities have finally caught up with me. But I like my industry (enterprise IT applications) and would like to get an MBA with a specialty in IT / IS so I could lead projects or manage at organizations like my current clients. If it helps, I'm single, in my mid/late 20s, and my current job was my first job out of college. I'm not interested in working while I get my MBA.

At the moment, I am feeling overwhelmed and don't know how I'll effectively apply to business schools on top of my current workload. And I'm lucky enough to be employable - a few employers are already offering to fly me out for onsite interviews. If I weren't getting ready to apply to school, I would definitely take a new job when the right one came along (and as I said, the right ones seem to be coming along). I still think taking a new job is the right decision because I have a few months before I have to start applying in earnest, and because I don't think a new job is likely to be much more stressful than my current one. But I'm a little worried that I'm setting myself up for difficulties.

My current job was my first full time job after school, and my first few months were very leisurely. I'm not expecting the same leisurely pace, but it seems that during a transition is a good time to be busy outside of work because your boss understands that you're still learning the ropes. Am I being unreasonable? Should I expect this transition to be more stressful and draining and have a negative impact on my apps?

Also, my parents are concerned that it's unfair to my future employer to join up and leave 12-15 months later. Frankly, this seems like an outdated and ridiculous sentiment to me - in today's economy, you look out for #1 as long as you aren't burning all of your bridges. Should I be worried about only putting in a year at a new job?

Finally, a few people have wondered if I should stay committed to one job before getting my MBA. They think I'll look like a job-hopper. Again, I think this is silly - I think a few years of experience with a vendor followed by a year of experience at a large enterprise would be a stronger resume than an additional year at the vendor. Who's right on that one?
posted by Tehhund to Work & Money (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you don't think it will derail your MBA then it might be a good fit. You should absolutely mention that you are planning on doing an MBA, therefore your requests for time off for classes and projects can be estimated and understood.
posted by parmanparman at 9:40 PM on April 14, 2010

Leaving 2-5 months after joining then maybe you have something to worry about but 12-15? No way. People like your parents have an old fashioned view, employees just don't stay in jobs as long as they used to. And getting that wider range of experience before the MBA also makes sense, you'll do better and get more out of going back to school if you really know what you want to do afterwards. Plus changing jobs teaches you to be adaptable in unexpected ways which will pay off when you change again to full time study. Add in the bit where you may not end up enrolling for the MBA as you plan (unlikely, sure, but possible) and there are several reasons to get a new job and no real ones not to I think.

My boyfriend stayed at his first job out of Uni for something like seven years and it ended up being detrimental rather than being a plus. The third job was much easier to get (even though the second only lasted six months) because he'd shown a degree of versatility that was lacking in the previous job seach. The market really has changed since your parents were your age.
posted by shelleycat at 9:54 PM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't worry about it looking bad to business schools - it's completely normal. I bet your instincts are right - it will help you, especially if your new job is with a respected firm. And I wouldn't worry about your potential employers or tell them while you're interviewing. It's actually kind of perfect timing because you're applying before application season, so there isn't going to be the awkwardness of "wait, you applied for this job after you applied to business school?"

And yes, 12-15 months is plenty of time to be at one employer, especially at your age.

FWIW, when I applied to MPA programs (not exactly the same, but similar), I had just started a new job in May of the year I applied. I was 5 years out of school and had had 3 different jobs before that, punctuated by two extended trips abroad. I got into my dream program. The key was that all of my jobs were in that field. So I really don't think you need to worry.
posted by lunasol at 11:41 PM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I honestly am surprised that anybody would consider an MBA a prerequisite to leading projects or managing people in IT. Go ahead and interview for new jobs. I think that if you took the right job, you might decide not to go ahead with the MBA because you'd be getting paid to get real world experience that moves you towards your stated goals.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:58 PM on April 14, 2010

You mention applying to business schools, but have you sat the GMATs yet?

When I decided to take an MBA I did a practice run at the GMATs, wasn't happy with my scores and sat a Kaplan course to bring them up to a suitable level. That pushed back my application and entry by about one year; maybe five months to improve my GMAT scores then the applying and starting Uni.

Its not unfair at all to leave a job after one year; after all, business is business, and if your employers need change they won't hesitate to dump you if it makes business sense.

So you might want to consider taking another job and, after a period of settling in, sort out GMAT and other business school related necessities (e.g., screening programmes, creating a personal statement, etc). Even selecting an appropriate business school will require time, especially so as you're looking for a specialised programme (i.e., not general management).

Finally, make sure you run the numbers and carry out a full cost / benefit for your degree. When I selected a Uni for my MBA I required a full payback (tuition only, not loss of income as I worked while taking my degree) across a three year horizon from the expected increase in pay. While your constraints will more than likely be different, its best to conduct this in careful, deliberate manner and not rush.

Oh yeh one other thing: you don't have anything to gain by letting your employer know you're planning to take an MBA. Due to the sharply increased career prospects most employers privately look down at such activities as, one way or another, you're headed for greener fields; either they pay you more post MBA or another employer will.

Not the stereotypical view of employers / employees and advanced degrees I realise, but very often the (sad) truth.
posted by Mutant at 1:55 AM on April 15, 2010

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