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Figuring out your career...
Old 10-04-2008, 10:57 PM   #1
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Figuring out your career...

Hi guys,


I am currently at a bit of a crossroads in my life and was just wondering if anyone might have any advice. FYI: I'm 24, single, have a pretty good personal finance situation and have a bachelors degree in business.

I work as a recruiter in the IT industry and I have been with the same company for a little over 2 years now. My company is a solid, stable, public company where I feel I could have a career if I wanted. I make pretty respectable money for my age, which I am thankful for. My problem is, I don't want to work in this industry forever. The money is VERY lucrative and IT is not going away; I just feel life is too short to be doing the same thing forever. I am not unhappy, it just isn't for me, as a career.


Through my job I have developed the following things:

- good business/people/negotiation skills

- good analytical skills/financial skills (more or less already had these)

- an excellent understanding of how companies' IT organizations operate, and a functional knowledge of how a lot of different technologies fit in


I have been heavily considering going back to school full-time and getting my MBA. I live literally next door to a top 35 program and being in-state it would be financially reasonable.

My problem is that I just don't know what I want to do!!! I think it's silly to just blindly go into an MBA without a serious plan. I feel that I would probably "discover myself" during my time there, but still I just don't know ... I mean, I love school and I "want" an MBA, but just wanting something isn't a good enough reason.


A lot of things I think about doing (executive search, doing what I currently do but for a smaller company, financial advisement) do not require an MBA, so I sure as hell don't want to get one for no reason (not that having an MBA will hurt you, but you know what I mean).

Part of my problem is that I feel like I could do well in so many fields that I have a hard time focusing on something.


I realize I am just kind of stating my situation and asking a vague question that most of us have to get through at sometime in our lives ... but I am just wondering if anyone has an advice from past experience or just general thoughts.
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Old 10-05-2008, 12:11 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex. View Post
I have been heavily considering going back to school full-time and getting my MBA. I live literally next door to a top 35 program and being in-state it would be financially reasonable.
I got this piece of advice a month or so ago. If the MBA won't immediately increase your earnings then it isn't the right time to get one.

Quote:
My problem is that I just don't know what I want to do!!! I think it's silly to just blindly go into an MBA without a serious plan. I feel that I would probably "discover myself" during my time there, but still I just don't know ... I mean, I love school and I "want" an MBA, but just wanting something isn't a good enough reason.
Discovering yourself is ok, but during these economic times you'll probably go broke.

Quote:
A lot of things I think about doing (executive search, doing what I currently do but for a smaller company, financial advisement) do not require an MBA, so I sure as hell don't want to get one for no reason (not that having an MBA will hurt you, but you know what I mean).

Part of my problem is that I feel like I could do well in so many fields that I have a hard time focusing on something.

I realize I am just kind of stating my situation and asking a vague question that most of us have to get through at sometime in our lives ... but I am just wondering if anyone has an advice from past experience or just general thoughts.
I like EVERYTHING as well, but there are only a handful of things I'd do for free. I'd use that as a guide to narrow down your choices. Then I'd narrow it down even more to those things you know you can dedicate lots of time to, and that you won't be spinning your wheels. I am currently working on that and I've slowly started to cross different "hobbies" off of my career list.

Other than that it sounds like you are bored and have too much time on your hands. I'm in that same boat, but I'm lucky enough to not have the option of just "quitting". Having TOO many potential options can be a bad thing and you already know that.
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Old 10-05-2008, 09:32 AM   #3
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Many folks today practice serial monogamy: meet someone, fall in love, get married, play around with them for awhile, get bored, toss 'em out, move on to the next. You can do the same thing with your career. The key is to make each new job build upon the expertise you've already acquired. As you work different jobs, you might find something that 'clicks'. Good luck!
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Old 10-05-2008, 09:57 AM   #4
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Alex, I think we've got some economically challenging times ahead -- not the best time to give up a lucrative, seemingly secure job. Especially without a clear destination.

How about starting the MBA while you're still working? Your employer will probably pitch in. In a year or two your own goals might be clearer and the economic climate better.

Coach
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Old 10-05-2008, 11:30 AM   #5
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I would also advise having a clear idea of what you were going to use a graduate degree for before you get it. That is when a graduate degree is usually very useful. You also won't have to worry about potentially making a mistake and wasting year(s) of your working life (people really only have a limited amount of prime working years).

I go to grad school while working ($35/hour), though it isn't for an MBA. The majority (probably the vast majority) of those at the graduate school went into it aimlessly. They don't know what they need to concentrate on and they are only getting minimum wage type jobs ($10/hour) sort of related to their degree, if they do work at all.

The MBA degree, from what I've heard, definitely falls along those lines. Those that go to get an MBA that really benefit from it are those who were offered, or expect to be offered, a significant pay raise for it. That is why most of the good MBA schools prefer/require a significant amount of work experience for entrance (it is the only type of school that does this).
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Old 10-05-2008, 02:24 PM   #6
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Alex, if I were you I would make the most of your current job in the short term. You are very early in your career and there is lots of learning to be had using the skills and the job you already have before you branch out. Broaden your experience by taking advantage of formal and informal learning opportunities at work. Offer to take on extra responsibilities when you feel ready. Find a mentor. Brainstorm on this board. Over time, it will become clearer to you which direction you want to go next.

The US is certainly now in a recession and it may be a long one. Be prepared for job losses. If that happens, consider yourself lucky: it's a great opportunity for you to take the time out to get that MBA, or another qualification that will give you an edge. Start building your personal development fund now for exactly that purpose. The key to remaining competitive and in "control" of your career is to be ahead of the game, anticipating the skills that will be necessary and acquiring them.

Meadbh (MBA)

PS. It's the journey, not the destination.
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Old 10-05-2008, 02:40 PM   #7
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Alex,

You are not thinking clearly.

"Figuring out what you want to do with your life" and "getting an MBA" are two completely different things. Doing the latter will very likely have no impact on the former. Doing the former will likely pay off no matter what; it may or may not lead to an MBA.

The above written by someone who didn't know what he wanted to do with his career three years ago, went and got an MBA, and still didn't know what he wanted to do with his career after getting the MBA. I speak from experience.

Read "What Color is Your Parachute?" by Bolles or the Tieger books.

2Cor521
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Old 10-05-2008, 03:29 PM   #8
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Alex, I think we've got some economically challenging times ahead -- not the best time to give up a lucrative, seemingly secure job. Especially without a clear destination.

How about starting the MBA while you're still working? Your employer will probably pitch in. In a year or two your own goals might be clearer and the economic climate better.

Coach
It's an option, but I will say I have always heard that doing a part-time MBA is what you do if you want to stay in your current position, or at least field.

I can also get my company to pay for it, but then I have to agree to stay with them for x amount of years or pay them back. Also, an MBA is not necessary in my company except for maybe very high-level management positions. It's a very, very flat company.

I appreciate the advice.
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Old 10-05-2008, 03:31 PM   #9
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Alex, if I were you I would make the most of your current job in the short term. You are very early in your career and there is lots of learning to be had using the skills and the job you already have before you branch out. Broaden your experience by taking advantage of formal and informal learning opportunities at work. Offer to take on extra responsibilities when you feel ready. Find a mentor. Brainstorm on this board. Over time, it will become clearer to you which direction you want to go next.

The US is certainly now in a recession and it may be a long one. Be prepared for job losses. If that happens, consider yourself lucky: it's a great opportunity for you to take the time out to get that MBA, or another qualification that will give you an edge. Start building your personal development fund now for exactly that purpose. The key to remaining competitive and in "control" of your career is to be ahead of the game, anticipating the skills that will be necessary and acquiring them.

Meadbh (MBA)

PS. It's the journey, not the destination.
Thanks Meadbh, that post has a lot of good clarity.
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Old 10-05-2008, 03:33 PM   #10
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Alex,

You are not thinking clearly.

"Figuring out what you want to do with your life" and "getting an MBA" are two completely different things. Doing the latter will very likely have no impact on the former. Doing the former will likely pay off no matter what; it may or may not lead to an MBA.

The above written by someone who didn't know what he wanted to do with his career three years ago, went and got an MBA, and still didn't know what he wanted to do with his career after getting the MBA. I speak from experience.

Read "What Color is Your Parachute?" by Bolles or the Tieger books.

2Cor521
Are you working in a similar field to what you did before your MBA?
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Old 10-05-2008, 03:34 PM   #11
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Yes.

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Old 10-05-2008, 03:36 PM   #12
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Yes.

2Cor521
Well, I appreciate the advice. It definitely makes sense.

I guess I need to look at those books. My mom has mentioned them to me before.
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Old 10-05-2008, 03:40 PM   #13
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The trick is realizing that even though getting an MBA is glamorous, culturally acceptable, and popular and soul-searching can be lonely, difficult, and hard to explain to others, the latter may be a better investment of your time for now.

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Old 10-05-2008, 09:56 PM   #14
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Alex
I second the advise that knowing more about where you want to go is more important than getting another credential. What Color is Your Parachute is a great resource and even better if you do the exercises in it.
I did senior retained executive search for 10 years and still consult in the selection and recruiting arena. Some of the best work you can do for yourself is to have clarity of about who you are and what matters. It will help you decide on a direction and better able to qualify future career choices. One exercise I have had clients do in this situation is start making a list of phrases, adjectives etc of what theirTryto avoid titles and specific job responsibility--focus on the core character of the activity, and/or basis of the value. Do not tried to edit the initial list. When you feel you have exhausted your definition process, put the list aside for at least a day. When you come back sort the list from most important to least important. Then eliminate the bottom 50%. Then rate the remaining items as A's, B's or C's based on your sense of importance. Put aside for a couple of days. Revisit your rankings and drop the C's. Repeat the aboveprocess until you get to no more than 5-8 items. These are probably the core of where you want to go for next phase of the journey.
Please keep in mind you are not making choices for eternity--only the next steps. As many on this board, I have had multiple lives most of which are only remotely related to what I have done before.
In summary, your immediate opportunity is to focus on what matters for the next phase. If you are like most folks, your view of what matters will change materially 7-10 years from now.
Good Luck
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Old 10-05-2008, 10:36 PM   #15
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I had a similar phase about law school. For a while I thought law school would open all kinds of doors and give me new opportunities. The truth is if you are not sure what you want to do, no degree can point you in the right direction. Instead I found a job in a similar but related field, and I like what I do now much better. Hey it's Sunday night and I am not completely in fear/anxiety of returning to work on Monday.

If you want some change, it doesn't hurt to go on random job interviews just to see if the job would fit you better, and to keep you sharp. You can always turn it down, but it just might open new doors. Good luck figuring things out!
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Old 10-05-2008, 11:14 PM   #16
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Alex,

Hope this doesn't sound condescending, but at 24 I'd say there is plenty left for you to learn in spite of your thinking that you've gained most of the skills you'll need in the workforce. IMO there are very few things in this world that you can become really good at in just 2-3 years.

I got my MBA while working full time, the company paid for most of it. Took me 32 months, it was quite a busy time for me as I studied a lot.

I moved into a different field afterwards.

I'd recommend a couple things:
1) Read "what color is my parachute"
2) list out the aspects of your job that you like the most and hate the most. Then try to determine what jobs will have most of the things on the like list and few of the other ones.
3) Talk to friends about their careers to see if you can gain any insights
4) Think about leveraging your knowledge in a related area. For example, you know about IT, but maybe if you got a law degree you could work in the legal department at a tech company and leverage your IT skills while doing something new. I did this....I was an auto mechanic, got my MBA, and went into finance for a company that makes engines....my technical understanding of how engines work helped me in my finance career.

Good luck.

Dave
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Old 10-06-2008, 09:35 PM   #17
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I wasn't trying to imply I've learned all I need, I was just trying to state what I've learned from my experiences thus far. My skills have a ton of developing to do. :P

I appreciate the advice, especially #4! I am definitely thinking about doing that, it's just a matter of deciding how and when.

Thanks much!
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Old 10-06-2008, 10:37 PM   #18
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Take a prep course for the GMAT, take the test, and see how you do. If you enjoy the test prep and then do well on the test you'll see if you'll get something personally satisfying out of getting an MBA (and if you'll enhance your job prospects afterward). I think most full time programs prefer students who have a couple of years work experience after their BA, so you're right there. Also talk to a few schools and find out if there's a professional advantage to the full-time vs. part-time vs. executive MBA.

Gee, you're 24--go for it.
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Old 10-07-2008, 07:35 PM   #19
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The trick is realizing that even though getting an MBA is glamorous, culturally acceptable, and popular and soul-searching can be lonely, difficult, and hard to explain to others, the latter may be a better investment of your time for now.

2Cor521
I think we had a different MBA experience. I decided to do one to "find myself" and had a hard time explaining the idea to my peers (in healthcare). Not any more. They can't believe how useful my skills are.....
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Old 10-07-2008, 07:44 PM   #20
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Argh! Decisions.

The shame of it is (if I go for the MBA now), it is probably too late for me to finish preparing for the GMAT, take the test and do the rest of the application in time to apply before the special deadline which allows you to be eligible for assistantships (which save a lot of $$$). I will say that only about 30-40% of people who apply for these get them anyways.

However, though, I could still just take my time, do things on my own terms and schedule, and apply by the regular deadline. I would have to work on the side some and make some cash during the MBA though (I have some options luckily). I also might need some kind of a loan, but I'm not scared by it.

Opinions?! Hope I made the above situation clear. Basically just wondering if anyone has experience funding full-time MBAs and/or doing graduate research positions to help with cash.
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