In the first of our interview series with prospective MBA applicants, we speak to two business school hopefuls from London who are hoping to advance their careers.
London is one of the most important business centres in the world and is home to a clutch of the world’s top business education programmes. London Business School, Cass Business School and Imperial College Business School are all based in the city.
Many factors play a crucial part in the decision making process for prospective MBAs. And Phyliss Clarke, our first applicant interviewee, wants to see a return on her investment sooner, rather than later.
How have you compared different business schools?
I compare different schools first based on location, such as New York/ Boston, then by MBA ranking, and go through the programs available at each school.
The cost of the programme, and length, is also a consideration.
Do you value the ‘identity’ of the schools, or are you more interested in hard statistics about what their graduates go on to?
It is important to see return on investment and therefore graduate employability is really important to me. If the university ticks both boxes then that’s even better. But prospects post-graduation is of a higher priority.
What do you want from an MBA – and what do you want to bring back into the world of work from it?
I’d like to gain a few things: to build effective networks; get exposure to prospective employers; get the latest business and management thinking; gain an expansion of my skill set to include critical areas such as financial training; and get reflective learning to enable me to frame my work experience.
Why is location important to you? Are you considering any Asian business schools?
Asia is an area of focus for several reasons, including their influence on the global economy by way of investment, the interconnectivity of markets including consumer and financial, and the potential opportunities for business growth.
The last point has been on the strategic business agenda for most global organizations seeking growth for some time now.
It is therefore increasingly important for future business leaders to understand the business principles that underpin these economies whilst getting first-hand exposure to the culture.
Chris Gallagher is a London-based MBA applicant keen to broaden his business awareness – and develop an international outlook.
Why are you looking at MBA programmes and when do you want to do one?
I'm looking to do one in the next two years, once I've acquired some good business development skills. I'll be looking to broaden my skills in business and open my mind to what's available in the world of work; by meeting people from different backgrounds.
When you say open your mind, are you talking about new industries or new roles?
Different industries and different roles in different companies. I've definitely noticed that people go on to take roles at a company that they wouldn't necessarily have been able to without the MBA.
I think they've got a broader awareness of business and an international outlook.
Are any of your colleagues planning to pursue an MBA?
I'm currently at a level where that sort of thing isn't necessarily valued; it will be in the future and that leads me to think that by doing an MBA, it will be the step up on the ladder that I require.
Obviously I want my qualification to be valued by my employer. I think it's more highly valued by management. At the size of the company I work at an MBA isn't necessarily valued at the lower level. However, if I want to be helping run the company in ten years’ time, I will need an MBA.
What skills do you want to acquire?
Corporate finance, strategy and marketing to some extent. I think anyone who wants to go anywhere in business needs to have at least an understanding of finance.
I think hard skills get you the interview, and soft skills get you the job. That's my view anyway. I think they're of equal value, but you have to have both.
What’s your biggest concern when comparing programs?
Finance is always an issue, isn't it? It's a big upfront cost, taking a year out of work.
How are you planning to fund your studies?
I'll take a loan. I've also invested in stocks and shares to use as a buffer. I’ll be cutting my expenses significantly while studying.
Are you thinking about international programmes? I noticed you've studied Arabic and written about business in the Middle East.
I've got quite a few years of international business experience. I don't think I'd want to live and study in the Middle East, but in the future I'm looking to move into the oil industry which would fit well with my background.
Ideally, the MBA would help tie these two things together.
I've been looking at India.
How are you ranking business schools?
I'm ranking them by looking at how much it costs, their ranking on the Financial Times MBA list, what sort of profile the school has, and also the GMAT score required.
Are you more concerned with hard statistics like rankings, average graduate salary, or with the image the school presents of itself?
I don't pay too much attention to salary increase. I think that's misleading; people may be earning a lot beforehand and go on to earn much the same, or even much less if they decide they've had enough of investment banking.
I think the name matters a lot. I don't want to be in an interview answering questions about the school, I want to be talking about what they taught me.
But I'm also paying close attention to the courses. A lot of the courses these universities teach seem to be quite similar. I'm looking at the academics’ teaching there. It's important to know who you're going to be learning from.
Something else that interests me is guest lecturers, people who've graduated, and the amount of time it takes someone to find a job after graduation. 12 months is a long time to go without earning.
Will you be taking electives at other departments of the university? For example, if you're considering the oil industry will you be keeping aware of the engineering and geology departments?
Yes. You need to think about the existing links the school has with organisations.