Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"I've Got Mine Too"

Getting your MBA is a pretty great accomplishment. After so much hard work and sweat, after awhile you get the feeling that you really are pretty superhuman inside, like you could look any corporate challenge with your steely, educated eyes until it (not you) blinked. This is probably what accounts for so much of the zeal (and hubris) newly-minted graduates (not just MBA's) feel after walking across a big stage and having so many people clap and take pictures of them.

Over time, of course, the zeal becomes tempered by the cold, hard reality that in most cases, your colleagues and managers aren't going to drop to their knees and beg for an audience in your bright shininess. They won't back a truck full of money up onto your front lawn and dump it just because you went back to school. They won't automatically promote you either. Chances are, you will either take a vacation to reward yourself (maybe as short as a day), but when you walk back into the office that next work day, things really won't be all that much different. I went back to work today and I think I experienced just about the best anyone could really ask for: a few colleagues patting me on the back and saying congratulations, and one person asking (probably not totally in jest): "hey, are you walking a little taller today?"

This is where it starts getting a little scary. Where is the fame and fortune promised by the MBA program brochures? Where are all the job opportunities that are supposed to airlift themselves into my e-mail inbox? And, come to think of it, yeah! Where the hell is my truckload of money, anyway?

Truth is, the next part is all up to you. And it's dangerously easy to get pretty complacent with your bigshot new degree and sit in your big shiny palace waiting for people to ask you for an audience. I can really see myself doing that, so I probably need to re-read this blog post at least twice a week just to prevent it from happening.

I'm actually more concerned about the opposite: becoming one of the people who lose faith in their degree, don't use it to its fullest, or don't use it as the stepping stone it was meant to be. Throughout my program, I've been shocked by how many people I work with already have their MBA's (usually earned in some distant past) but have jobs in which they use little if any of their executive skills. I'll reveal a little of my snobbishness here, but I've met sales assistants, junior consultants, even admin assistants who apparently have their MBAs, and every time I meet one of them, it freaks me out a little. One of the maxims I've tried to keep to during my program was that I didn't want to end up with the same job (or even on the same trajectory) I had pre-MBA, yet that's precisely what so many people seem to let happen.

So my real enemy is the "oh, yeah, I've got my MBA too" syndrome. Rather than expecting someone to hoist me up onto a pedestal, it looks like it's up to me to go build my own castle.

Stone by stone.

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