Step Off the Cliff, Take the MBA Plunge

The background on my laptop currently contains an inspirational image I downloaded from Primer Magazine.  It’s a simple cliff, with messages written at its peak and trough.  The messages read “Comfortable is no way to spend your life.  Learn to enjoy living on the edge.”  And as funny as it may sound, that quote speaks perfectly to my recent situation registering for my fall 2012 MBA classes.

Courtesy of Primer Magazine

I’ve written in previous posts and for CSUF about my decision this summer selecting an MBA degree concentration.  I put thought into the career direction I want to pursue, but when registration rolled around I was still uncertain as to what direction I wanted to move in.  On top of that, after reviewing CSUF’s course options, I found several classes across a variety of disciplines that piqued my interest.  So I decided the best possible concentration for me out of CSUF’s offerings was essentially no concentration at all.  I decided the General MBA concentration would be my best fit.  It would allow me to tailor my degree with courses that interested me, and I’d have the freedom to choose any disciplines I wanted for my electives.

I must admit I’m not always the most adventurous person.  I’m perfectly willing to try new foods or watch a random movie on Netflix, but I tend to be more cautious when it comes to making career decisions.  Therefore, when it came time for me to register for my fall MBA courses this past Tuesday, I hesitated making one my elective selection.  My second course decision was easy – I had one core class remaining, Marketing Management, so I immediately registered for that.  But the other class would be my first of four electives, and I was torn between a safe pick and a more adventurous selection.

The safer pick would have fallen in line with my undergraduate degree which was in finance.  But I’ve started to learn during the years since my graduation that I don’t find finance terribly interesting – I want to pursue something more creative and that involves more interaction with people.  The other fall course that had caught my eye was New Venture Management, and dealt with the management, HR, and organizational issues faced by start-ups and early ventures.  The topics seemed much more interesting than the standard finance topics like capital budgeting, and on top of that the course description said it would require case studies and work with local business (two things I’ve found I really enjoy doing).  On paper, New Venture Management seemed like a shoe-in.  But I still found myself a little hesitant when 6:30 rolled around and it was time for me to register.

Part of my hesitation stemmed from my fear of the unknown.  I had graduated with an undergraduate degree in Finance and managed to find a full-time job during a challenging economic climate.  What if my decision to pursue a different field hindered my ability to find the job I wanted down the road?  What if I ended up making a mistake?  How far back would that set me in my career?  How would I know if I’d made the right choice?  The “what if’s” managed to march through my head throughout the time leading up to 6:30.  Another part of me wanted to be practical, and wanted to stick with Finance because in my mind I felt that was a “safer” career option.  But in reality, how safe was it?  The financial sector had been one of the hardest hit during the recent financial crisis.  And I was paying for this MBA degree myself, so I only had to answer to myself when it came to determining my MBA and career directions.  Plus, I’ve always wanted to start my own business at some point in time; maybe this New Venture Management course would provide some helpful tips.  So I stepped up to the edge of the cliff, moved my laptop mouse over the Register icon, and stepped off the ledge and into the New Venture Management abyss.

Now this all might sound a little melodramatic, but it was definitely a bit of a struggle for me to choose this “less safe” class option.  And I’m sure this is a similar dilemma faced by numerous other MBA students.  They may struggle with similar class choices, or they might be debating whether to spend their time on campus devoted to the Investment Club.  Students might even second-guess themselves right before trying to network with a prominent guest speaker that came and spoke on campus.  It seems to me like we all face our own personal cliffs, and they might manifest themselves in things as small as deciding which course to take.  But the MBA journey, like life itself, is full of new adventures and new horizons, and most of the time the fun lies in simply taking the plunge over the edge of that cliff and seeing where the journey takes you.

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