Archive for the 'Management' Category

Choosing an MBA Program That Best Fits Your Career Aspirations

Two years ago, when I made the decision to earn my MBA, I spent a lot of time debating whether to earn the degree as a full-time student or through a part-time program.  The two options had their pros and cons, and I eventually decided on CSUF Mihaylo’s part-time MBA program.  But prospective MBA’s aren’t limited to just full-time or part-time programs; seasoned business veterans can earn an executive MBA as well.  The right choice for each individual comes down to his or her current career situation and future career goals.  I’ve provided some of the important features of each MBA program in an effort to help prospective MBA students make an educational decision that fits their career goals.

Full-time MBA: Full-time MBA’s require a student’s full commitment to the program, often for two years (a brief description of one-year programs is also provided below).  Most programs require students to stop working and focus completely on their studies.  These programs usually span four semesters, and require students to spend one summer working on an internship.  In the classroom, students focus on their core courses in year one and then specialize and select electives in year two.  Full-time MBA programs tend to accept students from a variety of backgrounds in order to encourage student collaboration and increase their exposure to a variety of life and business experiences.  These numerous backgrounds also help with networking, and when combined with most programs’ extensive career services these features help students obtain post-MBA employment.  And the reason most full-time MBA students earn the degree is to enhance their post-MBA employment.  For some students, their employer will help pay some or most of a student’s tuition.  That financial assistance then requires the graduate to commit to several years of post-MBA employment at the company, but typically after the student is promoted to a higher management role.

Some universities offer full-time one-year MBA programs.  These accelerate programs move extremely fast (students earn a degree in 11-16 months, compared to 20+ months for a full-time program).  Internships are not normally a requirement for this type of MBA program, due to time constraints.  Students pursuing the one-year MBA benefit from the improved opportunity cost of earning the degree quicker (they spend a shorter period of time away from their job not earning an income).

Part-time MBA: The part-time MBA, like the one I’m enrolled in at CSUF, is dramatically different from a full-time MBA.  Part-time programs are structured to fit around work schedules, so students can work and then attend evening classes once or twice a week.  The programs don’t require internships, and career services can be limited to those found in full-time programs.  Part-time programs are most popular with career enhancers who have already developed strong network connections.  For me, CSUF’s part-time program fit within my limited budget and allowed me to continue working while developing my professional skills.  I felt I have developed a strong network through my own efforts, so I was confident in my ability to compensate for the features a part-time MBA may lack when compared to full-time programs.  In my mind, I’m getting what I pay for – an MBA program that is significantly less expensive than a full-time program, but one that offers less extensive features than a full-time program as well.  Therefore, I knew going into the program I’d have to network and job search more on my own; CSUF wasn’t going to get everything squared away for me.  Students need to be aware of these differences before making the decision to earn a part-time MBA.

Executive MBA: These MBA’s are tailored to business executives who want to improve their management skills and move up their company’s career ladder.  Companies often sponsor their executives by paying their tuition, but (just like full-time MBA students) their employers expect several years of service from their MBA investment.  Executive MBA programs require participants to meet on Fridays and Saturdays (usually all day) so employers must provide flexibility and allow for the necessary time off.  Executive MBA programs move extremely fast, and participants often can’t even miss one class period.  Participants have to commit to working extremely hard, as Executive MBA programs require one to balance work and MBA commitments.  Students with families must also weigh the effects on their loved ones, and ensure they fully understand the commitment they’re making to the program and their careers before diving into the MBA.

Prospective MBA students have a variety of degree options available to them that they can tailor to fit their needs.  It is extremely important that students weigh all the pros and cons earning an MBA, because each degree requires a firm commitment to educating and improving oneself.  Relationships and career prospects can suffer if students don’t fully prepare themselves for the challenge of earning an MBA.  However, students that effectively research all their options available and weigh the opportunity costs of each program will likely find the MBA program best suited to help improve their management skills and advance their career goals.

Are you thinking about pursuing an MBA in the future?  Which program do you think best fits your career situation and future goals?  Or do you have questions about CSUF’s part-time MBA program?  Leave your questions or comments in the Comments section below, or tweet me @OrangeCountyMBA.  I’d be happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have about earning a Mihaylo MBA.

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Doing Consulting Work While Earning My MBA

I’m two weeks into my third CSUF MBA semester, and this one is shaping up to be my most exciting and challenging yet.  The most exciting thing about this semester is that my classes are heavily exposing me to the business practices, techniques and tools I enrolled in the MBA program to learn.  And best of all, the courses will force me to apply my classroom education to actual business problems (which is something I’ve been looking forward too since before I enrolled).

I’ll be describing my courses in more detail throughout the semester, so this article will provide a brief overview of my first 2 weeks.  Based on the assignments I’ll be doing you can expect quite a bit of detail regarding the student consulting projects, so keep an eye out for those future posts.

Here a few initial thoughts about MGMT 540 – New Venture Leadership and Management:

  • The professor, Barbara Samara, has a lot of experience working in the private sector.  She worked for many years with IBM, and in certain capacities that had a very entrepreneurial flavor.  The coaches we are assigned for our consulting project (which I’ll talk about later) have extensive entrepreneurship backgrounds as well, and several of my classmates have started or managed their own businesses.  All this exposure to entrepreneurship will be great for learning the trials and tribulations of running one’s own business, and might even inspire me to start my own company!
  • In addition to the consulting projects, our assignments include case studies (which I’ve found are one of my favorite MBA classroom tools).  I love the spirited debates the students engage in, and it feels great to present a well-reasoned, astute point to the entire class.  These case studies will focus on leadership and entrepreneurship, which will differ from last semester’s focus on management and IT challenges.
  • Professor Samara recommends we watch Shark Tank each Friday night, which is perfect for me because I already make that my one show for regular weekly viewing.

Here are a few thoughts about my other course, MKTG 519 – Marketing Management:

  • Professor Kovacev has an interesting background.  He has a physics degree and worked in the defense industry most of his life.  He’s also been teaching for several decades, and has lots of experience preparing undergraduate and MBA students for careers in business.
  • I was nominated by the professor to be our consulting project team leader (I think it might have something to do with being the tallest member of our group; I stand out among everyone).  I don’t have any professional management experience, so I’m looking forward to the challenge of coordinating our project objectives with 9 other people and ensuring we complete a fantastic consulting assignment for our client.

Which brings me to the consulting projects.  I have one in each class, and I’m starting to realize how intense the assignments will be.  Orange County businesses can hire CSUF students as consultants to help them solve business problems they’re facing or explore new business opportunities.  Each project will take the whole semester to complete, and requires the groups to develop solutions they can pitch to their client at the end of the course.  The professors have stated some prior groups have done so well that they’ve received job offers from clients after completing the projects.  I’ve been selected as the leader for the MKTG 519 project, and we haven’t yet formed groups in MGMT 540.  No matter what happens though, I’m very excited to begin working on these consulting projects.  I’ve looked forward to putting my skills into practice ever since attending my initial CSUF MBA information session, and want to prove that I’m ready to start making a contribution to the world of private business.

So I’m definitely excited about this new semester, and a little nervous too about how challenging the workload will likely be.  But, the challenge will be good for me, and I will get exposure to ideas, tools, and strategies I don’t normally get to see while working my 9-5 job.  I know things will work out, but these next 16 weeks will probably be some of the longest and busiest of my life!  I’ll be keeping you informed on my progress throughout this crazy semester, and you’ll hopefully get an accurate first-hand account of CSUF’s MBA program.

Have you started MBA classes for the new fall semester?  How do you feel about them?  Or maybe you’re still considering whether to pursue an MBA?  What do you hope to learn by earning your degree?  Share your thoughts either in the comments section below or tweet me @orangecountymba.  Looking forward to hearing from you!

Am I Ready For An MBA?

It’s summer, which means that along enjoying vacations and relaxing on the beach, some people are considering whether to pursue an MBA this fall.  A recent article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explored this very question.  The story presented four reasons why pursuing an MBA could make sense for individuals considering the degree.  After completing my first year of CSUF’s MBA, I have my own insights and opinions to share regarding these four reasons, detailed below.

Your employer covers (some or all of) the costs.  Many employers want their best employees continuously improving their skills and working towards upper-management positions.  Often, instead of directly offering training programs to these employees (which can be costly), the employers offer to pay some or all of the costs of earning an MBA.  In my specific situation, my employer offers $2,000 a year in tuition reimbursements as long I remain with the organization.  Despite the fact that CSUF’s MBA program is a great value financially, I’m still happy to receive the tuition assistance.  And the best part is that I have flexibility once I earn my degree.  I didn’t have to agree to work “x” number of years for my employer after earning the MBA.  I can earn tuition reimbursements as long as I work there, but that also offers me the flexibility to leave whenever I wish (even during the middle of my degree).  Most other MBA programs are extremely expensive so unless you’ve qualified for a fantastic scholarship or inherited a lot of money, you better hope your employer will help cover some of those costs.

You find yourself needing another marketable skill.  This is one of the major reasons I chose to pursue an MBA.  Some people find their resume lacking certain skills in order to open doors to a field or industry they’re interested in entering.  In my case, my current job was not allowing me to develop the skills I wanted to transition to a new career path.  So I decided that CSUF’s MBA would be the best way for me to learn those necessary skills, and I’m developing those skills through the classes I chose and activities I participate in.

You know you want to be in management.  This is other major reason I chose to earn my MBA.  The only complaint I have about this reason (one year into my degree), is that CSUF’s MBA program only seems to cover management topics at a surface level.  There’s a big difference between role-playing the firing of a poor performing employee, and actually telling someone face-to-face they are out of a job and cannot support their family.  MBA programs seem to have a difficult time simulating those challenging situations, and it seems likely those scenarios can only be learned through experience.  But MBA programs are good at encouraging strategic-level thinking in students, which is an especially important skill for up-and-coming managers.

You have time to earn an MBA.  Earning an MBA degree is a huge time commitment.  Even for myself, I’m pursuing my degree part-time, balancing full-time work, writing a blog, spending time with friends and family, I still find making time for school to be a challenging balancing act.  My first MBA semester was especially difficult.  I learned quickly not to let myself fall behind on my course work, and my second semester was much more manageable once I learned that lesson.  Being aware of the time requirements of an MBA degree is extremely important.  Part-time degrees can still allow students time to work full-time.  Full-time degrees however, often won’t let students have a job during their first year.  In addition, time devoted to coursework and activities during a full-time program are enormous.  Be sure to select the program that best fits your life situation and work situation before fully embarking on your MBA journey.

Here is an interesting article I came across while reading this week:

“Why I Like People with Unconventional Resumes” – This Harvard Business Review author likes to see non-linear job changes from job applicants when filling senior positions.  These disruptive moves can indicate to hiring managers that a candidate is flexible, able to adapt, good at developing relationships, curious, inspired and determined.  Definitely an interesting idea to consider when applying for your next job.  Don’t think less of your non-linear job changes – they might help you land that next big gig!