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These Skills Could Serve You Better Than an MBA

By Robert Stitt

Some careers require a certain set of skills and education. Most hedge fund companies or high-end financial service providers are not going to hire employees who do not come with an MBA and a lot of experience. However, there are a lot of careers that do not require this expensive degree, but people are still signing up for the courses because they think it is the only path to success.

The Business Insider provided a short mathematical example to get people thinking about the real numbers behind an MBA. The author surmised that if you included tuition, books, living expenses and “an MBA from a top business school could cost you as much as $320,000. Invest that amount at an annual return of 5%. and you’ll have roughly $2.3 million when you retire in 40 years.”

Granted, most top firms will pay an MBA holder more money, perhaps even an extra $10-12K each year more. Over 40 years that’s nearly half a million dollars more, and with investments and interest, nearly $1.6 million more. That’s still less than if you had just invested the money in the first place. Unless, of course, you got that top job and top pay right out of school.

What if you went to a less expensive college or had your employer cover some of your expenses? That certainly helps, but unless you land a big CFO gig, the numbers are not in your favor.

There are a few career moves that cost a lot less and could pay out a whole lot more, though.

Develop Strong Sales Skills. The Business Insider lists selling as “the heart and soul of capitalism.” If you want to make it big, you have to know how to sell. Sell your product, sell your idea, or just sell yourself. ” You may have the greatest idea in the business world, but if you can’t sell that idea, you won’t and can’t attract investors, customers, or talented employees.”

For as important as selling is, most business degrees, including the almighty MBA, do not offer even a single course in selling. The top corporations have sales divisions that have million-dollar sales programs. Some of these programs can be accessed by individuals. There are also many top-quality seminars, video courses and books on the subject.

Learn Another Language. Instead of spending several hours a night at business school and then several more doing homework, devote that same amount of time learning a foreign language like Mandarin Chinese.

U.S. Companies with Chinese-proficient executives seek to make much greater gains in the global super-market that is China, and every CEO knows it. Capitalize on that information.

Learn to Code. Coding not only teaches you a valuable skill, but it can change the way you think and look at things. Coding requires that you are organized and can break things down into small bite-sized pieces while still maintaining a vision of the whole. Knowing how to code helps you communicate with the engineers, manufacturer’s and the suppliers. 

Write a Book.  With today’s electronic tools and a plethora of freelance ghostwriters only a click away, you don’t even have to write the book yourself. For the money you would have invested in your MBA, you can get a great book written, distributed, and even given away with a few copies sold. If it sells big, you get the added benefit of the extra money. If not, Business Insider still says that being the author of “XYZ” sounds far more impressive than “Joe Schmo, MBA”. (Don’t kid yourself, this strategy is not unusual.) Even if you write, publish and promote the book yourself and don’t try to game the bestseller lists, a published book is the world’s most effective business card. Sending a book as a gift to clients and prospects opens more doors than an MBA after your name.”

Start your own business. If you succeed, you win! If you struggle, the lessons you learned will have been more valuable than anything you could have learned in an MBA course.

If you have your heart set on an MBA, do the math and choose your program wisely. If not, give your alternative the same time and effort that you would have put into your coursework and you will not be disappointed.

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