Early Career

Making the Call to Head to Business School

There comes a point for many women in their career at which they weigh choosing to forge ahead in their industry and career path – to the extent the latter is clear – or take a pause to pursue an MBA full-time.

How can you tell what makes the most sense at this juncture in your career? Here are five things to consider.

Determine Your Motivations

Have you already landed a job in your dream industry or professional function, or is your heart set on another? While people can – and do – successfully hop from roles in one industry or function to another, the road is often smoother when armed with the content knowledge, employer connections, and personal network that come along with participating in an MBA program.

Consider the Costs

In many cases, stepping away from the workforce to take on an MBA program comes with two categories of costs: investment (tuition, fees and other program expenses) and opportunity (lost wages from the job left behind for up to two years’ time).

Before committing to incurring both, evaluate the extent to which growth at your current employer is possible, and test the waters with an in-person or online course in one of the primary business disciplines.

Seek Expert Guidance

As you weigh your decision, there’s no need to go it alone.  Take advantage of others’ experience and insights.

An innovative new online class at HBX, Managing Your Career Development, enables you to have real-time discussions with Harvard Business School professors and highly-motivated peers from around the world around career conundrums such as how to craft a career with passion and intention, effectively step up to managerial roles, and more. Bonus: the case discussions give you an authentic taste of the MBA experience!

Conduct Informational Interviews

So, you’ve done your due diligence, and you know you want to pursue a career in x. Or at least you think you do!

Get the perspective of someone who’s walked in those shoes by setting up informational interviews with people in your chosen profession. It’s as easy as researching those who meet your target criteria on LinkedIn or your school’s alumni networking platform, sending out a request to meet for coffee and a casual conversation, and taking in all those great insights.

Seize Unanticipated Opportunities

Even with ample planning, sometimes it’s the serendipitous moments of our lives that help lead us to career-defining moments.

Have a short-term opportunity to work or volunteer abroad? Some may consider it a diversion from the well-trodden path, but an experience in a new locale can lead to enhanced linguistic skills and cross-cultural awareness, the ability to transfer your skills to new work applications and settings, and a fresh perspective to think about the world and your place in it.

In sum: set a course for your target career destination, but don’t be afraid to take a detour when an unexpected path presents itself.

Katherine Alex Stevens is an Associate Product Manager at HBX, Harvard Business School.

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