Early Career

Take the Plunge: A Non-Traditional MBA Student View

As Sociology major in college who ran straight to non-profit work, I’d never really considered an MBA. For me, the “business world” seemed far removed from the deeply personal work I was doing as Director of a health and wellness program for girls. Yet as I navigated the intricacies of program coordination and growth, budgets, funding, marketing, and community outreach, I began to think about more about process. How do you create functional, high-performing structures and systems, not just in a work environment but in your own life?

After my first week of classes at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, I’m already sold on the power of an MBA to address this question. If you’re coming from a non-traditional background and are unsure about whether an MBA is right for you, consider the following life skills you build through an MBA program.

Analysis and Persuasion: My four required classes this term include Managerial Economics, Leading Individuals and Teams, Statistics for Managers, and Analysis for General Managers. See a pattern? What stands out beyond the key theoretical concepts in each course is the point of view from which we approach the material. We’re learning how to sift through large amounts of information, pinpoint what’s relevant, ask great questions, and make an argument.

Time Management: Yes, we have a lot of academic work. We also have meetings with career counselors, company briefings and cocktail hours, club sports, study group dinners, and a school-wide scavenger hunt. I’ve learned very quickly about my priorities (sleep, exercise) and my procrastination tools (Facebook). Time is our most precious asset, and I’m learning to use it wisely.

And of course…

Relationships: From day one, I’ve been blown away by intellect, perceptiveness, and diversity of experience of my peers. Everyone brings something to the table, no exceptions. Many people attend business school for the professional network of alumni, but equally important are the relationships you will build with your peers. They will support you academically, professionally, and even emotionally as you navigate the business world.

The return on your investment? You emerge a competent, insightful leader in your workplace and your community. For one perspective on how MBA programs shape great leaders, check out Tuck’s approach to leadership development.

Stephanie O’Brien, Forté Fellow
MBA 2014, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth

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