People keep saying, “MBA is not for the business education as much as it is about the credentialing and the network.”
So much so that it is getting boring now, and even people who’ve never even come close to an MBA parrot it verbatim.
No one doubts that career success in the long-term isn’t just one factor, but a confluence of factors that come together to create unique moats — as it is the case for most businesses. Success needs an entire ecology, with a heavy dose of higher-order thinking and luck to go along with it.
But what most choose to conveniently ignore is that getting into a prestigious MBA institute doesn’t automatically mean building a network or getting that breakout opportunity.
And it’s not even about putting in the work to get it either: everyone who is capable of getting into a Top 10 MBA has sufficiently proved that they’re no stranger to working hard.
Then what gives?
The difference is in viewing every opportunity as a seed that flowers into newer opportunities. You don’t need a hundred people, or a hundred job offers to come your way to seed that domino effect. You only need a handful. And you probably don’t need to shell out an insane amount of money to get them.
It’s not like with the network of an MBA, you’re going to work 10 jobs at once. You’ll still be working one job, and that job may very well pay you a lot more than the previous one you had without an MBA. Salary hikes do matter a lot to many of us who don’t come from affluent backgrounds.
But most of the value in your job still lies in the future: it lies in whether it creates new opportunities for you or not, in a direction that’s meaningful to you.
These opportunities can come in the form of:
Brand names — credentials
People you work with — network
The role you’re working in — a breakout opportunity that finally allows you to exercise your talents to their maximum and create impact and creates meaningful adjacencies to pursue
But it all happens serially. You just need one to seed a domino-effect. You don’t need many. To those who don't have clarity, an MBA might lure with quantity. But ultimately, it’s only one thing that leads to the other.
If you can get that one person who is well connected, and — as Naval Ravikant puts it — “be your API to the world,” your network is taken care of.
If you can get one good signal, one authority that vouches for your skills, your credentials are taken care of.
If you can get one good job opportunity that helps you build some solid work experience that you can leverage to find even better opportunities, there’s your breakout opportunity.
An MBA promises a massive influx of all of these factors.
But great careers are not built on having too many options at once, they’re decided by how well you build up, step by step, on your existing options.
To start a good streak, you just need one of each. Post that, it’s up to you and what you make of that opportunity.
Remember: starting with a big Y intercept might look very appealing early on. But in the long term, it’s the slope that matters. And that slope is decided by your ability to meaningfully build on top of what you have, not how many options you have at any given point of time.
Few options but great clarity often trumps many options but zero clarity.