5 Types of underperformers who get an MBA

Business school applications are due at the beginning of January. Now is the time to withdraw your application.

Because you should not go to business school. If you want to start a company, you should start a company. And if you want to climb the corporate ladder you should do that. An MBA does not help you with either of those goals.

An MBA gets you into middle management. If you’re a strong performer you get into middle management faster by working than you can by taking two years off of work to get an MBA.

If you want to be an entrepreneur then go be one. Entrepreneurship is about being scrappy, cutting corners, and figuring out new ways to do things. If you think you need to go to school for that then it’s a sign that you’re not cut out to do it.

This is not controversial stuff I’m saying here about business school. Yet every year people apply. In most cases the people who go to business school are essentially announcing they are failing in their work.

Here are five types of underperformers who go to business school.

1. People who work with morons.

Did you ever hear the expression “A players work with A players?” The other truism is that A players don’t encourage other A players to get MBAs. If you are a high performer then no boss would encourage you to leave and get an MBA. Because they want to keep working with you. So they’d promote you instead – without the MBA.

If you are due for a promotion and your boss says you need an MBA to move up, your first thought should be “my company sucks.” Because an MBA doesn’t teach you anything you can’t learn on the job or teach yourself as needed. If you absolutely have to get an MBA to move up at your company then get a mail-order MBA from a terrible school that requires very little effort.

And god help you if you’re at a company that is paying for you to get an MBA. That just means you are stagnating and they need to give you a carrot so you don’t leave. If you were not stagnating they’d never want you to spend extra time away from work getting an MBA – they’d want you to spend more time at work and they’d compensate you highly for that.

The bottom line is that people who are doing an amazing job in their career don’t stop to get an MBA.

2. People who can’t count to ten.

The only real reason to go to business school is for networking. And the only networking opportunities that could possibly be worth the price of an MBA are the top ten programs.

These programs are tough to get into because they are sifting. They take only the people who get high GMAT scores and have a work history that displays diligence and strategic focus. So you not only have good people to network with at these schools, but you get a seal of approval that you are likely to continue performing well at work.

So absolutely do not get an MBA from a second-tier school. Look only at the top ten. Maybe there is disagreement about which MBA programs are in the top ten. But if a school is never on any top ten list then it is not top ten. And just because a school is top ten for online sales or whatever crazy irrelevant specialty they have, does not mean it’s a top ten school.

3. People who ruin a good story.

A resume is a story. The best resume writers can rewrite a resume to make it look like you are ready for your dream job. This works because the job that best suits you will naturally arise from your work history even if you have a weird work history.

The story is inextricably ruined if you go to business school to avoid the real world. So, for example, if you take time off to raise kids, you are better off saying that than trying to hide it by saying you took time to get an MBA. Because your career choices do not require an MBA so why would you take time off to get one? You look like a poor decision maker. Whereas there is a logical, respectable reason to take time off to start a family, so you look like an effective planner.

If you get an MBA to make your job hunt easier, you will likely find yourself qualified for the same jobs you were qualified for before the MBA. Which means your resume will show the story of you interrupting your career to get an MBA that did not make a difference in your career. You look like you don’t understand how the business world works.

4. People who can’t close.

In adult life we are all in sales. You have to yourself to get a date. You have to sell yourself to get an apartment. You have to sell yourself to get a job.

Most people feel uncomfortable selling themselves. Offering up a value proposition feels slimy, and trying to be a closer when the product is you is nauseating for most people. But that doesn’t mean you should go back to school.

Think of it this way: If you can’t stand trying to convince someone to give you a lease do you go back to school for the grad school housing? If you can’t stand dating do you go back to school and hope there’s a visiting professor who dates students?


So why would you go to grad school because you hate job hunting? It’ll be the same when you graduate. You’ll still have to yourself. The school won’t sell you – you’ll still have to sell yourself. Nothing changes except that you are older and you have more school loans.

5. People who are uncoachable.

No one with success in business will tell you that you need to get an MBA. If you are competent at work then during the two years of school you can move up in ranks to wherever you’d have theoretically been after graduation.

Coachable people listen to other top performers. Uncoachable people cannot get a top performer to talk with them, so they sort through bad advice.

The advice you read online about business schools is from sites that have business schools advertising. For example, executive MBA programs are geared toward people who are mid-career and panicking that they are not going to make as much money as they thought they were. The executive MBA gives these mid-career professionals a way to believe they can do something to change their career trajectory.

Of course you cannot. Wherever you are at 40 is where you will be. Which means getting to the top in a career is a race, and you probably don’t have time to screw around in am MBA program. If you want a shortcut to getting ahead, skip the MBA and just go to Graduate Monkey to learn how to ace the aptitude tests that employers most often give.

The New York Times points out that MBA programs struggle so much to stay relevant that they now teach current events like kneeling football players and predator film producers under the guise of business ethics. And this is the problem with all of the MBA curriculum: intelligent business conversation is not exclusive to business school professors, and may actually be in spite of them.

If you think you’ll be really good in the business world, the first test is if you can you get a good job without an MBA. If you can’t do that, you don’t have the stomach for the competitive environment.

And if you think you won’t have deep conversations about business ethics without paying money to do it, then buy a subscription to the New York Times. It’s a lot cheaper than business school.


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