Education isn’t just about MBAs

By Fatmanur Erdogan, Hürriyet Daily News

It is today’s hot trend. University students dream about finishing their undergraduate degrees and applying for an MBA. It is the thing to do. Many of them don’t even understand why they need one, but they figure a trend is a trend and it must be followed.

An MBA is an expensive investment in time and money. However, look at the curriculums of the different universities’ MBA programs, and you will see that they are simply “me too” versions of one another. Schools are tripping over themselves, all of them competing to be the school of choice. Even as the programs become more and more alike, the tuition prices continue to go up, making us hope they will also cover us in gold upon graduation! This reminds me of a tactic used in wine marketing. When a wine brand’s sales slow down, it is common practice to raise the price. The perceived value goes up, and so do the brand’s sales. Sometimes I think that just like wineries, schools raise their tuition rates so people think their programs are superior to the others.

Doing an MBA, especially overseas, is a good way to have a great time in an exciting environment with new friends. But when you finish, the honeymoon is over quickly. You have to find a job, and graduates these days are finding that a hard reality. They figured an MBA would make them more employable, but too often that is not the case. Sure, they have an MBA, but these days, because of its popularity, so does everyone else. Often they end up accepting lower level positions where they work alongside, or even below, people without MBAs. Unfortunately, an MBA no longer guarantees a good job or fast-track promotions.

The MBA degree can bring many benefits, if you have a focused reason for getting it. It is brand name, institutional learning that shows you met a common, widely recognized standard. In some situations, that’s exactly what you need. However, an MBA is not a magic ladder to the top of the corporate castle. It doesn’t necessarily prepare you to be an effective leader, and it doesn’t protect you from being laid off.

Entrepreneurial learning, though, can. Entrepreneurial learning is self-directed learning. Think of it as freelance education, something you do on your own time, for your own benefit. It is the opportunity to learn things you wouldn’t normally learn on the job. If you are a marketing manager, entrepreneurial learning is a class on how to read financial statements. If you are a finance manager, it is a book on architecture, or a seminar about film production. It might even be teaching yourself how to fix a car, or grow your own vegetables.

Entrepreneurial learning does not protect you because you know how to make a movie, or grow a carrot. Entrepreneurial learning protects you because it trains your mind how to move quickly, in unexpected directions. When change comes to your company, people will know you are a flexible, multi-talented person who can absorb new information and thrive on unfamiliar ground.

In a crazy and unpredictable business environment, these are the kinds of people companies want most. While the institutionally educated MBAs wait in line with all the other MBAs, the entrepreneurial types who have shown they adapt quickly to an unknown tomorrow go to the top of the class.

In the work world today, there is no job security. No education, no degree, no level of performance can guarantee it. Just read the papers and see all the laid off CEOs and CFOs around the world. If even the top people don’t have job security, why expect to find it anywhere, and why think a degree will buy it for you? Institutional learning is good, but when you train yourself with entrepreneurial learning, you will find yourself looking at this uncertain world in a whole new way. Where eyes trained with institutional learning see chaos, eyes trained with entrepreneurial learning see opportunity.

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