Should you go to Business School?

An honest look from a former student

Sebastian Hammer
Jan 12, 2018 · 10 min read

Time came, and I had to choose if I wanted to continue my studies or go out and get a job. I took my decision to study when I found a business degree that didn’t require much math and sounded fancy - Intercultural Market Communication.

So here is a few pointers of things you need to consider before you choose to go to business school.

Want to get a job now? DON’T go to Business School.

I have friends from business school who got a job before they graduated, and friends that apply for jobs for 9 month before they got their first interview.

While some places like top consultancies or banks will require a degree from hires, these places are also much more competitive. You are competing with tons of other applicants for the position, many of whom will have better grades than you.

Even if you are a straight-A student, you will most likely also compete with straight-A student who also have acquired professional experience.

Instead, get to work

If you want a job now, start at an entry-level position in a smaller company in the industry you want to be in. Small and medium-sized companies often have less resources, but also less competition. You will often be given more responsibility than you would in a big company, which gives you the opportunity to grow faster.

Think about it, who would you rather hire: the person who have three years hands on experience and a track record showing he can add value to a company; or a guy who have studied business for three years and has a bachelor of science.

Spend those three year learning how to sell a product and a useful contemporary skill like programming.

Instead, use your weak ties

Mark Granovetter, an American sociologist discovered a principle he named interpersonal ties, which are defined as information-carrying connections between people.

What Granovetter discovered was that Weak Social Ties are responsible for more novel information. The reason for this is because our friends aka our Strong Social Ties tend to move in the same circles as we do, so the information they receive overlap with what we already know.

Weak Ties

In other word, you see your good friends so often that you have exhausted all information there is.

Granovetter proved this in his research of how people landed their jobs.When asked how often the interviewed person hung out with the person who put them in touch with their current employee, 16.7% reported seeing their contact often meaning it was a friend, 55.6% reported seeing their contact occasionally meaning it was an acquaintance , and 27.8% rarely meaning the relationship was absent.

So who is these weak ties? Friends of friends. People you used to study with. Old colleagues.

In my own case, I landed my first job through one of my parents friends. My next job I got through my girlfriend’s mother, as a colleague of her’s was looking for an assistant. She was responsible for third job too, as she was talking to a keynote speaker after an interview who was looking for a new sales representative. My current job however, I got through an Facebook ad. Funnily enough, they never asked for a resume.

Want to be rich? DON’T go to Business School.

In Kaufman’s book The Personal MBA he makes a calculation of the average return of investment of an MBA. I won’t go through it here, but in essences it is a lousy investment.

I was lucky enough to be born in a country where education up until your master degree is paid through taxes. But for many, taking a university education is an expensive affair that can cripple your finances for years to come.

Instead, get a jobs in sales

You will not learn how to make money at business school. You learn how to work in a marketing, finance or operation department.

But you will be required to learn how to make money in sales. Sales is the most unforgiving and humiliating position you can have in a company. You are rejected daily. There is no way to talk yourself out of bad results, because you can see it written with red ink at the bottom line. You are measured monthly and quarterly, and good results are soon forgotten if a bad quarter shows it’s ugly face. Everyone in the company rely on you, and yet no one appreciates the work you do.

Yet, a study done with 53 billionaires, looked at their first job in order to figure out if you can predict success. What they found was that out of 53 billionaires, 10 had entry-level jobs in sales. 9 of them had in stocks trading.

Why is this not surprising? Because no matter how good your product are, it won’t make money unless it is sold. Salesmen needs to be unbendable, made out of iron for them not to crack under the pressure of the company, and the constant rejection they face.

I worked in sales for a little over a year, and it change the way I look at business today. Am I rich? no. But I am less reliant on other people to provide for me.

Want to start your own business? DON’T go to Business School.

Many young people, my self included, starts a business education to learn how to start a business. It seems logical.

But business school is not about starting a business. Its about how to be a part of a business. Much of what taught is, unfortunately, outdated theories and have little to no application in the real world.

Of course, today there are entrepreneur courses. But in most entrepreneur courses, the majority of your classes will be with professors who have never had to rely on anything but a monthly salary. They are rarely the ones that took the risk and succeed in starting and operating their own business. If they were, they would probably be doing that right now.

You professors in entrepreneurship study how successful companies became successful, and condense it into graspable theories. They know how to write papers, examine student and do research. But not necessarily how to start and grow a business.

Instead, find a mentor

Find a mentor that have been doing what you want to do. A mentor can be other successful entrepreneurs, experts, or business people. People you who can help you.

Getting a mentor can be a tough task, and you probably have to circle through a few, but when you find a good match, that looks like you in personality and has accomplished what you want to accomplish, you will feel like the id who got a private tutor in school.

How do you find a mentor? LinkedIn is a good place to start, or even the entrepreneur sections in entrepreneur papers. Now it is just reaching out to them, and here I recommend you take it case by case.

Instead, get a job in a small or medium-sized company

As mentioned before, you will get a lot more responsibility and you will see more part of the inner workings of a company if you start by being in a small company.

Gary Vaynerchuck had bad grades, and began working in his father’s wine store. Today he is worth $165 million, owns several companies and are a venture capitalist

Ask yourself, would you rather be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond. If you are reasonable, you would rather be the big fish. Now, if you don’t have much experience and little education, you are a small fish either way. And it is no fun to be a small fish in a big pond.

Master your craft while someone else (your employer) cover your salary. Once you have you can do your entry level tasks, hold them down with one hand, while reaching for the responsibilities above you with your other hand.

Instead, start a small side-hustle

If you have time after your work, begin to dabble with more streams of income. Sell your old toys and clothes online, or begin to do some affiliate marketing.

Or you can begin to make websites for people, or do a bit of investing with your own money.

This will require that you put yourself into more areas of expertise, and what you will experience now, is your newly adopted skills will spill over.

Want job security? DON’T go to Business School.

If you are looking for job security, business school is not the way to go. Future prospects of the job market is dim, and people who generally rely on jobs in the future will have a hard time adapting.

Credit CPGgrey

Many think that a computer cannot take their job, but in most likely all cases it will eventually. Factory jobs are already well into atomization by robotics (think Toyota car factories). More and more white-collar office desk jobs are being automized by artificial intelligence (think Marketing Automation). Even creative jobs are churning classic music and visual art faster and better than any human is capable of.

What is left? Your ideas and your willingness to execute them. Sorry, but business school doesn’t teach you that.

Instead, rely on yourself

Only rely on yourself to make it through the day. You cannot rely on a degree, on a job, or on a salary forever. These are false securities, and it won’t count for much ones your job is automized.

Want to build a network? GO to business schools

So there are no upsides to going to business school? Of course there are. But they are maybe not what you think.

Most of the world’s current elite will be going to university. Business School are expensive, so it is only well-off people who can afford it. And you remember the Weak Ties we talked about earlier? This is one way of getting them.

Of course, you do not need an education to expand your network. But few options offers as distilled group of intellectual people as an expensive university education. And working with a group of people over an extend period of time is often much more effective than handing out resumes at a career fair.

Remember, networking doesn’t have to be limited to your class — many universities have a bunch of student organization where you can find like-minded people with competence in different fields. Look for universities with a healthy student environment, to build a network for the future.

Alternatively, go to Meetups

You can network and have fun, and Meetups are one of the better ways of doing it. Find something that interest you, and begin going to their events regularly. You might learn something new, while networking.

Interested in a field? GO to Business School.

If you are interested in the theoretical side of business, you should definitely attend business school. You will be a wiser man, perhaps more mature man, than when you came.

But beware of hypnotizing yourself into thinking your are interested in the field of study or just in the degree. There is a very easy way of debunking it. Just answer the following question truthfully …

If you could choose between,
A. Three years of study, but in the end you wouldn’t get a degree
B. Zero years of study, but you get a degree in your hand right now

What would you choose?

If you chose A, well done. You are the kind of student that should definitely apply for business school. You study for the knowledge own sake, and the fact you are willing to pay for that will make you the right cut for business school.

But wait, I have great news for you!

You can go to all university classes for free, if you want to. Contrary to what many believe, most courses have open entry. You can just walk into any auditorium, sit down, and listen to the teacher. There are no guards, no ID check, and no entrance fee. I just saved you a bunch of money.

If you chose B, like me, you should defintely not go to business school. You are there for the credentials, in hopes that it will bring you opportunities, fortune and security. If you take anything away from this article, it should be that it won’t. I luckily only paid in time, but that is an expensive lesson none the less.

So before you choose, please consider for what reasons are you applying for studying. Is it to network or because you find the field interesting? Go for it! If not, you can spent you time more wisely.

BONUS CHAPTER: Alternative to Business School

If you are still attracted to go and study, but still think it is a little pricey, here are a few resources. I can tell you right now, most university students use them for reading for exams.

*A side note: I am not affiliated with any of these sites. I am genuinely just fan.

Lynda.com

Probably one of the broadest eLearning sites I have come across. You can even follow career path subjects and learn everything you could get a from a university.

Coursera

The closest thing you will get to a university degree, without a degree. You can of course buy a degree after taking the course if that is what you want.

Highbrow

Highbrow is snackable lessons. You sign up for a course, and you get ten small lessons send to your email.

Khan Academy

Many I talk to about these sites think Khan Academy is for kids. But this platform literally saved me from flunking my accounting exam. Thanks Khan.

TED Radio Hour

Podcast is a great way to learn if you ask me. And TED radio hour is no exception. Filled with tons of useful episodes.

MyTopBusinessIdeas

Don’t let the name or look of this site fool you. It will teach you more about business models than any university courses I have attended. Very practical, very hands on.

DevFreeBooks

Want to learn how to code? Here are a bunch of reading material, more updated than anything you will learn in business school.

CodeCademy / FreeCodeCamp

Free coding lessons. You are welcome.

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