What’s so wrong with an MBA? Over the recent years, article after article has explained why the degree is a waste of money and time. The thinking goes, networking with your friends and reading a few books is an easy substitute. What’s more, the article authors note that if you do get your degree, you end up in debt up to your eyeballs and without much more value than when you started.
Even so, for those who aspire to lead, the job outlook for business school graduates has improved, with more companies planning to hire recent MBA and master-level business graduates. And for women in particular, there are some converging competencies that we can learn in the B-school environment that train us uniquely to lead:
Three months into my speaking career, I was elated to secure a speaking gig at a top conference for professional women. I would be addressing my largest audience to date (350 people) and presenting on a topic I’m especially passionate about: how women can negotiate confidently and more often.
In short, I was terrified!
Thankfully I survived the talk. You can imagine my nerves a few weeks after the presentation when the organizers sent me summarized feedback: the presentation had ranked in the top 5 sessions of the entire conference! As I hungrily read the feedback for more details—and because I’m admittedly ‘Type A’—I noticed one theme under opportunities for improvement: that I should be less self-promotional.
The business world is full of stories of those who took epic risks and somehow prospered despite the odds. What's more, risk taking seems like a career necessity for the professional that wants to move up today. The problem is, too few people have a system for sizing up a risk and deciding whether or not to pursue it.
While there's long been excitement and intrigue associated with taking a job abroad, many of us―particularly women―have also heard unflattering accounts. One executive I met recounted the time she went on assignment to Saudi Arabia, only to address a blank wall each day she kicked off status meetings. As it turned out, no males from her host country were willing to make eye contact with her. There's also the story of the fast-tracking woman who journeys to Asia Pacific, takes a job heading up a business unit and finds she's neither seen nor heard. Her host colleagues don't know quite where to place her, a point echoed by the fact that there are no women's restrooms on executive floors.
When you’re thrown a new opportunity or project—let’s say one that calls on your weakest skill—how do you react? Do you see it as a challenge or a threat? If you look at many leaders that took on high level posts, you’ll see that they were helped by the belief that they have all the ingredients needed—right then—to take on the task.
Of all the competencies emphasized in leadership programs, risk-taking is by far the hardest to teach. Perhaps that's because many of us need to experience risk ourselves--followed by ceremonially screwing up, prospering or something in between. What's more, women may have a bigger mountain to climb when taking chances compared to their male counterparts.
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