To MBA or not to MBA, that was the question.

In November 2011 during a rainy drive home on the M25 from another late night emergency at work, I had a sudden realization that I was unhappy. At best, my work as an area manger for a leading UK hospitality company was inspiring, challenging and hugely varied, but there and then I knew that my career had stalled and it was affecting my life. It was time to make a change.

Deciding to change is great, but how do you do it? I found that knowing you need to change your career path is much easier than knowing how to change it. There is no ‘right’ way to go about it because each case is unique- although there is certainly a ‘wrong’ way. I was fortunate to have mentors who helped me realize that making a knee-jerk decision to hand in my notice would be foolish: you never leave until you have something to go to, particularly in today’s job market.

On the face of it, doing an MBA felt like a great idea: a chance to go back to study, learn new skills, meet new people, increase your salary and then land a cool new job in a different industry, country or maybe even both at the end of it all. Easy. But then there is the cost- most programmes take two years and are far from cheap in their own right, even before you take into account the fact that you won’t earn a salary for that time as well. It was a calculated risk, and a very tough decision but it was absolutely the right one for me.

I arrived in Boston in August and truly haven’t looked back. It was a lot to take in all at once: a culture shock of living in a new country, finding accommodation, meeting so many new people and of course preparing for the intense MBA course itself. The pace of learning has been phenomenal and the schedule is extreme, so it feels like I am still in a full-time job.

I was lucky to receive some first-class preparation advice, but there are some things you can never be fully prepared for. A classic example is the learning environment you encounter on an MBA- unlike all of my previous education, learning theories and completing class work is only the tip of the iceberg. In an MBA you learn as much from each other as you do from the professors- a huge part of my learning has come from the experience of my peers and this has helped me to reflect on, and make sense of, my own experiences as a result.

From a careers perspective, this is ideal. I already have a much better understanding of who I am and what I need from my career. I now have a network of 210 people from 56 different countries and the use of all of their business contacts to find the perfect job opportunity for me. You really cannot put a price on such a valuable resource, and I’m surprised business schools don’t make more of it in their marketing materials.

Right now I couldn’t be happier with the direction my career is heading and the exciting opportunities that lay ahead of me.

What a difference a year makes.

Stuart Gilchriest, MBA Student

P.S. If you want to find out more about taking an MBA, I would recommend buying an excellent book called “What they teach you at Harvard Business School” by Phillip Delves-Broughton.


Note: this blog was originally published on my friend Saffron Fidget’s excellent website, Career Circus (

One thought on “To MBA or not to MBA, that was the question.

  1. Stuart – this is a very inspirational blog, and as a fellow MBA student in the UK, the message is absolutley spot on and relevant on either side of the ‘pond’. Networking and learning from your fellow students is so beneficial, and one of the main challenges that non residential sudents face. For anyone thinking of taking the leap into MBA eductaion, “go for it” yo’ll never regret the experience, just get your support networks in place to give you the best chance of getting the most out of the course, ….. oh yes, and be prepared for a truly life changing experience.

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