What's your problem?

I work for a small strategy consultancy. I've been here six years, having joined on graduation. I am now seriously considering studying for an MBA, as I feel the benefits of gaining such a qualification would really boost my career. But there are downsides.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The first is that I would have to persuade my manager to let me work part-time - I can't afford to study full-time. No-one has asked for this before. Also, doing an MBA is going to cost me a lot of money and time. Is it worth it?

A: I've never heard an MBA graduate regret having done an MBA - and it's hard to see why they should. There's no doubt that a degree in business administration gives people a huge amount of concentrated expertise, self-confidence (sometimes excessive), useful contacts and heightened employer-appeal. On balance, those with an MBA get paid a lot more than those of equivalent age without.

But acquiring one involves hard work and sacrifice; and both are a test of determination. I couldn't work out from your question just how determined you are.

If you go to your manager with the tentative suggestion that you might be allowed to work part-time but you'll absolutely understand if that's not acceptable, then the chances are they'll say no, and with a degree of finality that will make it extremely difficult to return to it later. Much better to put it to them very positively; commit yourself to highly productive part-time working; and naturally to remain with the consultancy for a given period afterwards - by which time you'll be a more valuable asset. That begins to make it a worthwhile proposition from their point of view as well as yours.

If they still say no, you'll have to accept that they probably don't see you as a potential high-flyer. But, painful though that may be, it's a truth worth knowing.

 Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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