I almost didn’t get my MBA. I didn’t know it was an option for me—no one in my family, friend group, or work groups had ever gotten an MBA. No one even discussed an MBA. In my circles, people who went back to school got their PhDs or PsyDs or MDs or JDs. All Ds. But an MBA? That was a thing that men who love to discuss the stock market got. Or at least that was my perception, and it’s why I had never considered an MBA.
Then one day, I shared my career goals with one of my boyfriend’s best friends, a Wisconsin MBA alum. I told him that I wanted to work on huge, impactful, cross-functional projects. I wanted to be a decision-maker. I wanted a seat at the table. I wanted to set strategy, rather than execute someone else’s strategy. Most importantly, I wanted to work with consumers. My boyfriend’s friend told me about this thing called brand management and recommended getting an MBA from Wisconsin. At first, I wrote off his suggestion because I wasn’t the MBA “type.” I certainly wasn’t extroverted enough or analytic enough or corporate enough for an MBA. But as I started doing my research, brand management seemed like my calling. It checked all the boxes. And, because I had no experience in brand management and very little in marketing, I decided I should probably go back to school for an MBA to get the training and skills I needed.
For the entire first year, basically, I doubted myself. I have a non-traditional background, I’m not from the corporate world, I’m an INFP (not an ENTJ), I hate business clothes, and I’m not a natural networker. There were so many reasons that I shouldn’t be successful. And yet, against all odds (or so I thought), I was successful. I had a great first year and landed the internship of my dreams. During the internship, I hit a stride. I loved the work, I could envision myself working there, and I could sense that I was a good fit. Even though I didn’t tick all the boxes.
Here’s the thing: Those boxes were just in my head. You don’t have to be extroverted to be a successful MBA. You don’t have to wear black slacks and a boring button-up. You don’t have to—and I would argue, you shouldn’t—fit a mold. Here’s the main box you need to tick: Ability to lead others boldly, cooperatively, and empathically.
So when I think back on my MBA, my biggest personal learning is that there is no MBA “type.” I am the MBA “type”—I’ve been one all along. I have valuable skills and talents that are useful in the business world. While I will never be the loudest person in the room, I will listen closely and internalize what people say to make smart and informed decisions. For everything that I “don’t” have, I have something else that’s even better.