I paid for my college education by training horses and selling cattle; it was hard work, but the proceeds were enough to cover a four-year degree during the middle of the Recession — at a time when scholarships and part-time jobs were scarce. Even though I was negotiating prices, researching market trends, and promoting my livestock, I never thought of myself as a business person.
I didn’t think I was good enough at math, I didn’t think I had the capability to make tough management decisions, and in all honesty, I didn’t think there were many opportunities for women in business— an industry I unfortunately perceived as the ultimate “man’s world.”
In the culture in which I was raised, women only had a few professional options: get married and become stay-at-home mom, become an elementary school teacher and then get married and become a stay-at-home mom, or become a nurse and then get married and become a stay-at-home mom. I knew teaching kindergarten, going to nursing school, and being a homemaker wasn’t for me, but as a rather lost undergraduate student studying Animal and Dairy Science, I had no idea what other options were out there.
Considering an MBA
A couple years after college, I was tired of working around the clock for others, frustrated with lack of career mobility, and recognized that my lack of formal business training was holding me back from achieving my career goals. So after a few Google searches exploring “graduate business programs,” I determined that a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree was the right program for my career objectives.
The only MBA graduates I knew were men, most of which had completed undergraduate degrees in finance and economics. I remember being so nervous when calling the business school’s admissions department, afraid they would tell me I wasn’t qualified due to my agriculture degree and lack of any displayed “math-whiz” ability on my transcript. Instead, the admissions counselor wanted to know all about my farming pursuits and unconventional work history, and was super encouraging regarding my “I’m not good at math” hesitations, dispelling a lot of myths I’d heard about the GMAT and graduate-level finance classes.
Taking the Leap
Attending business school was definitively my most empowering career experience to-date. Not only did pursuing my MBA provide me with TONS of professional advantage (networks, knowledge, and experience), but it also gave me the personal confidence I needed to take the leap and start my own business at the age of twenty-five.
My non- business track undergrad degree actually provided me a lot of advantage when it came to applying business principles. Additionally, my diverse work background really helped the management and marketing theories we discussed during class come to life in a way that the more traditional business majors failed to conceptualize.
My business school professors provided a lot more mentoring than I’d encountered during undergrad. Truth be told, I kind of hated school during undergrad — the boring lectures, redundant information, and regurgitated test material left me wondering what the point of college even was. But in business school, the curriculum really came alive — we’d learn about an economic concept, then directly apply it to a real-life case study.
One of my favorite professors assigned a pretty in-depth business plan project during my first semester; it took a lot of time to complete, but I had so much help from other students and teaching staff that I was actually disappointed when the project was complete! My professor was always available to provide feedback on my plan, and he actually encouraged me to put it into action following graduation. That business plan assignment that I worked on my first semester was the plan that led to forming my very own company as a new MBA-grad.
Business school helped me identify my professional strengths, gave me the knowledge I needed run a successful business, and taught me how to identify and assess emerging opportunities. Even though I wasn’t your typically MBA student, I made so many friends during business school and grew my self-confidence exponentially thanks to the constructive experiences the MBA program offered. Business school not only provided me much-needed business education, but also how to take my career to the next level, through personal branding, strategic networking, market research, and other must-have key career-building elements.
Today, I run Becker Marketing & PR, a consulting firm that helps established brands connect with the millennial market through digital strategy. I serve on several non-profit boards, and am a contributing writer for Arianna Huffington’s latest media venture, Thrive Global. Additionally, I teach undergraduate business classes at two Midwestern colleges and own a cattle farm outside of Kansas City. None of these professional opportunities would even be possible for me with my MBA.
If you’re interested in taking your career to the next level, I would encourage you to seriously consider pursuing your MBA. It’s an incredibly multi-faceted course of study that can open doors for you like you’ve never imagined.
Get the Facts
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding what it takes to get an MBA —“It’s just a bunch of boring finance equations.” “You have to be a workaholic to succeed in business.” “It’s only for people that really enjoy math.” Do your research and get the facts on what graduating with an MBA involves — if I can do it, with a B.S. in Animal & Dairy Science and no corporate work experience, then anyone can do it! Graduating with your MBA opens up so many opportunities — from entrepreneurship to non-profits; it can truly be the career catalyst you’ve always dreamed of!
The cool thing about business in the 21st century is that it’s 100 percent customizable. Thanks to technology, MBA grads can do so much more than wearing stuffy suits and working on Wall Street. Today’s business leaders can literally work from anywhere in the world where they can get a Wi-Fi signal. For me, it’s the middle of a cattle field in the Flint Hills; for you, it could be a tropical beach or hiking in the Alps. An MBA will provide you the knowledge and resources you need to create your dream career, however you define it.
Your #1 MBA Resource
For more information on pursuing your MBA, check out the Forté Foundation at www.fortefoundation.org . They are a non-profit organization that supports women throughout the entire MBA process—from consideration to graduation—helping them maximize their MBA experience. Additionally, they provide women at all stages of their careers with skill-building workshops and job center access — resources you can learn more about on their website (did I mention membership is FREE?).
Whenever a female colleague mentions she’s thinking about getting her MBA, the Forté Foundation is the first place I recommend she visit. To learn more about how graduating with an MBA empowered other women to succeed, check out the Forté MBAs on the Move and prepare to be inspired!