As some of you know, I'm pursuing my MBA degree by way of the executive program at Purdue University's Calumet campus. This after more than 15 years in public relations.
A few folks have asked me "Why?" Here's my way around an answer. (And, no, writing about my MBA plans during this whole Occupy Wall Street distraction isn't meant to be intentionally provocative.)
First, and to be perfectly frank, I miss school. I seem to do pretty well at keeping myself occupied and curious when it comes to learning new things, but it's often been a solitary or, when not, fleeting experience. This program is neither: Even at an accelerated pace, I will be committed nearly every Saturday between now and February 2013, to say nothing of the homework—about 8-15 hours/week worth. Fortunately, the class (about two-dozen folks) are all from varied backgrounds and bring different experiences. Within that, I've been fortunate enough to find four other classmates who all work well together in group projects, of which there will be plenty.
Second (and I'm just going to come out and say it) the professional accreditations available to public relations professionals* have very little meaning to business. The MBA denotes a level of knowledge and commitment that everyone in business understands and to which all participants can ascribe value. APR? ABC? Not so much. (I've seen job ads for senior PR folks that suggest or require that candidates hold an MBA, never any accreditation from the trade orgs.) That said, I have observed how independent practioners or those in smaller markets have used such accreditations to differentiate themselves to great effect.
(* Here I use the term "professional" as a noun somewhat loosely, since the term has moved from its proper denotation of "a job that requires specialized training, such as a doctor or lawyer" to a far looser connotation of "someone in a white-collar job who works really, really hard.")
In other words, in the absence of a board or "bar association" for public relations practitioners, the MBA is pretty much it. While I don't necessarily call for the "cartelization" in PR that professional licensing inevitably creates, I would think that, if it were to happen, having an MBA (on top of years of experience) is probably a good way to get grandfathered in.
Third, it occurred to me that I've been successful in business PR and the business of PR, though I possessed less of a formalized, complete understanding of the business of business. The process of getting the MBA (more so than the degree itself) is a means to even out the peaks-and-valleys in my professional (there's that word again) topography.
During this process, I promise not to 1) obsessively append "MBA" to my name on email signatures, business cards, etc., 2) quote from Michael Porter (who has already cast too-long-a-shadow on two of my first three classes), or 3) generally end up spouting what Bishop John Henry Newman called the "elegant imbicility" that higher education too often imparts.
So, that's it. Watch this space for updates.
(The above tie and others available at Zazzle.)