Monday, December 01, 2014 at 10am

Why on Earth am I Studying an Oxford MBA?

Oxford MBA

I am not your average military MBA candidate. I spent 12 years in the military, working for both defense and the government. I don’t have a stellar GMAT and I am significantly older than most (but not all) of my cohort. Sadly, I also I didn’t start an amazing social startup as a teenager. I really shouldn’t be doing an Oxford MBA. I had a good career, and I have a wife and two young children.

The challenge and reward of a one-year MBA from Oxford

So do I regret my decision? Not at all: I am having the time of my life. I planned my MBA two years in advance, finance-wise. I needed to ensure that I had money in the bank so that the family could eat and that I will be able to finish the course. The really important considerations for me when deciding on a one-year MBA was what my career trajectory will look like once I graduate from Oxford Saïd Business School, and even more importantly: who I will be when I graduate from Oxford.

A post-military MBA doesn’t propel you into a Fortune 500 company as a given. If anybody knows what does, please let me know. An Oxford Saïd Business School one-year MBA gives you a broad skillset that will allow you to break into most industries. Whether you are the right person for that industry and role is defined by four considerations:

  1. Your personality
  2. Your previous experience
  3. How much research work you are going to put in to your career choice
  4. Your network

These are the four things that differentiate you in the minds of recruiters. Nail these four and I would bet you would get a job in any industry. Developing your understanding of these four considerations is what a post-military MBA provides, offering you the opportunity to understand who you are and how you operate, and allows you to learn new skills to complement your old ones. If you understand the ‘who’ bit, then the ‘what’ bit should fall out. Saïd Business School has allowed me to understand who I am; I’m not only an ex-military officer, but also an ex-military officer who loves ideas, and research and development. I love strategic thinking and planning, designing and implementing change for the better. Whilst my colleagues now work for defense contractors and other similar careers for the sake of earning money, the one-year MBA has given me time to understand who I am and what I want – and the skills to go out and achieve it.

The post-military MBA recipe for success

So why Oxford Saïd Business School? Well it is a one-year course and that fact fitted perfectly with my financial plan; I could not afford to be out of the workplace for too long. A quality one-year MBA course is intense, so be prepared for that if you attend one. The sheer pace of the course takes some students aback, but that pace should not have come as a surprise to anyone. All MBA candidates will tell you three things:

  1. I’m not afraid of hard work.
  2. I have a vision of a better future for myself
  3. I will, without fail, get up early every morning and attend every lecture on time.

Okay, sadly for some these assertions are not exactly true. As I said at the start, an MBA will not propel your career on its own. What an MBA from Oxford Saïd Business School will do is help you propel your own career. On a one-year program, a morning off is not an option.

The Oxford ecosystem offers 38 colleges and numerous schools and departments with whom you can partner up. I am an entrepreneurship ambassador and my role is to visit the colleges and schools and help people with amazing start up ideas. This is the best learning experience I can have for my chosen career in Venture Capital. Being at Oxford allows me to meet a cohort of seriously bright grads and undergrads, far brighter than me, and I provide them advice on how to turn their idea into a business.

With experiences like these, which are beyond the scope of a normal MBA, I truly believe I have made the right choice – for me. And as I have outlined above every MBA trajectory is different. My trajectory is unique, and yours is too. If you are struggling to understand whether to do and MBA and/or where to do one, then ask yourself where are you now, and where do you want to be in 2024. Then map out the delta.

Good luck.

PS. If you get stuck and want impartial advice, I am happy to chat below the line!

About Paul Kelly

Paul left the British Army in 2014 after 12 years serving around the world. He is not your average Oxford MBA candidate: firstly he is British, doesn't have a stellar GMAT and is significantly older than most (but not all) of his cohort. Sadly, he also didn’t start an amazing social startup at 19 that saved a bloat of pygmy hippos. He really shouldn’t be doing an MBA; he had a good career, and has a wife and two young children. He truly believes that if he can get onto an MBA, then you can too. Paul is happy to answer any of your queries by email, or follow him on Twitter @DigitalPaulK.

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