Thinking MBA? Work on your MPA first!
Twenty years of teaching and studying with graduate business students at several universities has convinced me that an MBA can be a valuable way to recast or rejuvenate a career. But earning an MBA is expensive, and over the past decade the degree’s worth has diminished — a lot.
So before earning an MBA, consider a do-it-yourself “MPA” — a Master of Personal Administration. Unlike an MBA, which purports to train you to manage organizations, an MPA encourages you to understand yourself and manage your own career. Here are some differences between the two:
1. Organizational business plans versus personal business models
Even though the dotcom meltdown demonstrated more than a decade ago that “business plans” are a lousy basis for entrepreneurial action, MBA programs remain wedded to “business plan” thinking. The MPA, on the other hand, calls for individuals to seek meaningful work by designing and testing personal business models.
2. Big/stable/predictable versus small/chaotic/ever-changing
The “A” in “MBA” assumes a need for administration — people to manage large, stable, predictable organizations. In contrast, the MPA approach acknowledges that work today is messy, unpredictable, and constantly changing — and that small businesses employ half of all private sector workers.
3. Greed versus contribution
The U.S. financial meltdown has exposed greed at its worst — and the dangers of the kinds of financial engineering taught in MBA programs. The MPA calls for learners to do good things for others while helping themselves — the essence of ethical business.
4. Commoditization versus differentiation
MBA degrees are increasingly common and therefore an ever-weaker differentiator in a tight job market. But the candidate with a sound personal business model linked to a clear purpose stands out. As Josh Kaufman writes in The Personal MBA, “Skip business school. Educate yourself.”
So, are you tempted to start studying for your MPA? Where should you start?
Well, there’s no formal curriculum, and no diploma at the end. The first step is to develop a personal business model — a concise definition of your Customers and the Value you provide them, all driven by a Purpose that binds work and personal life. You do this with a Business Model Canvas, which looks like this:
You can find the Canvas and more at Business Model You, where 276 work life wizards from 37 countries are developing the personal business model methodology (thanks to personal branding expert Andres Perez Ortega for his inspiration on the MPA acronym, which I’ve rendered in English).
At Business Model You you’ll also find other resources and experts to help you make the MPA honor roll. Now, that doesn’t mean working on an MPA is easy: One member who uses our methodology in business courses says that “students think making up strategic plans for business is easy, but creating a strategy for yourself is hard — because the personal strategy matters more.”
In fact, I’ll be the first to admit that none of us has actually earned the MPA credential yet. We may never graduate! But maybe that’s the biggest advantage of all. While an MBA costs tens of thousands of dollars for two years of classes, an MPA is free — and the learning continues for a lifetime.
Why not enroll today?