An MBA and your Board Career

An MBA and your board career

I get a lot of questions from MBA students about what subjects they should do as part of their MBA that will help them with their board aspirations. I love that people – including you – are thinking and planning for their future in this manner.

In a nutshell I don’t think it matters too much about the specific subjects you choose. Rather, more of your focus should go to building your professional career achievements, expanding your network, and closely managing your reputation.

Expanding on these points, here are three things to keep in mind when it comes to your MBA in relation to your board ambitions.

1. The MBA in and of itself is a worthwhile endeavour, regardless of the type of MBA specialty

All MBA programs will help you to understand the different facets of an organisation and how they have to work in harmony in order to achieve the strategic goals of an organisation. Usually, the core subjects within the MBA will give you this well-rounded view of an organisation; this knowledge helps to better inform your decision-making in the boardroom.

Don’t get too hung up on the subjects that you select as electives – take the opportunity study something that interests you, you will enjoy, and that will help you in your professional career. I highly doubt that a board you are interviewing for will ask to see your academic transcript (it’s never happened to me).

2. Remember to focus on your ‘day job’ and achieving career goals that build your expertise and experience

Having board aspirations is wonderful. Placing a higher emphasis of being great at your day job and achieving success in that is far more important than the subjects on your MBA transcript.

Your proven expertise will largely be the reason why a board will recruit you. Build a portfolio of career successes that demonstrates how you positively contributed to the business, strategic, and financial objectives of the organisation(s) where you have worked.

3. An MBA is not the be-all and end-all

I’m worried that there has become an over-emphasis on what holding an MBA does for careers and board careers. I’ve seen how this mentality can mislead people into thinking they know it all because “I have an MBA don’t you know?”. I also see that people believe that holding an MBA is going to open doors and have people chasing after them for prosperous career and board positions.

Unfortunately this isn’t the case.

Your professional achievements, your personal and professional network, and your reputation will hold far more influence on your board ambitions. Spend the time now – while you’re working and studying – to build your network, create a solid reputation, and accomplish professional achievements. These things will help you far more with your board ambitions than an MBA credential ever could on its own.


I hope this has helped you gain some perspective and further understand your MBA achievement in the context of your board ambitions.

Best of luck with your study!

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