Anyone who has been to business school knows that there can be huge discrepancies between what’s taught in the classroom and what happens in the working world. These discrepancies aren’t the fault of professors, but are the result of what occurs when humans – and their penchant for unpredictable and less-than-scientific behavior – are thrown into the mix.
This means that everything you learn in business school is valuable, but you still have to know when to get creative and color outside the lines. Your personal branding as a business leader depends on being able to spot the lies business schools tell, and making adjustments in honest-to-goodness business-related situations.
Lie #1: Analyze Everything
Business schools are big on numbers, and they encourage you to be, too. However, all those spreadsheets can lead to analysis paralysis. Sometimes, it makes more sense to go with your gut than to spend hours frantically examining your Excel docs for an answer. Will your gut always be right? Nope. Neither will the analytics if you never take anything else into consideration.
Lie #2: You Have to Plan
While some things absolutely require a plan, such as a thorough guideline for how you want to spread your personal branding message, not everything needs to fit nicely inside a three-ring binder with colorful tabs. More often than not, you’ll have to make decisions, especially as an entrepreneur or manager, in situations that require you to use common sense alone.
Lie #3: You Can Predict Customer Behavior
OK, this is only a half-truth. You can predict some customer behavior, but if you think you can predict it all, you’re in for a rude awakening. Customers are about as predictable as housecats. Yes, you can probably guess what they’re going to do about 80 percent of the time – it’s the old Pareto Principle, which is something that usually does work – but when they see a mouse or get spooked by a dog outside the window, forget everything you thought you knew. Remember that your customers will always surprise you. Always.
Lie #4: You Can’t Jump Rungs on the Corporate Ladder
Once upon a time, there was a great deal of truth to this myth. The Internet killed that truth. Now, it’s quite possible to suddenly find your personal branding front and center thanks to a viral post, a video-gone-wild or a smart use of SEO in your website content. The corporate ladder still exists, but if you can find an escalator to bypass it, go for your dreams.
Lie #5: You’re Going to Be Rich Because You Went to Business School
It’s hard to hear, but the facts are clear: An education may help you snag a better job, but it isn’t guaranteed. Plus, what rich means to one person is vastly different from what it means to another. Don’t consider business school a clear-cut path to a house encrusted in jewels with a roof of gold. However, do use your connections and smarts to make better choices.
Lie #6: You’re One Smart Cookie Now
You may be a smart cookie, it’s true, but your intelligence has little to do with going to business school. Sure, you have an MBA, but there are tons of people with higher degrees that make mistakes throughout their careers. Your degree is useful, but it doesn’t supply you with extra IQ points. It’s just another tool for you to use as a way to boost your personal branding.
Lie #7: If You Don’t Go to an Ivy League School, Don’t Go at All
What rubbish this is! At the end of the day, you have an MBA or other business degree. Sure, the word Harvard or Wharton might raise a few eyebrows – it may even open a door or two – but there are many successful business school grads who went to institutions outside of the Ivy League. Go to a business school that fits your lifestyle, not one that touts itself for all the wrong reasons.
Lie #8: Soft Skills are Relatively Unimportant
Leadership skills? Ability to lead a team? Many business schools say such soft skills aren’t that essential. However, most business executives need to use them day-in, day-out. Think of it this way: You’re probably going to be working with other people far more often than you’ll be asked to analyze a spreadsheet of your income/expense ratios. So soft skills are absolutely going to come in handy.
Words of Advice
As you go through your business school experience, take each class for what it’s worth. Do the work, but don’t be a sheep. Ask questions of your professors, and if they don’t have the answers, do some legwork. Become a critical thinker, and you’ll benefit from the education in ways that your classmates simply won’t.