Business School in England? Blimey! What’s That Like?

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Uh oh. Soccer hooligans!

The red-shirted, drunken men glare at you from across the bar. You gulp. Desperate to prove your love of the Manchester United football team, you clear your throat and belt out the first song that comes to mind… “My baby takes the morning train/he works from 9 to 5 and then/he takes another home again to find me… watching the United Manchester Football team!”

Okay, okay. So maybe getting your MBA in Manchester, England isn’t quite like a scene from Eurotrip, but it certainly is a unique experience.

Paige Lubawy was feeling stuck in her career as a consultant and decided she wanted to switch things up. She made the choice to go back to school and get her MBA, but the thought of paying all of that money made her cringe.

So, instead of just going for the business experience, she decided to make it a life experience as well and enrolled abroad in the Manchester Business School at the University of Manchester.

Now, she’s back in the States working as the Senior Manager, Marketing Operations and Infrastructure at Charles Schwab Institutional Services. She took the time to talk with us about getting her MBA and what she recommends for recent graduates interested in attending business school in England.

Can you tell us a little more about your role as Senior Manager, Marketing Operations and Infrastructure at Charles Schwab Institutional Services?

I am the business owner of the software used within Marketing and implement this software (such as Marketo, a type of marketing automation software). Marketing technology is a relatively new area—and a good space for me because I can use both my right brain (my creative side) and my left brain (my analytical side). By far the most rewarding job I have had in my career!

What made you want to go to business school? Did you have an end goal in mind? If so, what was it?

I was feeling very stuck. I had spent six years as a consultant and I was struggling to get opportunities outside of consulting. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after the MBA; I just knew it wasn’t consulting.

What made you decide to get your MBA in the UK?

When I looked at the price of an MBA, I decided that if I was going to make that type of investment, I wanted to make it a life experience as well. Living overseas was always something I wanted to do. This gave me the opportunity to make it happen. I also think it is important to get a non-US perspective at some point in life. It opens your mind.

What was it like transferring your UK degree to your work in the States?

Business is the same in England as it is in the US, so that was easy to transfer, but the assistance from the career services and alumni network is much more limited. That said, my résumé stands out having a degree from an international school. The managers I enjoy working for value this mindset.

What was the most surprising part about business school?

As a part of my program, we had three “real world” projects. I worked on expanding the online presence of the top-selling toy in the UK and our final semester was an International Business consultancy project. A large multinational company had a new technology and wanted to know if there was a viable business opportunity.

In a team of six, we researched the UK produce supply chain. As part of the project, we went to Israel, Kenya, Spain, and Holland. Meeting farmers in Israel and presenting our recommendations to high-ranking executives in Switzerland are cherished memories.

How about a surprising part about Manchester?

A cultural surprise for me was Manchester’s love affair with local music. You can’t go out on a Saturday night without hearing The Stone Roses, Joy Division, or Oasis.

What do you feel were the benefits of attending business school?

There were three main benefits from my business school experience.

First, the career services was the biggest benefit to me. I was job hunting in all the wrong ways before the MBA. I was focusing on the applications, instead of networking. Learning how to job hunt correctly provides a lot more opportunity.

Secondly, through the career services department, I got a great MBA internship at American Express in London over the summer. This really improved my ability to get jobs after the MBA.

Finally, I had a fantastic mentor provided through the course. They had a program that paired current students with mentors. He helped improve my résumé and cover letter, brainstorm career options, and he helped me rationalize things when the program got tough. He also helped me navigate a job search at the height of the recession (summer ’09). I ended up finding a job much faster than many of my classmates because of his advice.

What (if any) do you feel were the cons or challenges of attending business school?

Look closely at the costs. It is a huge investment: tuition, living expenses, and lost wages are significant. Take into account the cost of the city where you will live. This has a major impact on the overall investment. Make sure it makes sense for you.

Also, there will be lazy students in your group projects. This surprised me because of the amount of effort and cost involved with going to graduate school. You wouldn’t think students would slack off, but they do.

How much work experience do you think is necessary before applying for an MBA?

The more work experience you have, the more you will get out of an MBA. I would not recommend going back to school unless you have at least five years’ work experience. The benefit of going back to school after working is to be able to relate your course work back to your previous experience. I don’t think you get as good of an experience if you don’t have the work experience to relate to.

What are some things that students or recent grads who are considering business school should know?

Business school is much more challenging if you have a partner or family. It was a lot easier (and more fun) for me being single, than for my classmates who were married or in a relationship. Business school is overwhelming and encompasses your entire life. You get the most out of it if you can be one hundred percent present in the experience. Fully commit to this next phase of your life. It will be worth the investment.

Also, look carefully at the career focus of the school you are considering. What kind of internships and careers do their graduates find? Many programs are focused on banking and consulting. If this isn’t your goal, make sure to find a program that provides opportunities in other areas. Also, ask for a reference from a former student who attended the school. You want an honest perspective, not just the brochure and rankings.

Take the school work seriously, but focus more on learning about career options and networking. The classes are only half of what you learn during an MBA.

Manchester Business Class

Homework time! Paige thought about the expenses of business school and chose to get her MBA in England. Is living abroad something you’ve always dreamed of doing? Look into some programs in other countries. You might even consider an international program like this one offered at USF. Also, if you’re thinking about grad school but not necessarily an MBA, check out this post about why you might want to choose to pursue further studies in the UK.

One of the most important parts of Paige’s business school experience was getting matched with a mentor. While researching different Master’s programs, look into what types of special features they have for their students’ career development. Paige recommends talking with former students to get a “real” description of the school.

Also, she mentions making sure that the business school is geared toward the career you’re looking for. If you’re not interested in banking or consulting, be careful about which program you enroll in.

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