If you cannot attend business school but you really want a business education, why not try a do-it-yourself MBA? After all, you don’t have to be in a classroom to learn. In fact, many of the best learning experiences happen outside of the college campus. I have attended B-school, but I have also learned a lot about business from my work experiences and outside study. If you want to learn about business without setting foot in a classroom, here is what I recommend:
Do-It-Yourself MBA Step 1
Read the books they read in business school. Yes, book learning is an important part of a business education. Fortunately, there are plenty of guides to show you which books to read. Pick a high-profile B-school (Harvard, Stanford, or whatever), and look it up on the internet. Find the published curriculum for business students at that school. Next, go to the on-line webpage of the school’s bookstore and identify which books are used for each course. Those are the books you need. Get them and read them. They will be expensive, and there will be a lot of them, but the good news is that you don’t have to pay tuition. Save yourself a few dollars by buying used copies of the books mid-semester (in October or March) on-line, so you don’t have to compete with enrolled business school students for the limited supply of used books.
Do-It-Yourself MBA Step 2
Get real-world business experience. During business school, most students spend their summer working as an intern for a real business. In fact, most b-school students work for at least two years prior to entering graduation school. Real-world experience is an important part of a business education. If you have never worked for a business, but you want to learn about business, you should get a job with a major corporation. The experience of working in a real business environment will make your book learning more relevant and interesting, and will teach you nuts-and-bolts lessons you cannot learn from a book.
Do-It-Yourself MBA Step 3
Do something entrepreneurial. Working for someone else is one thing, but starting your own business is quite another. To have a complete business education, you need to understand what it is like to run a business enterprise from the top. Your start-up business does not have to be large. You can be the only employee (e.g., by being an eBay seller), but you need to be in a position where you make the strategic decisions. Although B-school students do not have to start up their own businesses, they are intentionally placed in simulated situations in which they have to make strategic decisions. You need that, too, if you are going to have a real business education.
If you follow these three steps, you will have a business education — even if you don’t have an actual diploma. These steps will teach you the same lessons you would learn in business school, and if education is what really matters to you, the do-it-yourself MBA will be just as valuable as two years in B-school.