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Earning Your Sea Legs


How much does three years of work experience really matter in the MBA classroom?

Imagine being on a ship this summer, maybe for fishing trip or a cruise with friends, and as you leave the docks and placid surroundings you hit the open ocean. Waves and wind are coming at you hard and fast, the constant rising and dipping, rolling and rocking puts you at the mercy of your new environment.

If you've never experienced this kind of setting, it's actually hard to imagine how tough it is to stand. And if you can't stand, how can you contribute to the operation of the vessel and crew?

Earning your sea legs is something that takes experience. You need to physically build the right kinds of muscles - muscles working in combination that you may have never used before - and learn how to predict the impact of each coming wave by a sense of feeling developed through hands-on experience rather than educated guess.

Now imagine that instead of merely standing you have to actively participate and work with the crew members to navigate the ship and reach your target. You don't just think about the waves anymore. You have to think about your course, ocean depth, hazards, and even the other ships. No amount of "knowledge" on these issues is going overcome a lack of "practical" application in facing these situations simultaneously.

Despite any individual talent or skill, the learning curve requires prerequisite experience. On your ship, do you want to be surrounded by a group of seasoned professionals - ready and able to contribute with their different sets of skills and know-how - or a group that's sitting down and holding on for life?

Considering what it takes to earn your sea legs, earning three years of work experience reasonable expectation for MBA students.