The (Un)Written Lessons I Learned in Grad School


I was asked recently by a fellow military spouse whether earning a graduate degree was worth the time and effort involved. The question is very broad, and the answer truly depends on you and your career path.

For some professions, a higher degree is often mandatory. In others, factors such as self-improvement, the desire for in-depth knowledge and skills, or a change in career goals are some reasons why people decide to go for a graduate degree. The most popular motivation is to open up opportunities for career advancement and earn more money.

Graduate classrooms consist of students and professors from all walks of life. Everyone’s reason and learning experience is different; I decided to pursue an MBA for the practical and professional benefits. What I learned was not always in the written lessons, but rather from the insights from my professors’ real-world industry experiences and the perspectives of classmates.

Learn Like an Entrepreneur

One of many unwritten lessons of the masters’ program was to think and learn like entrepreneurs. I earned my degree at American Military University, where graduate-level programs are designed to help students think independently, satisfy academic curiosity and gain an in-depth knowledge of the area of study. Business leaders take the “road not yet taken” and break the barriers of entry into new markets.

How does learning like an entrepreneur translate into daily life? Act like you own the business, be empathic and sympathetic with the targeted audience, and make effective decisions based on the known risks and opportunities. These are lessons that can be applied to any lifestyle or career choice.

Five Principles I Learned in Grad School

MBA classes, combined with personal and professional experiences, taught me five basic principles that I strive to achieve:

1. Act like you own the business. Act responsibility, create value and confront issues head-on. That means making clear concise decisions, learning from past mistakes and making adjustments as conditions change.

2. Identify and amplify your competitive advantages. Identify and improve upon your weaknesses and concentrate on (or highlight) the core competency of your business or products.

3. Embrace challenges and take smart risks. Make a careful analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats presented by every situation. This will enable you to make effective decisions and take smart risks so you can focus on opportunities.

4. Build positive business relationships. Success depends on your ability to build and establish good working relationships and networks. Build relationships by paying close attention to others’ needs and feedback.

5. Project a positive attitude. Projecting and maintaining a positive outlook goes a long way, and it’s essential for career and personal growth. Instead of concentrating on the failures, focus on transforming the negatives and mistakes of the past into something more productive.

Furthering your education is an important decision that is deeply personal. Earning an advanced degree requires a huge commitment of finances, time and effort. Though earning a master’s degree doesn’t guarantee a corner executive office or a six-figure salary, the value of education for me was beyond anything anyone can measure.


Chanda Chann is a military spouse and a commercial real estate professional, skilled in property management, leasing and client relations. Chanda has a Bachelor of Arts in Management in Human Resource Management and a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from American Military University. Chanda aspires to make an impact in corporate management and establish strategic relationships.


Photo courtesy of Flickr user Luftphilia via the Creative Commons license.

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