At business school, the most important thing I learned was “never do something that you could avoid doing by giving the impression that you have done it”.
That’s why I never went to business school.
Your goal here (unlike the grandiloquent self-congratulation that is most people’s LinkedIn profiles) is not to lie, but to instead give the impression you have an MBA without having to sink $200K+ in costs in an alcohol-soaked piece of paper. Here are a few tips how.
Reference your MBA casually
This is your starting point. Luckily for you, there's a joke you can reference obliquely. Simply say:
"How do you know if someone went to Harvard Business School?" (pause) "They'll tell you! ... Though not directly."
If there's any confusion on their faces, complain vaguely about student debt while shaking your head and change the subject.
Use 2x2 matrices for everything
Nothing says "MBA" like a matrix. Some posit that 2x2 doesn't add enough granularity, but the following analysis rebukes that neatly:
A few examples of how to use 2x2 matrices in casual everyday conversation:
- Optimizing which snack to eat by calorie count and avoided costs, maximising for impact on your effective take-home salary
- Deciding which bathroom to visit, based on distance from you as well as probability that a stall will not be occupied by someone trading Bitcoin on their phone
- Determining your best employees based on two skill sets of your choice, e.g. obsequience and hours spent staring at a monitors
Be dismissive about other people’s schools
This is your cornerstone. It really involves two options:
- If the person went to Harvard: “Why didn’t you go to Stanford?” (or the other way around)
- If the person went to some other business school: “Why didn’t you go to a better business school?”
There’s more nuance you can add here, too:
- If they claim their school is highly ranked by the Economist: “Wow! How’s it ranked in the Financial Times?” (also, vice versa). Guaranteed it won’t be so hot.
- Ask “What did you do for your summer internship?” Only ask this if it wasn’t McKinsey. And even if they say that, “Were you at the New York office?” In the rare case they were, begrudgingly admit they’re better than you, which is what this person is usually after in any given dialogue.
- If they say “I went to that school because of XYZ…” (e.g. they’re really strong on finance, social entrepreneurship or interpretative dance) just say “Oh, Harvard is good at that too” and stop listening.
Talk to MBAs in an unintelligible stream of disconnected jargon
Read the last few issues of Harvard Business Review, make up a few sentences, memorize them, and tell them to any MBA in the vicinity. Your aim is to say something incomprehensible and to get them to agree. A high density of management concepts per sentence often achieves this. For example:
“Our goal here is to gain enough capital cross-functionally to be able to execute on our strategy without sacrificing short-term quick wins. If we optimize for a balanced success ratio score, we might be able to capture productivity upside and at the same time maximize our collective bandwidth. I just don’t want us to repeat past mistakes of over-leveraging our human capital, putting at risk our ability to retroactively move forward. Does that make sense?”
Of course it does! They have no choice but to answer "yes" and change the subject. You win.
Sooner or later, someone may ask you where you went to business school. Remind them that just as some elite schools don't disclose their grades, the best schools don't even disclose themselves.