When addressing the question of MBA degrees, the camp is largely divided. Proponents of the MBA are quick to highlight the numerous advantages of the program, including: working closely with successful and brilliant people from across the globe; exceptional professional networking and internship opportunities; and, learning proven strategies and cutting-edge insights in the field. Above and beyond those benefits, MBA’s also prepare graduates for a wide array of career options, many with attractive six-figure salaries. The downside to this, of course, is the not so attractive associated tuition fees (many of which climb upwards of $125,000), loss of salary for the one to two years of enrollment, and no guarantee of increased pay or job satisfaction coming out of the program.

If, like me, you want the benefits of an MBA education but aren’t quite prepared to take the financial plunge, there are a few ways to simulate an MBA experience without the financial burden. Below are a few tips and strategies for creating an MBA experience, without the MBA price tag:

Educate Yourself

  • Look at the faculty list for top MBA programs and research the faculty members’ available publications –Faculty often draw on their own texts for course materials, many of which are available at your local bookstore. Additionally, follow faculty members on twitter, research their personal blog, or keep an eye out for their next public speaking engagement.
  • Explore alternative education options, for example, ALISON is a free online university that offers various diploma programs, including Business Management and Entrepreneurship; Operations Management; Human Resources; and, Business Development and Marketing, among others.
  • Read respected business blogs, magazines, books, and other applicable content regularly to stay current on news and research in the field.

Intern

  • Explore opportunities to intern with a prestigious company to strengthen a skill set. For example, if you’re unsure how to approach the subject of marketing and publicity, seek an internship with a well-known Public Relations firm. Think Undercover CEO—a bit of practical experience in a different role can reap endless benefits when applied to your current work.

Network

  • Seek opportunities to interact with others from outside your normal social circle. For example, join relevant professional networks; leverage your alumni networks, and political affiliations; and join social clubs.
  • Develop and sustain lasting relationships within your networks to share ideas, discuss areas of mutual interest, or exchange guidance and advice—Ask questions and learn from the variety of other people’s experiences.
  • Establish a resource group—gather like-minded individuals with the goal to create an ongoing mechanism for brainstorming new ideas, solving problems, and sharing resources.

Find a Mentor

  • Leverage your existing networks to establish an ongoing relationship with a respected person in your field. When approaching a mentor, be respectful of their time and find a way to also give back.

Be Disciplined

  • Apply discipline and structure to your learning. The MBA program demands a rigorous and ongoing commitment, so consider this when structuring your own personal development plan.

Apply Your Knowledge

  • Explore opportunities to work with NGOs, community centers or social programs as case studies to apply your new-found knowledge and experience. Working on a real business scenario with others will further enhance your business expertise, while providing additional opportunities to network and share information.
  • Apply your learning to your own business or venture, and share your observations with others for additional feedback or insights.

While perhaps not an MBA, these ideas should help you craft an MBA experience.  If – like most young professionals – professional development with prudent financial management is your pursuit, this experience may just fit the bill.

MAFIA Jewellery is a Canadian-based international jewellery company, owned and operated by two young sisters, Victoria and Olivia van Eyk.