Careers in MBA Wonderland

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.

Taking some poetic license, one can describe the MBA school experience as some sort of a wonderland for professionals. It opens up many doors and allows one to meet interesting characters, mirroring the experience of the central character in Carroll’s most famous work. But to paraphrase the Cheshire cat, if one doesn’t know where one wants to go post the MBA, then which program one went to doesn’t matter as much.

In our discussion with applicants, we spend a considerable time unearthing their core motivations and professional goals which prompts their decision to “put down” more than $250K in pursuit of the prestigious degree. Some are very clear about where they are headed and some hope that a proverbial cat may appear and guide them towards their optimum path. Usually, this doesn’t happen as MBA schools largely function as “accelerators” rather than as a “compass”. They can get you faster to where you want to go but seldom help you find your “true north”, notwithstanding all that the glossy brochures may say.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Exit options and job opportunities do exist even for those who mistake an MBA program for a life compass. Here are some trends that we have seen in the last decade and a half working with applicants from around the world.

  • Consulting is the refuge of the undecided.

Consulting firm partners routinely adopt those who don’t know where they are headed. The partners know that consulting is rarely a calling for these lost souls, so the relationship is likely to be temporary. Nevertheless, it works for both parties as consulting can act as a professional compass helping many to find direction. And partners don’t have to worry about the narrowness of their firm’s pyramid. Usually, post a couple of years, most young consultants have found some direction. That direction usually points to – “happy to do anything, but consulting” 😊.

  • Business school is a life-altering experience.

But not in the way many may think. One common change which occurs during the recruitment season is that most socialist goals convert to practical capitalistic ones. The 150K of education debt acts as a catalyst in this alchemy. It’s difficult to change the world and make it work in ideal ways – on a negative bank balance. The rising interest rates have only accelerated this process.

In the midst of this transformation of goals, if our advice is sought, we recommend keeping the desire to change the world alive – but in the back pocket. All other pockets should first attempt to pay back the education debts. The world can wait for you to change it.

  • There are only two kinds of entrepreneurs.

There are those who launch a company and then talk about it and there are those who talk and talk about launching a company one day. That ‘one day’ is the Keyes equivalent of the long term when everyone would be dead, as he famously said. Our next article will offer some clues on which ideation phase entrepreneurs are most likely to actually launch a company.

In summary, if you are lost like Alice in Wonderland, we do consider ourselves as the cats of our field and may help you find your way when you reach out to us.

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