The availability of MBA jobs
If you’re considering going to business school, you should feel pretty great about your path to unlocking the good life. After all, the availability of MBA jobs is up across the board, and that includes startups and opportunities for entrepreneurs.
The usual suspects—consulting firms and big banks—are still hiring in droves, but a recent Bloomberg BusinessWeek analysis showed that startups lead the pack among organizations that recruit MBAs on business school campuses. In the summer of 2013, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School reported that the number of its students working summer internships at startups rose 15 percent.
The shift toward the startup
This shift toward entrepreneurship is an interesting change, as business school students embrace the risks and potential rewards of startup companies. This shift is not without its critics. In a controversial article in the Wall Street Journal, noted academic and entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa is unequivocal in stating that the skills taught in business school are incompatible with the demands of the fast-paced startup world.
Tarlin Ray, head of admissions at Metis, Vice President of Kaplan Test Prep, and a veteran of multiple startups, sees it differently: “While I have seen many entrepreneurs do an outstanding job positioning and raising money sans-MBA, it is helpful to have someone with that background on the team and helping to create the pitch.”
Startups wooing MBAs makes sense: business school graduates leave with a wide set of skills and exposure to many sides of business that they can bring to the MBA job search. Young, small companies rely on their employees to be versatile. Fewer heads, more hats.
MBAs looking to succeed in startups have some stereotypes to overcome: that they’re too analytical, have lofty salary expectations and little entrepreneurial experience. “An MBA transcends the stereotype by being one of the team while also having this unique ‘kung fu,’” says Ray. To shake the label, Ray adds, MBAs diving into startup life should expect to run the gamut between answering customer calls for hours on end, to spending the weekend troubleshooting a product.
6 tips on how to get a startup to hire you
If you’re about to graduate from business school with your MBA, here’s how to catch the eye of a startup recruiter:
- DO seek a summer internship with a startup to see if the path is right for you and to show your commitment early.
- DON’T shy away from starting your own business or joining a classmate’s venture.
- DO know that you’re in very good company. Successful startups launched by MBAs include Warby Parker, Birchbox and BaubleBar.
- DON’T neglect industry news. Knowing what matters to startups will make you stand out.
- DO bring a solution: whether it’s coding ability or a knack for networking, find the company’s pain points and come armed with answers.
- DON’T fear the ambiguity. “If you remove the concept of safety and stability from the question and focus more on juxtaposing a position as a consultant versus a position as an operator in a startup there is only one question to ask yourself: Do you want to provide guidance as to the best next steps or would you like to be the one that makes the next steps happen?” says Ray.
Turning your MBA job skill set into entrepreneurship
Business schools differ in focus. Some are stronger in finance; some entrepreneurship; some marketing, but as an MBA, you will graduate with a wide skill set, and it’s up to you to reverse-engineer those skills to appeal to the startup employer.
“As the non-technical person in each of the startups that I have been in, I have driven sales, business development, product, operations, strategy, partnerships, finance, and marketing. Was I an expert in any of those roles? No! Did I have a toolbox to help me handle the role and to figure it out? Absolutely. Startups need individuals that can be generalist and that can morph into different roles. MBAs are the most suited to do that in a startup,” says Ray.
That’s one path to unlocking the good life.
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