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3 years post MBA - a reflection

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3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 04:33
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As I sit here sipping Dunkin Donuts coffee staring at my office computer I realize I missed coming to GC, and more importantly, I dont have a particularly strong desire to work, so instead, I'll just wax nostalgic to a bunch of strangers who likely couldn't care less what my thoughts are.

So, here I am, 2009 Booth grad, roughly 3 years out. How's it played out? Did I make the right choices? What would I have done differently? What was I right about?

There are a few things that I suspected were true - but have become even more clear since:

1. The pedigree of your school will get you an interview, but nothing more, and the relative value of that pedigree diminishes as your career progresses. Make no mistake, a top-tier MBA does open doors, but that's all it will do - you get invited to the party, but you may not get to eat desert. Now, a few years out, its crystal clear that my co-workers couldn't possibly care less that I have an MBA, much less from where I happen to have it (most of the guys I work with are Wharton, HBS, Booth, etc) so I hardly stand out. That doesn't bother me, but I know some friends who seem to have held on to this idea of "I'm from Booth!" and cant' seem to wrap their heads around the idea that someone from Duke or Ross or something might actually be able to get promoted faster based on their performance. One guy I know seems convinced he should be a VP (at a company where being a VP means having perhaps 50 to 100 people below you) despite the fact that he's got maybe 2 to 3 years of relevant experience. He's bitter about his MBA. I can't imagine there are a lot of folks out there like that, but maybe I'm wrong. I guess my point is: have realistic expectations of what you are going to get out of this.

2. A lot of people have no clue what they want to do, and they seem to pick wrong. I am still amazed by the number of individuals I know who have changed jobs already (myself included) since graduating. Some of these folks did it for promotions - but a large number did it for no other reason than they simply hated their jobs. Its perhaps a bit sad that so many people get an MBA and leave with this mentality that they've foudn their calling, only to discover they have not. I have no clue what the % is, and perhaps its inflated in my class because 2009 was such a bad year, but it feels like its at least 50 or 60%. In fact, I can't think of a single friend who hasn't left their old job other than those who founded their own firms.

3. Related to #1 ....the path to "success" is slippery and windy. The relative successes of various folks I know are tremendously varied and seem to be driven by luck as much as anything else. I know one girl who managed to move from Deloitte to one of the big gaming dev shops as a director in strategy. I have no idea what she makes, but it sounds pretty cool and well compensated. Another guy I know moved from a nearly no-name IT tech consultancy to Paypal and is comfortably clearing $200k. Impressive indeed - but I know of at least a dozen others who are still Sr. Associates at consulting firms, one guy who has hopped investment banks a few times but seems stuck at his level, another ex-Bain guy who has struggled to find good employment, and yet another girl I know went into some government job and is now a partner at a small VC firm somehow. Everyone has their own path.... Make no mistake about it - most people are doing just fine, but its clear that there's no magic sauce...

4. The network value is exceptional -- while #1 may be true, the fact that there's a network of folks to call on is outstanding. Don't like your job? No big deal, go to linkedin, hit up 10 classmates and you've probably got an interview in a week. It really is that simple.

So now I should probably be doing some actual work....
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 07:11
Great post! Thanks so much. It's weird being on the other side of that. Gives me more incentive to not pick based on rankings but where I'd like to end up after b-school.
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 07:45
We need more post-MBA reflection posts like this. Thanks, rhyme! Your findings are in line with my expectations, especially #1. Once you've secured a position with a company, it's all about your performance. I do think #4 is a very nice thing to have, which brings me to the conclusion that the degree is particularly useful for your immediate post-MBA job as well as to find opportunities when you need to transition to another job.

I'm interested to hear more about your classmates who found their own firms - whether most of them are sticking with their own firms because entrepreneurship was still the right thing for them three years down the road, or they are still struggling and do not have any other option.

You mentioned that you have changed jobs - Do you think you're closer to your true calling? What advice would you give MBA aspirants to avoid #3, i.e. what to do and not to do during their studies and/or job search in order to find the individual's ideal post-MBA path?
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 07:59
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Great post Rhyme...I am only a few years out but have a similar take on most everything state.

Pedigree seems to be most helpful if that person interviewing/evaluating you also went to a top school or wished they had. Once you are working very few people will care, and sometimes it goes the other way. The expectations placed on me were higher than typical, but with that came much greater opportunities. It did help get some good mentors because you come in with a certain visibility, and there might be some top managers that really want to take future leaders under their wing. That is about the best leverage I had out of my degree once I joined the real world.

The network is much more valuable. Two years out of school and going about the job search again, I can tell you that 99.9% of my success has come through networking. The Kellogg network has been incredibly valuable. You are often just a person or two away from a person of influence at a target company. Combined with linkedin and the ability to connect who knows who, the network of a top school becomes that much more powerful. It helps avoid the blackhole of HR and also gives you some insight on to whether that is a company you really want to join or not. I turned down an offer solely because I talked to several Kellogg alums who had left the company and who provided me with some extremely valuable insights into the culture and the future expected performance of the division I had the offer in.

Post-MBA work experience and how people perceive it ranges greatly and a lot of that is personality. I have friends who are onto job #3 and still feel they are not at the level they deserve, and this is more a function of that person and what I tend to see as unrealistic expectations. Not a whole lot of people have the sense of entitlement but there are some. I worked with a grad from another school that behaved like this, and honestly it probably sank his future career potential more than anything else. On the other end, I have friends who have been promoted annually, skipped a few levels, and are now in some pretty awesome gigs. Rotational folks range from loving it to loathing another move. A lot of consultants I know are looking for the right exit at this point, but there are those who are now up a few levels and can't fathom the pay cut moving into a corporate gig would probably require.

With the economy still not that great, and having come out in 2010 when things pretty much sucked, I tend to think my classmates have done very well for themselves overall. Some people probably are disappointed, but that probably is a result of either unrealistic expectations or just the way the world is working these days. Career changing is a lot harder than it was when most of us were studying for the GMAT 5 years ago. Companies are a lot less likely to take a risk on pure talent without previous experience like they once were.

Overall I would say about half my friends have made switches. Some left because they hated their job, others left for greener pastures, some due to family reasons, and some because they got bored and simply wanted a new challenge.

Huge numbers of folks getting married and tons of couples having kids. Seems like people settle quickly into the family stage after hard partying for a few years. It is funny to get together with friends now, because there will be kids all over the place and sometimes I look at my buddies and can't believe they actually have a kid now.
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 08:11
Thanks rhyme and riverripper for sharing your insights.
It helps to put things into perspective for all prospective mba candidates .
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 08:50
Agreed. I'm looking forward to getting my MBA, but know that it is not the magic pill that will give me happiness. I'm depending on myself to really reflect and find what my passion is so I can hopefully apply it to a future career.
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 10:15
Hey rhyme,

Great post. I (as I'm sure many others) really appreciate the insight you're bringing to the table. So you've confirmed how the top-tier MBA has opened many doors but won't guarantee a completely satisfactory job in the end, hence why so many of your classmates have switched jobs.

Can you elaborate a bit on why or how people "pick wrong" as you alluded to in your second point? Did they pick wrong because they didn't do their homework, or is it more likely that you simply won't know whether a particular industry/function is a good fit for you until you try?

Can you also comment on your personal ROI on the MBA thus far? You don't have to use specifics of course, but when do you estimate you'll come out on top after accounting for 2 years of lost income and the b-school tuition expenses you shelled out?

Thanks ~
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 10:37
+1 to what the above poster said.
In addition to that, I would also like to know the ROI on MBA in relation to school ranking 3-5 years out
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 10:49
Easily the best thread ever.
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 10:54
Thank you both very much for sharing this!

What would interest me: All things considered, would you answer "Was it worth it for you?" with yes or no?
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 11:04
ROI is going to vary so much by person even from the same school. The same job function companies can have pretty wide variations in pay. What career path you are on is a huge difference too, if you are a banker you might make drastically more than someone in product management. Then of course locality is a huge factor, you may make a lot more if you live in San Fran or NYC, but someone in Nashville or Dallas probably will have more free cash. How fast you advance, are you a high potential who is promoted quickly or are you stuck in the crowd getting 3% raises each year. The degree/school might help gets you the job, but your performance is what has the huge influence on your income growth.

My salary pre-MBA was higher than the average for entering students, and even factoring all my student loan payments and higher cost of living I still have better cash flow every month than if I stayed in my old career. If I focused on paying down loans and eliminating them ASAP vs. building a nest egg, saving for a house, retirement, daughter's college, etc. I could be debt free years earlier than I plan to be now. My target is 7-8 years out of school to have no debt, and I took on a pretty hefty amount. Unless you are clearing 100k already you probably will come out ahead in the long run. Then again you need to look at your future options for advancement, such as if you are in a tech area where you are at the top already with no room to grow then it still might be a smart idea.
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 11:06
Quite interested in the point about the great networks you guys have developed. This seems to suggest that for schools with larger intakes, you can develop networks with a larger reach as opposed to a small intake school (like in Europe with sub 100 classes).
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 11:17
Great posts RR & Rhyme - Thank you both for coming back to give your invaluable insights.
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 11:32
I loved this post. I have been contemplating business school for 6 months now. The idea spawned exactly like @rhyme described, out of boredom and discontent. I was very upset that my work was least appreciated within my department but most lauded outside. Colleagues taking my stories and using as their own anecdotes to gain recognition upset me most of the time. The plausible solution to me was get an higher education like it was some kind of a magic pill to cure all my problems.

I prepped for the GMAT and would have finished taking it by now if not for a major accident that put me in bed for a good part of 2 months 4 months ago. This is when I had plenty of time to think about my job and life. I have realized I was doing excellent work but had such bad PR skills. I was always talking more than I should (thanks to my wife pointing it out), brainstorming ideas out loud which made it was easy for others to claim these as their own. I was also showing my discontent which was very visible and loud at times.

I came back to work all healed up physically and I had to change the way I behave at work. I started volunteering for more work groups, spoke only when needed, put on a happy face and played my cards closer to the chest. Immediately within 2 months I was recommended for a promotion. Some of my approaches I use for work are being used more broadly amongst other teams and I am getting the credit for it as well.

My goal of completing my MBA is still very much alive. I plan on getting into school by Fall 2013. My wife wants to do it around the same time I planned on it so we can get it out of the way before we have any kids.

Thank you for such an inspirational message, wish more people actually retrospect themselves instead of blaming everyone else for their problems.

Thanks rhyme....
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 11:37
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LibertyBell wrote:
Thank you both very much for sharing this!

What would interest me: All things considered, would you answer "Was it worth it for you?" with yes or no?


I am not really a fan of that question: "Was it worth it?" (nothing against you personally LibertyBell)

I think you'd be hard pressed to find an MBA grad that would answer "No" to a question of whether applying and attending business school was worth it. It's essentially asking someone whether the entire year (studying/taking GMAT, writing essays and going through self-discovery) and the subsequent two years attending business school was not the best use of their time. That's a hard truth to swallow.

I also think it's hard to quantify the worth of the entire process. MBA grads will likely walk away from school with new friendships, memorable experiences abroad, a network of diverse individuals they would've been unable to meet otherwise, and of course a more polished understanding of basic business principles. Sure, the job landed after graduation may not be as glamorous as originally envisioned, but am I too far off base to expect most (if not all) MBA grads telling themselves, "I experienced more things and met more people in the last two years than I ever could have had I not gone to school." Even if many of those people assess they may not come out on top financially after 5-10 years, who would say such an experience wasn't worth it?

But more importantly, going to business school is such a monumental and expensive personal decision that I think we're all clawing at reasons as to justify the entire process. My guess is, after all is said and done, it'd be really hard to look at it from an unbiased perspective and say, "Nah. Wasn't worth it."
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 12:33
OjilEye wrote:
LibertyBell wrote:
Thank you both very much for sharing this!

What would interest me: All things considered, would you answer "Was it worth it for you?" with yes or no?


I am not really a fan of that question: "Was it worth it?" (nothing against you personally LibertyBell)

I think you'd be hard pressed to find an MBA grad that would answer "No" to a question of whether applying and attending business school was worth it. It's essentially asking someone whether the entire year (studying/taking GMAT, writing essays and going through self-discovery) and the subsequent two years attending business school was not the best use of their time. That's a hard truth to swallow.

I also think it's hard to quantify the worth of the entire process. MBA grads will likely walk away from school with new friendships, memorable experiences abroad, a network of diverse individuals they would've been unable to meet otherwise, and of course a more polished understanding of basic business principles. Sure, the job landed after graduation may not be as glamorous as originally envisioned, but am I too far off base to expect most (if not all) MBA grads telling themselves, "I experienced more things and met more people in the last two years than I ever could have had I not gone to school." Even if many of those people assess they may not come out on top financially after 5-10 years, who would say such an experience wasn't worth it?

But more importantly, going to business school is such a monumental and expensive personal decision that I think we're all clawing at reasons as to justify the entire process. My guess is, after all is said and done, it'd be really hard to look at it from an unbiased perspective and say, "Nah. Wasn't worth it."



You are perfectly right; I did not entirely realize the implications of this question.

Please consider it withdrawn.
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 13:33
Fantastic posts RR & Rhyme! Appreciate your insights. :-D
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 13:44
OjilEye wrote:
LibertyBell wrote:
Thank you both very much for sharing this!

What would interest me: All things considered, would you answer "Was it worth it for you?" with yes or no?


I am not really a fan of that question: "Was it worth it?" (nothing against you personally LibertyBell)

I think you'd be hard pressed to find an MBA grad that would answer "No" to a question of whether applying and attending business school was worth it. It's essentially asking someone whether the entire year (studying/taking GMAT, writing essays and going through self-discovery) and the subsequent two years attending business school was not the best use of their time. That's a hard truth to swallow.

I also think it's hard to quantify the worth of the entire process. MBA grads will likely walk away from school with new friendships, memorable experiences abroad, a network of diverse individuals they would've been unable to meet otherwise, and of course a more polished understanding of basic business principles. Sure, the job landed after graduation may not be as glamorous as originally envisioned, but am I too far off base to expect most (if not all) MBA grads telling themselves, "I experienced more things and met more people in the last two years than I ever could have had I not gone to school." Even if many of those people assess they may not come out on top financially after 5-10 years, who would say such an experience wasn't worth it?

But more importantly, going to business school is such a monumental and expensive personal decision that I think we're all clawing at reasons as to justify the entire process. My guess is, after all is said and done, it'd be really hard to look at it from an unbiased perspective and say, "Nah. Wasn't worth it."


Depends what a candidate wants to gain from an MBA. Some alumni I spoke to old me it's not worth it and it didnt help them apart from getting their first job. I'd be better of looking for a non-mba route in to an advanced role if that's what I want. Later was promoted so didn't need to do an MBA. But now am considering it for different reasons. Which I think will be of greater benefit, even now I want to speak to some alumni and see if it will benefit for what I want to do next. Or am I better off just doing it
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 16:20
Riverripper and Rhyme, thanks. Although your visits are less frequent here, your old posts had a huge impact on my gmat and app prep. It's great to hear an update, hope others come back an share theirs.

Once again, you've simplified the process. Only apply to schools that believe will get you in the door for your first job(because the acronym alone will not, regardless of the school), and will set you up with a network that will help you through life.

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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection [#permalink] New post 24 Oct 2012, 18:25
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OjilEye wrote:
LibertyBell wrote:
Thank you both very much for sharing this!

What would interest me: All things considered, would you answer "Was it worth it for you?" with yes or no?


I am not really a fan of that question: "Was it worth it?" (nothing against you personally LibertyBell)

I think you'd be hard pressed to find an MBA grad that would answer "No" to a question of whether applying and attending business school was worth it. It's essentially asking someone whether the entire year (studying/taking GMAT, writing essays and going through self-discovery) and the subsequent two years attending business school was not the best use of their time. That's a hard truth to swallow.

I also think it's hard to quantify the worth of the entire process. MBA grads will likely walk away from school with new friendships, memorable experiences abroad, a network of diverse individuals they would've been unable to meet otherwise, and of course a more polished understanding of basic business principles. Sure, the job landed after graduation may not be as glamorous as originally envisioned, but am I too far off base to expect most (if not all) MBA grads telling themselves, "I experienced more things and met more people in the last two years than I ever could have had I not gone to school." Even if many of those people assess they may not come out on top financially after 5-10 years, who would say such an experience wasn't worth it?

But more importantly, going to business school is such a monumental and expensive personal decision that I think we're all clawing at reasons as to justify the entire process. My guess is, after all is said and done, it'd be really hard to look at it from an unbiased perspective and say, "Nah. Wasn't worth it."


I think for the most part, you're right, people like to justify their decision. I will give you my answer, mere months out, which is a solid, I don't know. Before I start, I should warn that my comments should be taken in the context of evaluating the degree and not Duke, which I believe is as fine as any if you've made the decision to do an MBA.

I think a business education is extremely valuable, I think about things in a completely different way than previously. Whether the MBA was worth it, like I said, I don't know. I think I'm perhaps a little different than most people in that going into the MBA, I had a job that I actually for the most part enjoyed - I liked the company, I loved the people, and I was close to MBA pay levels. So I doubt I'll get financial ROI out of it, but I knew that going in. I was simply running out of challenges at work and looked at the MBA as a way to change gears and get more challenge. I took a job with a F50 company, which was a totally different experience than what I had previously. In hindsight, I think I actually had a lot more responsibility than I had realized. And as I look at the kind of work that I see some would be MBA candidates doing, I can totally see where an MBA would be 100% worth it. This is all to say that I think your mindset going in makes a lot of difference.

I also am starting to look into other options because I'm not entirely in love with my work. My circumstances are a bit unique, but I also think you just really don't know what the job is like until you start doing it. I'm actually using my pre-MBA network to start looking around, so I can't really speak to tapping into the network (and my network is probably a little young yet anyway being recently out of school).

Anyhow, I'm more than happy to answer questions in more detail via pm to anyone that has questions.
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Re: 3 years post MBA - a reflection   [#permalink] 24 Oct 2012, 18:25
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