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In retrospect....

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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 18 May 2011, 07:29
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What's the best way to find non-traditional opportunities? How did you know this would be something you find interesting and be happy with? I ask because it seems like people go into traditional paths thinking they'll have interesting work and be happy also. But if those jobs don't turn out as expected, I would think other opportunities would be just as likely to go sour. What's the best way to evaluate a company/position/company culture?


In terms of finding non-traditional opportunities, I think it's mostly about identifying an industry or function and doing as much research as possible on it. Look for industry groups and see who the members are. Look for conferences and exhibitions and see what companies are attending / presenting. Sign up for 10 different LinkedIn or Doostang job search emails and do a quick internet review on each interesting-looking company. Do general LinkedIn searches. Lots of ways but it takes (easy) leg-work. Triangulate that with your school's alumni database and LinkedIn and start to reach out to people that work at your target companies.

In terms of evaluating them, that's a toughie. I think half of it is gut feel (I did not listen to my gut enough when doing on-campus recruiting). The other half is tough. Grill your interviewers (obviously with finesse and tact). Google the company extensively for bad reviews from employees and customers (keeping in mind that most internet reviewers are nutjobs). But mostly try to find about 5 people that you really, really trust to give you their perspective.

Also, as someone mentioned earlier, when you recruit on campus it can be up to a year or more sometimes before you actually join. That makes it hard to define your specific role (consulting is obviously even more ambiguous). When you join just shortly after recruiting, which is more common in non-traditional paths, you can work more to really clarify the types of things you will be doing, especially in the near-term. I joined my 2nd post-MBA company knowing exactly what I would be working on for the first 6 months and a pretty good idea for the first 12-18 months.

When I think of my 5-6 closest alumni friends, the 2 that are happiest with their jobs went the non-traditional, not on-campus route.
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 18 May 2011, 07:35
Rubashov1 wrote:
Quote:
What's the best way to find non-traditional opportunities? How did you know this would be something you find interesting and be happy with? I ask because it seems like people go into traditional paths thinking they'll have interesting work and be happy also. But if those jobs don't turn out as expected, I would think other opportunities would be just as likely to go sour. What's the best way to evaluate a company/position/company culture?


In terms of finding non-traditional opportunities, I think it's mostly about identifying an industry or function and doing as much research as possible on it. Look for industry groups and see who the members are. Look for conferences and exhibitions and see what companies are attending / presenting. Sign up for 10 different LinkedIn or Doostang job search emails and do a quick internet review on each interesting-looking company. Do general LinkedIn searches. Lots of ways but it takes (easy) leg-work. Triangulate that with your school's alumni database and LinkedIn and start to reach out to people that work at your target companies.

In terms of evaluating them, that's a toughie. I think half of it is gut feel (I did not listen to my gut enough when doing on-campus recruiting). The other half is tough. Grill your interviewers (obviously with finesse and tact). Google the company extensively for bad reviews from employees and customers (keeping in mind that most internet reviewers are nutjobs). But mostly try to find about 5 people that you really, really trust to give you their perspective.

Also, as someone mentioned earlier, when you recruit on campus it can be up to a year or more sometimes before you actually join. That makes it hard to define your specific role (consulting is obviously even more ambiguous). When you join just shortly after recruiting, which is more common in non-traditional paths, you can work more to really clarify the types of things you will be doing, especially in the near-term. I joined my 2nd post-MBA company knowing exactly what I would be working on for the first 6 months and a pretty good idea for the first 12-18 months.

When I think of my 5-6 closest alumni friends, the 2 that are happiest with their jobs went the non-traditional, not on-campus route.


Thanks! Very helpful.
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 18 May 2011, 07:49
amylucha wrote:
Great post!!

Question for you (or anyone else) about rankings:

You said they don't really matter in the end, however, I've been struggling with this question and wonder which way I should go:

Pepperdine MBA vs. UCLA MBA

I'm looking at the fully-employed programs at both schools. Under normal circumstances, it would be a no-brainer for me (UCLA!). However, I have the opportunity to complete my MBA at Pepperdine 18 months earlier and with $60,000 savings over UCLA FEMBA.

If I was younger, this decision would be much easier (UCLA!), however, I will be close to 39 years old (!!) when I enter either program. So I am unsure if a degree from UCLA would give me as much benefit over a Pepperdine degree (job-wise) as it would for a much younger candidate.

Any thoughts?



I'm sort of in the same boat as you. I'm wondering if it is really worth it to pay for a top program at my age 34? I also have gone to a few events at Pepperdine and liked the atmosphere.

good luck with your decision!
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 18 May 2011, 07:57
Sage advice rhyme. Thanks
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 18 May 2011, 08:39
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Anyone have insights into the brand management career path? I'm a little afraid of exactly what you are mentioning, that I will get sucked in by one of the big companies and have little room to actually be creative or propose new ideas at my level, and instead be right back where I was, mostly handling the budgets and ad campaign management.

I've had brief interactions with one of the bigger ones just in applying for a pre internship and I can say that I was not at all impressed by how they conduct business so far, in fact it is turning me off to the company in general. I definitely got the feeling that they are used to treating people like crap because they can.
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 18 May 2011, 10:31
Great post guys - Rhyme, Riverripper, and everyone contributing here !! A big kudos to all of you.
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 18 May 2011, 12:10
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mEEchigan04 wrote:
Rubashov1 wrote:

Anyway, at an ASW, I asked the consulting panel about the types of projects they work on. How would I know I wouldn't be tasked with an IT implementation project or worse - staff aug - if I joined their firm. Every panelist up there said that there was no way a client would pay all that money for a top MBA to do anything less than C-level strategy consulting.


I imagine its obvious but they are drinking the koolaid and going to be dissapointed. That simply isn't true. I saw a bunch of Bain consultants spend MONTHS trying to put a $ value on the "Brand" of my prior company. I mean, literally MONTHS on that one piece of work. Strategic? Maybe .... I dont know. Meaningful? Not really. So at the end of this project they present a hundred page deck that effectively concludes that company X has $100M in more "brand equity" than company Y. This wasn't rocket science: start with each firms valuation, adjust for as many things as you can - size, geography, etc... and whatever you can't explain is "brand". They fancied it up with some complicated math and made up metrics, if the industry standard was to use X they would use X+A+2B+3C and then spend 30 pages backing up why that might yield a slightly better figure than just using X. A MCK team I ran into not long ago was working on a valuation model for spare parts. Seriously. Important? Yes, it was used in negotiations in the sale of certain assets, but strategic stuff thats really impactful? No.
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 19 May 2011, 00:30
This has been one of the most valuable threads around, especially with riverripper and rhyme weighing in with the one-year reunions and fellow alumni and how quickly they switched out of their tried-and-true post-MBA jobs and found something that was a better fit. The more examples and specifics, the better for us prospectives as we plan our MBA paths..
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 19 May 2011, 06:43
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Michmax3 wrote:
Anyone have insights into the brand management career path? I'm a little afraid of exactly what you are mentioning, that I will get sucked in by one of the big companies and have little room to actually be creative or propose new ideas at my level, and instead be right back where I was, mostly handling the budgets and ad campaign management.

I've had brief interactions with one of the bigger ones just in applying for a pre internship and I can say that I was not at all impressed by how they conduct business so far, in fact it is turning me off to the company in general. I definitely got the feeling that they are used to treating people like crap because they can.


I dont have a lot to add to your question but I thought I'd share one anecdote: I recall a story told by one of our professors that went something like this: Guy gets hired to be a assistant brand manager at a large CPG, and is placed in charge of some toothpaste. But not the entire toothpaste product. Just the travel sized one. And not the whole tube, just the lettering. But not the logo, and not the font, but the coloring and text underneath. In a typical MBA fashion, guy comes in and suggests that the right strategy is to complete an LBO of their next biggest competitor, sell off the pieces and own the market.....

Brand marketing is one of those things that seems really rewarding when you reach a certain point in the career - true P&L ownership, etc. In the short term it sounds a bit less exciting (to me personally). The pay is also weaker than most careers (early on anyway), but the work life balance is considered very good. The roles tend to appeal to those interested in general management because they generally offer the opportunity to work on everything from sourcing/procurement, marketing, legal, finance, pricing, etc. It's a multidisciplinary job.
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 19 May 2011, 06:51
Quote:

But mostly try to find about 5 people that you really, really trust to give you their perspective.



Good advice. When I was considering my current role I reached out to two classmates who came from the firm. One was then working in private equity consulting practice of one of the M/B/Bs. It doesn't get much more sexy or desirable than that and yet, six months into the job, he told me he sometimes thinks of going back. That was pretty telling: He's making really good money doing one of the most in-demand jobs you could possibly get out of an MBA and yet he *actively* entertains going back to his old job? That said a lot.
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 19 May 2011, 07:03
rhyme wrote:
mEEchigan04 wrote:
Rubashov1 wrote:

Anyway, at an ASW, I asked the consulting panel about the types of projects they work on. How would I know I wouldn't be tasked with an IT implementation project or worse - staff aug - if I joined their firm. Every panelist up there said that there was no way a client would pay all that money for a top MBA to do anything less than C-level strategy consulting.


I imagine its obvious but they are drinking the koolaid and going to be dissapointed. That simply isn't true. I saw a bunch of Bain consultants spend MONTHS trying to put a $ value on the "Brand" of my prior company. I mean, literally MONTHS on that one piece of work. Strategic? Maybe .... I dont know. Meaningful? Not really. So at the end of this project they present a hundred page deck that effectively concludes that company X has $100M in more "brand equity" than company Y. This wasn't rocket science: start with each firms valuation, adjust for as many things as you can - size, geography, etc... and whatever you can't explain is "brand". They fancied it up with some complicated math and made up metrics, if the industry standard was to use X they would use X+A+2B+3C and then spend 30 pages backing up why that might yield a slightly better figure than just using X. A MCK team I ran into not long ago was working on a valuation model for spare parts. Seriously. Important? Yes, it was used in negotiations in the sale of certain assets, but strategic stuff thats really impactful? No.


This is a great thread with a ton of useful information for us incoming students. Is it possible to give a bit more background on what you all are doing in these "non-traditional" careers. Is that all strategic stuff that's really impactful?
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 19 May 2011, 13:05
I believe a non-traditional route is the best for me as the more I learn about large consultancies the less enamored I become. What role (if any) can your school's career development center play in identifying firms or providing another bit of feedback about a potential path?

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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 19 May 2011, 16:14
rhyme wrote:
I dont have a lot to add to your question but I thought I'd share one anecdote: I recall a story told by one of our professors that went something like this: Guy gets hired to be a assistant brand manager at a large CPG, and is placed in charge of some toothpaste. But not the entire toothpaste product. Just the travel sized one. And not the whole tube, just the lettering. But not the logo, and not the font, but the coloring and text underneath. In a typical MBA fashion, guy comes in and suggests that the right strategy is to complete an LBO of their next biggest competitor, sell off the pieces and own the market.....

Brand marketing is one of those things that seems really rewarding when you reach a certain point in the career - true P&L ownership, etc. In the short term it sounds a bit less exciting (to me personally). The pay is also weaker than most careers (early on anyway), but the work life balance is considered very good. The roles tend to appeal to those interested in general management because they generally offer the opportunity to work on everything from sourcing/procurement, marketing, legal, finance, pricing, etc. It's a multidisciplinary job.


ouch lol, that definitely makes me consider working for a non-traditional company where I might be able to take on a little more responsibility. I am really interested in more of the product development side, but I am guessing this might be hard to get into without any engineering background. I saw this fascinating segment on CNBC the other night about Supermarkets and the steps Pure (Henkel I believe) took to research, design and market some innovative packaging that's going to revolutionize the detergent industry and get it into the stores. That kind of thing really interests me but it's hard to know what steps the people working on this project took to get there. I imagine a product/brand manager has some input on this, but the level of which probably varies from company to company, with the smaller ones offering more of a chance to be involved at the concept level. Guess I have some research to do, but not sure how to connect with people currently in the industry right now. Is it too late to start looking at these things once school has started if you at least have a general idea of what you want to do?
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 20 May 2011, 05:26
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Michmax3 wrote:
rhyme wrote:
I dont have a lot to add to your question but I thought I'd share one anecdote: I recall a story told by one of our professors that went something like this: Guy gets hired to be a assistant brand manager at a large CPG, and is placed in charge of some toothpaste. But not the entire toothpaste product. Just the travel sized one. And not the whole tube, just the lettering. But not the logo, and not the font, but the coloring and text underneath. In a typical MBA fashion, guy comes in and suggests that the right strategy is to complete an LBO of their next biggest competitor, sell off the pieces and own the market.....

Brand marketing is one of those things that seems really rewarding when you reach a certain point in the career - true P&L ownership, etc. In the short term it sounds a bit less exciting (to me personally). The pay is also weaker than most careers (early on anyway), but the work life balance is considered very good. The roles tend to appeal to those interested in general management because they generally offer the opportunity to work on everything from sourcing/procurement, marketing, legal, finance, pricing, etc. It's a multidisciplinary job.


ouch lol, that definitely makes me consider working for a non-traditional company where I might be able to take on a little more responsibility. I am really interested in more of the product development side, but I am guessing this might be hard to get into without any engineering background. I saw this fascinating segment on CNBC the other night about Supermarkets and the steps Pure (Henkel I believe) took to research, design and market some innovative packaging that's going to revolutionize the detergent industry and get it into the stores. That kind of thing really interests me but it's hard to know what steps the people working on this project took to get there. I imagine a product/brand manager has some input on this, but the level of which probably varies from company to company, with the smaller ones offering more of a chance to be involved at the concept level. Guess I have some research to do, but not sure how to connect with people currently in the industry right now. Is it too late to start looking at these things once school has started if you at least have a general idea of what you want to do?


Definitely not too late once school has started, especially in two-year programs, since hardcore recruiting won't start until midway through the year (of course you might be a lot busier than you were before school, depending on the type of job you had). Your career center will have additional resources for that sort of research, plus the general knowledge of your peers on campus will help to answer the sorts of issues you raised.

One of the challenges for non-traditional routes (and even traditional routes such as PE/VC) is the timing versus on-campus recruiting. I think part of the reason I went the consulting route was because of the security of getting a job through on-campus recruiting and essentially having a year of worry-free fun after that. Of the two people I mentioned who love their jobs the most, one got hers about a month before graduation and the other got his three months after graduation.

So you'll have to make the big decision whether to not fully participate in on-campus recruiting and wait to find something less traditional later in the year.
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 21 May 2011, 08:42
Fantods wrote:

This is a great thread with a ton of useful information for us incoming students. Is it possible to give a bit more background on what you all are doing in these "non-traditional" careers. Is that all strategic stuff that's really impactful?


I am also curious to know as to what constitutes a "non-traditional" career ? Any explanation would be greatly appreciated.
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 22 May 2011, 08:05
Very useful post, thank you.
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 22 May 2011, 09:13
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So to clarify... there is a spectrum of traditional and non-traditional. Way on the left, is all the stuff you basically associated with a typical post MBA job: consulting, banking, finance, etc. In the middle are jobs that differ on one or two dimensions: perhaps a bit of a niche job in consulting (rather than mass market strategy) or jobs in otherwise atypical locations (ghana) or positions that are otherwise uncommon but not unheard of. All the way on the right are jobs that are in atypical industries and atypical functions that you just wouldnt expect to see (e.g. university professor).

The "menu" of jobs you are offered through your career services office seems large but is really woefully small in many ways: If you want to do something in marketing there's really basically two jobs functions: brand mgmt and research. In consulting its generally breaks out against IT, strategy or ops. In banking the big debate is always buy vs sell side. In corporate jobs, 90% of your options are in general mgmt or corporate finance. And then, every now and then is something a little unique: business development for a commercial real estate developer in dubai for instance, head of a foreign language school in Ecuador, etc. When I say 'non-traditional' I mean both these kinds of jobs (non traditional in location, function, industry etc) as well as non-traditional in the sense that they just aren't common post-MBA choices.

Put differently, in general, the top 5 job functions (consulting, banking, im, company finance and gm) employ 70% of the class at booth. The top 5 industries employ nearly 68% of hires. The top 20 companies will employ nearly 50% of the entire class, the top 10 employ nearly 30%. And of course, 80% of jobs are "school facilitated". If you stop and think about it - that basically means that just about EVERYONE gets a job from a pre-screened list of employers that changes infrequently.

In my case, my job is non-traditional in the sense that they aren't a typical Booth recruiter (they dont come to campus, dont post etc), its not so non-traditional in the sense that I'm in a big city, im in broad diversified financial services and my job could largely be categorized as 'general management'. From my year, I'm the ONLY booth grad at this company (well, actually now two as I referred someone). Thats not to say they dont have MBAs - there are plenty: I work with a guy from wharton executive program, two hbs'ers, etc ....so there's plenty of MBA talent but no really active recruiting.

In my prior job, I was one of something like 36 MBAs brought on that year and it was hard to not feel like they just tried to find a place for everyone and give us all fairly similar experiences. And thats exactly what we got. My current role is night and day by comparison. Instead of being one of 30 people moving in some kind of pre-defined rigid system, I'm in control of what I do and that's made all the difference. Without getting to specific... compared to before where I spent months on what I would consider academic exercises (valuing 'customer satisfaction' scores or running hundreds of what-if scenarios no matter how unlikely), I am now working on real multi million dollar investments that will bear real fruit.

My point is that if you looked around on campus and at job postings, this company would NEVER get on your radar. Or if it did, you'd dismiss it as some odd choice that no one wants (because, admittedly people tend to gravitate to the known quantities). MBAs are notoriously risk averse (hence why they get an MBA) and sometimes the path less taken truly is the better choice. I define nontraditional as just that: something most of your peers aren't doing.

My advice is simple: Look beyond "the usual suspects"
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 22 May 2011, 09:23
Thanks a ton rhyme, for yet another gem of a post, as always !!
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 22 May 2011, 11:22
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As someone who has been out of b-school for 10 years (yikes), what rhyme and others have said is spot on.

One thing to keep in mind about traditional vs. non-traditional: work visas.

One of the reasons why the "traditional" recruiters are well, traditional and suck up a big chunk of the class at all top b-schools is the immigration issue.

At US b-schools, around 33-50% of the class are internationals (i.e. those who aren't US citizens or green card holders). So if they want to stay in the US post-MBA, they need an employer to sponsor them for an H1 visa (assuming they aren't married to an American).

And the traditional MBA recruiters are usually most willing to sponsor internationals without batting an eye. They hire MBAs by the boatload, and whose HR departments are very very well versed in the ins and outs of the byzantine US immigration system which can even confuse a theoretical physicist with a PhD from MIT. (Aside: if you've ever had to bring as part of your medical check up and records your chest X-ray film to the consulate because they require you to do so, you'll start to wonder what the point of it is -- what is an immigration officer going to do with an X-ray of your chest?)

So with 33-50% of the class (and most wanting to stay in the US post-MBA at least for a few years), that's a huge chunk of the class who feel their efforts are best spent going after employers that are most willing to sponsor them (and even then, it's really limited to consulting, financial services, and technology firms. Consumer products companies don't like sponsoring internationals typically and it may be a matter of company policy for these firms; tech firms will sponsor MBAs but may be more gun shy than consulting firms, since tech firms want to allocate as much of their H1 visas to hiring technical folks; leadership development programs and general mgmt jobs also don't always want to sponsor internationals).

Once you go to the "non-traditional" route within the US, it becomes very hit and miss. A lot of non-profit foundations for example won't sponsor internationals. Non-traditional MBA industries like sports, entertainment, advertising, fashion, gaming, etc. aren't as familiar with MBAs in their workplace in the first place, and asking them to sponsor you for an H1 may only make it harder. Doesn't mean it's impossible to get sponsorship from firms in non-traditional industries - it's just a harder sell, and very hit-and-miss that will depend on the individual firm in question.

And when you're an international faced with a huge debt to pay off, it can be the most practical thing to suck it up, work for the evil McKinsey Death Star, (cue Star Wars music) for a few years so you can pay off at least a good chunk of that debt, gain some solid experience and branding on your resume before taking off. It's a lower stress way in an environment of risk averse MBAs while you're still in school to just take the M/B/B or whatever traditional job, rather than what can be perceived as the "needle in the haystack" that is non-traditional MBA industries especially for internationals.

Which leads to another point. Even for those without real work visa hurdles (i.e. EU nationals going back to Europe, Americans working in the US, Asians going back to Asia), at least from my experience and what I've heard from so many clients over the years -- most people in b-school aren't expecting their first post-MBA job to be their ideal job.

A lot of MBA students in school hear enough stories from recent grads who move on within 1-2 years. So in a way that is what they're anticipating and expecting to happen. Whether it's selling your soul to Bain or being a greedy banker at Morgan Stanley, most expect their first post-MBA job to be a transitional thing. It's a "I'll take this job and then go from there" as opposed to "I've arrived baby!".

After 5 years or so (and seeing what has happened with many of the MBAs of my generation who graduated 10 years ago), a lot more of us end up in what is called non-traditional MBA land anyhow. In fact, I would say most of us don't work at the big name MBA factories. Some are in consulting, but work in small boutiques (or have their own). Some are in finance, but work at very small funds or shops. Or they have their own business, or do something completely unrelated to what they ever expected. And it's all okay.

My main point is, don't feel compelled to HAVE to go the non-traditional route immediately after b-school. It's certainly a road worth pursuing if you have the opportunity to right away, but don't feel that just because you end up in a traditional job, you'll be "stuck" or "trapped" there forever. In fact, chances are you'll be out of there within 1-2 years, and most likely within 5 years.

In the end, most of you probably won't become fabulously wealthy, but you'll be somewhat comfortable and more importantly probably happier than you expect -- but that happiness probably won't be what you believe it to be now (and it won't be centered around your career either even if your career paradoxically will probably turn out just fine).

Disclaimer: I went the non-traditional route right after b-school working at a VC-backed animation studio. Looking back, I was extremely lucky to have stuck to my guns and gone the non-traditional route -- I purposely avoided the meat grinder MBA factories like consulting and finance and never had to resort to doing that at all, but I don't think everyone else needs to do the same thing I did either.
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Re: In retrospect.... [#permalink] New post 22 May 2011, 17:47
AlexMBAApply wrote:
Aside: if you've ever had to bring as part of your medical check up and records your chest X-ray film to the consulate because they require you to do so, you'll start to wonder what the point of it is -- what is an immigration officer going to do with an X-ray of your chest?)


Sadly, the days of this may soon be over. They have finally (I hear) developed a TB test that understands the fact that the rest of the world uses the BCG as an inoculation. Which having been subject to the nonsense "proving I don't have TB" process is a little sad, but somewhat finally keeping with the times.
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Re: In retrospect....   [#permalink] 22 May 2011, 17:47
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