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Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance?

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Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 12 Aug 2008, 16:27
Just for my info, which MBA job has the best work-life balance. I know IB has the least. but what about others?
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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 12 Aug 2008, 17:48
A lot of the general management-type jobs have a good work-life balance. I know quite a few people in my industry (pharma) that put in ~9 hours a day, 5 days a week.

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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 12 Aug 2008, 17:57
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I disagree with your off-handed assumption that IB is the worst. My personal view is that it would be worse to be away from home 4-5 days every week (definitely a part of life with some consulting firms). Beyond just the travel and the fact that you'll most often be in terrible cities where you have no friends or family and the best meal you can get is at an Applebee's, my friends in consulting tell me that some senior execs view them as on-the-job for the duration while they are on the road, doing things such forcing everyone to have dinner together or scheduling daily "team meetings" at 10PM or 7AM. Not cool. I also think that quality of life would be terrible if you took a job that forced you to be stationed someplace like Detroit or Cleveland or frankly lots of other places; this varies according to each individual, of course, but I'd be 100% happier walking out of an office each night at 10PM into the streets of SF or LA than at 6PM into the streets of Tulsa or Toledo or some place like that. Yuck. Finally, I think that people too-often give management rotational programs a free pass in terms of quality of life. Some of those programs force you to move every 6 months to a different city (Chevron has one like this, but it's pretty common) for some period of time, usually two years. To me, this type of deal is about as bad as it gets. You get to move somewhere where you have no choice and don't know anyone, and just as soon as you get to know people, it's time to move again - to some other place chosen for its business appeal (it's cheap for the company). If you're married, your spouse is gonna love finding a new job every six months.

But, the sacrifices involved in each of these cases varies according to the individual. True story, my best friend from college (he doesn't have an MBA) is now a senior manager with a big consulting firm (not Big 3), been there 8+ years. He just had a kid last year, and wanted to spend less time on the road, but stay on his career path. A few months ago he agreed to be relocated to Detroit :shock: from his beach home in LA because they had a position there that required a lot less travel (car companies and affiliates need a lot of help these days). You can't tell me that being on the road constantly doesn't suck worse than just about anything imaginable when people are willing to accept relocation to Detroit to cut down on travel. Seriously, I'd volunteer to work every weekend for a year to avoid getting relocated to Detroit.

Work-life balance is about more than hours. Jack Welch had a webcast (I bet it's available online somewhere) where he talks about work-life choices, rather than work-life balance. Actually I found a link to his article on career management, although originally I heard it in a webcast. According to Jack "hen you choose to work 35 hours a week in order to [more of your family], you’re also choosing to take yourself off the fast track to senior management." Read the rest here:

http://www.welchway.com/Management/Care ... oices.aspx

I think a better question to ask is what sacrifices will you have to make to participate in the different common MBA professions, and what benefits will you experience? Will it be long hours, grueling travel, low pay, slow career advancement, mind-numbing work, undesirable locales, and certainly lots of other things. Will you get high pay, a location popular with young professionals, fast-track career advancement, lot's of prestige/cred that you can take with you, or other nice benefits. You should take everything into account when you make your decision, not just hours - unless that's the only thing that you're concerned about (in which case you should probably take the civil-service exam rather than apply for an MBA).
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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 12 Aug 2008, 18:32
Pelihu,

Out of curiosity, have you ever been to Detroit? It seems like you vehemently defend the good name of banking when people talk about it without much background. It sounds like you are doing the same thing to Detroit.
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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 12 Aug 2008, 18:47
I believe Pelihu graduated from Michigan Law School, so I am sure he is informed on the state of Detroit. And I agree with him for the most part.

However, as a fiercely loyal Michigander, I would encourage him to remember how beautiful the rest of the state is when you get out of the suburbs out towards the Great Lakes area... only a few hours away. :wink:


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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 12 Aug 2008, 19:03
Totally agree -- Pelihu, I know you went to Michigan for law school, but you make Detroit seem like the worst place on earth. This is not fair and your generalizations are borderline offensive. Granted, Detroit is not a great city but Metro Detroit is not that bad, and people who work commute from places like Royal Oak and Ann Arbor. And there are parts of Detroit that are definitely livable. Many people who live in Michigan bash Detroit without spending time there and I cannot stand it. Yes, Detroit is not Chicago or NYC or SF. But you can have fun in the Motor City too.

To me, the one thing about banking that is killer is the fact that you have to be prepared to cancel your personal events on any given notice. Now that can happen in any job, including consulting. It's just much more prevalent in banking from what I have observed. Also, I think there is more flexibility in regional offices compared to the horror stories I have heard from those in NYC.

misterlev wrote:
Pelihu,

Out of curiosity, have you ever been to Detroit? It seems like you vehemently defend the good name of banking when people talk about it without much background. It sounds like you are doing the same thing to Detroit.

Last edited by MGOBLUE2 on 12 Aug 2008, 19:41, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 12 Aug 2008, 19:19
I think it's a personal preference - I travel to Royal Oak/Troy/Detroit on a fairly regular basis for work and on every flight, I wish I could instead be going some place more fun like NYC, Boston or SF. On the other hand, some of my teammates LOVE those cities and really like going there. It just varies :wink:

MGOBLUE2 wrote:
Totally agree -- Pelihu, I know you went to Michigan for law school, but you make Detroit seem like the worst place on earth. This is not fair and your generalizations are borderline offensive. Granted, Detroit is not a great city but Metro Detroit is not that bad, and people who work commute from places like Royal Oak and Ann Arbor. And there are parts of Detroit that are definitely livable. Many people who live in Michigan bash Detroit without spending time there and I cannot stand it. Yes, Detroit is not Chicago or NYC or SF. But you can have fun in the in the Motor City too.

To me, the one thing about banking that is killer is the fact that you have to be prepared to cancel your personal events on any given notice. Now that can happen in any job, including consulting. It's just much more prevalent in banking from what I have observed. Also, I think there is more flexibility in regional offices compared to the horror stories I have heard from those in NYC.

misterlev wrote:
Pelihu,

Out of curiosity, have you ever been to Detroit? It seems like you vehemently defend the good name of banking when people talk about it without much background. It sounds like you are doing the same thing to Detroit.
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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 12 Aug 2008, 22:15
Yes, as others have pointed out I spent 3 years at Michigan Law School so I know all about Detroit. Detroit is one of the few places where the homicide rate is on the rise, has the highest unemployment of any major city, heads the list of cities in Fortune magazine that people are fleeing, has a tremendous imbalance in the availability of lower wage workers (McDonald's just can't compete with a union job many such places go dark at weird hours) and is the poster child for urban blight. Still, as I have pointed out in other threads, I'm not trying to bash Detroit (or Cleveland, or Toledo or any of the many other cities I've named off before) specifically; rather it's an example of a place that stands in stark contrast to say, San Francisco. People holding MBAs would kill to be in one of those cities, and do all they can to avoid the other; not my opinion, it's a fact borne out by years of job trends. I do agree that other parts of Michigan are very nice - Ann Arbor is a great college town (a bit cold for my tastes, but the football pretty much makes up for that), historical Plymouth is nice and I think Mackinac Island is awesome; but talking about those places is kind of like talking about NY, but only thinking about Nantucket or the Hamptons. If you're working in Detroit, it's no picnic; but again I'm just using it as an example that people can relate to. There are any number of cities that, for me personally, would be a significant negative when compared with preferred destinations like LA or SF, but it's obviously a personal viewpoint and everyone will have their own preferences.

But, I think the point of my prior message is sound. When talking about work-life balance (or choices), you must consider more than just the number of hours required by each job. If you were to ask MBA students at top schools whether they would prefer to work in a city like [insert city that you hate so I can avoid naming any more names] or work a couple more hours per day and live in SF or NY, I think there would be a clear preference for the more fun cities. In fact, MBAs vote with their feet (and their careers) every year; they know that hours are grueling in NY, especially in IB, yet NY and IB are among the most popular destinations year after year. Would most MBAs choose a higher salary or shorter hours in [some random city]? Again, they vote with their feet - it doesn't shock me that the most popular destinations year after year (consulting and banking) also happen to be the most lucrative of the big MBA employers.

But, I'm really not trying to argue for one preference over another. I can definitely understand the appeal of a 40-hour a week job that pays near 6-figures and I can understand that people have friend and family ties to cities other than NY, LA and SF. But, it's also good to remember that people seem willing to trade some longer hours and higher cost of living for the chance to live in a cities that host world-class cultural, music and sporting events, where celebrity chefs open their restaurants, and where they will be around other young professionals like themselves on the business fast-track.

Sure, there are definitely reasons why someone might prefer (or is that settle for) a job in [random city]; but it's clear that top students at the best schools make NY, SF, LA, CHI their preferred destinations each and every year. They know that the cost of living is high an that hours will likely be longer, but spectacular opportunities in these cities really magnify the "life" portion of the work-life equation. On the other hand, I can definitely understand why some people avoid banking and consulting because of the demands that these jobs put on them.
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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 13 Aug 2008, 03:25
It doesn't really seem insightful or valuable to say that Detroit is not as good as New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or Los Angeles. Nobody is aruging that it is one of the top 4 cities in the country. I think your point about those big cities misses the mark in two major ways. The first is that, regardless of whether or not you delude yourself about how great banking is, people are working a lot of hours. Call it 60 or 70 or 80 or 90, but my friends who live and work in NYC spend time in the office and in their beds. The second problem is that you mistake the draw of culture for the draw of money. If people could make 250 grand a year at 23 in Toledo or Omaha or Billings, they would live there.

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The Red Wings have been the best team in hockey for the last 15 years, the Pistons have made the Eastern Conference Finals for the last 6 years, and Detroit has more musical history and depth than almost any place in the country.

We also have a Wolfgang Puck restaurant!

It's not that important to me... I live in a suburb and I don't often go to Detroit. However, I don't think you can malign it as such a terrible place. All big cities have crime, and all big cities have economic fluctuations. The unemployment in Detroit is directly related to the auto industry, and the murder rate and the rate of flight are directly related to unemployment, not some inherent flaws in the city or its people. Hopefully everybody on GMAT Club will get into H/S/W and figure out how to improve our domestic auto manufacturers!
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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 13 Aug 2008, 04:05
Good post Pelihu!

I didn't know we had so many loyal Michiganders on the board willing to defend the state.

Pelihu also brings up an interesting debate - do newly minted MBAs go to these cities for the jobs, or the culture, or both?

Oh well, good points all around, and I think Pelihu's original post defending the banking v. consulting time is very very important to note. More hours in the office v. a lot more hours away from home but weekends off (hopefully)
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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 13 Aug 2008, 06:11
misterlev wrote:
If people could make 250 grand a year at 23 in Toledo or Omaha or Billings, they would live there.


I certainly know that I would not. I have a couple of friends who got offered six-figures to go work at larger companies in smaller towns out of undergrad. They have saved a lot of money - but they have had a miserable 2 years outside of work and they hate their lives. It's an enormous trade-off to make. The biggest thing that they lack is a solid network of peers and friends who are on a similar track. Most of the young people in a town like Toledo or Omaha are not exactly fast track M7 MBA types. There's also a reason why a company located in an undesirable location has to pay a premium dollar-wise to attract top talent to move to its town.

For an MBA, the big trade-off is, what happens when you're done with that $250K/year job in Toledo? Eventually you're going to cap out there and get bored. Everyone always wants more money. If there is no space in the corporate heirarchy to promote you within 5-10 years to a $500K or $1M type job, what are you going to do? Find another job in Toledo? Sounds pretty doubtful. However, the network that you make in NY/SF/LA can sustain you throughout your whole career, and so can the opportunities that abound in these cities. The question starts to become - do you want to move around all the time, or do you want to stay put in a big urban area? Do you want a stagnant salary or do you want dynamic career growth? These also factor into this so-called "work life" equation.

P.S. I hope noone on here lives in Toledo, otherwise I'm sure I'll be getting an earful.
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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 13 Aug 2008, 06:19
Just to return to the topic, which is the best work-life balance field, and not the WORST.

Are there any other fields besides general management?
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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 13 Aug 2008, 06:23
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This is a great thread and a great debate. I took a little offense on the Tulsa comment, but that lasted all of about 5 seconds. (After all, it's OKC not Tulsa that's getting [stolen to those of you in Seattle] an NBA team).

I think some are jumping on pelihu because of some of his remarks. While he seems to be making them rather forcefully, he repeatedly stated it was his opinion an wasn't imposing his view on anyone elses. We can agree with him or say "Nope, I disagree." In the end, it's just his opinion. If he offends you by what he's said, don't ask your post-MBA boss to sugar coat everything for you.

As for the city debate...I'd like to comment, but I can't really because if you add up the population of every place I've lived, it might hit 7 digits (OKC proper is only about 500,000 people - add small suburb/towns around it goes to a million). I've visited LA and Boston and absolutely loved every minute of my trips. I also don't forget that a $135k a year job in Boston gives you the same buying power in Boston that about $90k a year gives you in OKC. We have culture here, but you'll find more people that equate fine cuisine with the best BBQ place they've been to recently.

It's not better, not worse, just different. I think that's what pelihu is saying about location and that "people vote with their feet" is a perfect way of saying it. Each person has to make up his or her own mind and weigh each factor. I have a wife and 2 kids. I'm not going to move to Detroit in a million years (more because my brother used to be an ER resident doctor there and freaked me out with his stories, and to avoid posts about this YES I REALIZE HIS STORIES ARE PROBABLY NOT TYPICAL). I love the midwest and would love to live in Chicago, but if post-MBA one of the huge energy companies back here in OKC offers me a good enough job...I'm coming back. It's not that I don't think I would like Chicago, NYC, LA, or Boston, I just really like Oklahoma City. I do place value on my family's happiness and where my friends live. I say this, but if I get admitted to Kellogg of Chicago like I want, I may never want to leave.

My advice:

1) Get some thicker skin. If 1 person doesn't like Detroit, so what? At least he spent 3 years in Ann Arbor and has more credibility in saying so than someone like me that's only been to Michigan once.

2) Appreciate a different perspective. If you find yourself completely disagreeing with someone, ask yourself this, "What about that person's background brings them to think that? How would I think differently if I had their experiences?" pelihu isn't a bad guy - just opinionated (gotta stick up for another lawyer!)

3) Don't care so much about unsolicited advice. (Applies for these 3 points of advice too.)

terp06 - did your friends even try to make friends in their new place? If they had an attitude like "I'm only here for the money. I don't want to be here. I hate this." People can tell that and aren't going to go out of their way to make friends with someone that has that attitude.

I also loved the comment about the civil service exam if hours are really a concern. There really is more to work post-MBA from a top school than just hours.
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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 13 Aug 2008, 06:35
Some interesting comments on here. I will argue there are plenty of MBAs who would willingly go to small cities where there is a much quieter lifestyle. Plenty of family types who dont want to spend their lives in the rush of NYC, SF, LA, Boston, Chicago, etc...Just like HBS is not for everyone the same can be said about the big cities.

As for work-life balance, unfortunately in America we work too much. Even the GM, Marketing, and other corporate jobs that typically are viewed as superior than IB or MC interms of work/life balance routinely require 60+ hour weeks. It does vary greatly by company, I have talked to people who work 40-50 hours most weeks with the occasion 60+ week depending on whats going on. While in the same industry some people work 60 every single week. This is where enjoying what you do is important.

Personally a huge paycheck is only valuable if I did get some time off to enjoy it and all those crazy hours are spent doing something that I actually enjoy. I have met some miserable people who live in a huge house they never see, have a couple exotic cars they never get to enjoy, and a vacation home their family goes to on weekends while they work. To sacrafice all that time with your loved ones you better like what you do a whole lot. I would be interesting to see what divorse rates are in all the different career paths...that would be an interesting phd study right.

Sure they say hours in IB improve as you move up but if you have kids relatively soon after graduating (seems pretty common) then you are going to miss so many big events. Hours for a senior executive at a major company could easily be worse than a long time banker. Whats right for some people is wrong for others. Depends what motivates you and what interests you. If you want to make big money and could care less about working long hours then dont let someone who would be comfortable making 250k sway you. Banking may not be as attractive in a few years anyways, not saying the pay wont be high but there may be far fewer jobs and a lot more new frustrating government regs.
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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 13 Aug 2008, 06:46
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The most important thing, that I believe many MBAs sometimes seem to casually forget about, is looking at the whole career path. Let's say you decide to go into investment banking. Where will this take you 5 years from now? 10 years from now? 15 years from now? Let's also look at the path for consulting, general management (varies way too much), etc. These are not earth shattering, ground breaking new fields - the career paths for most MBA-type jobs/fields is fairly straight forward and easy to predict.

If all of us were able to plan 15 years out back when we were starting high school, we'd all be shoo-ins for HBS/Stanford at this point. I know that I certainly didn't, but I've learned from my mistake and I am going to be paying very close attention to the long-term path of whichever route I decide to take. While some people come to MBA programs without any idea of what they want to do, and this is frowned upon and generally ends up in poor career results post-MBA; I would have to argue that those who take jobs based on the initial paycheck/hours/location other things, and ignore the overall career path should be frowned upon even more. Isn't that why a lot of people go into Engineering out of Undergrad and then later on decide to get MBAs?

A close family member of mine attended a Top 10 school in the late 80s, and it is really interesting to see where his classmates have ended up. He knew almost all of his classmates, and it is shocking how straight and narrow the career paths of his classmates have been after they graduated in 1989. The guys who went into banking are now managing directors at their respective banks, the guys who went into consulting may have made principal/partner or may be in industry, and the guys who took industry jobs are generally in the depths of middle-management. These are all guys in their late 40s, so as a factor of their age, they may not have had a chance to make it up to upper-management at the Fortune 500s yet. Don't get me wrong, there were certainly a few surprises, a few 180 turns, a few entrepeneurs, etc. but I would still venture to say that at least 70% of the class has followed the career paths they set out on after graduation.
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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 13 Aug 2008, 06:59
jallenmorris wrote:

terp06 - did your friends even try to make friends in their new place? If they had an attitude like "I'm only here for the money. I don't want to be here. I hate this." People can tell that and aren't going to go out of their way to make friends with someone that has that attitude.


That's a really good point. I didn't follow their day-to-day lives in their small towns, so I really don't know how they may have come off.
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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 13 Aug 2008, 07:11
terp06,

at the same time we wonder about your friend's attitudes...small town people can be very peculiar sometimes too. It the "outsider" syndrome. If they don't know you already, then in their mind, they don't ever need to. Strange, but it's an attitude many people in a small town share.

terp06 wrote:
jallenmorris wrote:

terp06 - did your friends even try to make friends in their new place? If they had an attitude like "I'm only here for the money. I don't want to be here. I hate this." People can tell that and aren't going to go out of their way to make friends with someone that has that attitude.


That's a really good point. I didn't follow their day-to-day lives in their small towns, so I really don't know how they may have come off.

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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 13 Aug 2008, 07:14
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Just to finish this damn tangential topic about living in smaller cities. Pel (and I believe this is public info) is a minority. Let me tell you something, if you don't already know. Minorities are not treated the same in some cities as they are in the major cities. That's just a fact that some of you may not be aware of.
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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 13 Aug 2008, 07:21
Didn't know that.

kidderek wrote:
Just to finish this damn tangential topic about living in smaller cities. Pel (and I believe this is public info) is a minority. Let me tell you something, if you don't already know. Minorities are not treated the same outside of some of the major cities. That's just a fact that some of you may not be aware of.


As for career progression in these different areas, how difficult is it to determine raises, promotions, etc?

With GM, the companaies vary so much in how they operate to promote from within it might be impossible. In the insurance industry, I've seen someone that went from my company to another one, only to come back in 2 years at a job he never would have been promoted to with 2 years at the same company. Kind of the idea "If the other company wants him so much to take him away from us, he must be very valuable so we'll give him even more to get him back."

Has any study been done, or data collected, about the average % raise per year for GM? I'm interesed in this because so many of the "break even" calcs ask for projected annual salary increase. It would help to know if the projected break even point for my MBA is accurate.
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Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance? [#permalink] New post 13 Aug 2008, 07:26
jallenmorris wrote:
In the insurance industry, I've seen someone that went from my company to another one, only to come back in 2 years at a job he never would have been promoted to with 2 years at the same company. Kind of the idea "If the other company wants him so much to take him away from us, he must be very valuable so we'll give him even more to get him back."


That is one of the dumbest and widely used practices. I've seen it in banking as well. Many of the older banking books talk about how you're not respected if you don't make the veil threat of jumping ship.
Re: Info sake: Which MBA field has the best work-life balance?   [#permalink] 13 Aug 2008, 07:26
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