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So you want great work life balance post MBA

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So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2011, 07:06
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So I see this a lot on all the discussion of future career goals and discussions about why people want to do what the want to do.

Work Life Balance: seems like a lot of folks who decide they don't want to be consultants or bankers site this as one of the major factors in that decision. People who don't seem all that passionate about GM, marketing, corporate finance, etc...decide they will go for one of these careers because they will have a better life. I was one of those people who thought that it would be better, and it very well could be for some people. However, based on discussions with friends and my personal experience it may be better but it is certainly not good.

First of all, don't begin to believe you will work 40 hours a week and/or wont have to travel. A lot of companies give the bait and switch, you might get there will be some travel but less than 20% of the time or yes there is some long hours when important projects are due. In the end you may travel 80% of the time and/or always work long hours because there are always important projects. You are brought in with the vision of you being a future leader and companies try to test you out to see if you have what it takes. If you decide to join rotational program you may be told one rotation will be away from HQ, and then three rotations in you have yet to set foot at HQ for more than a meeting. Take those examples of rotations in London, Dubai, San Fran, NYC, Hong Kong with a grain of salt...one person a year might get an assignment like that and then other people end up in backwoods towns in Mississippi, West Virginia, or even eastern European countries you never have heard of.

There are the rare jobs where it is a 40 hour week, no travel, and is located in the city of your dreams. However, where I work the people who have jobs like that are staff positions, sure they may pay you a low six figure income and a small 10% bonus but you will have almost no chance of advancing beyond that individual contributor role without the hours, travel, and/or relocating. My friends who have jobs that are like that appear to be nervous that they don't have a chance to prove themselves and might plateau very quickly in their careers. I know a few people who have already switched jobs because of this.

Personally I have traveled more than 50% of the time, this is definitely not as much as the 75-90% that my friends consulting are doing. It sucks sometimes to work 70-80 hours a week but then again I talk with friends in banking who work 100+ a week and get a weekend once every 3 or 4 months. When I look objectively at my hours and travel it has been an amazing opportunity; I fly on the company jet more often than not and have been working as the right hand guy for one of the top guys at my company. That's exactly why most people go to get an MBA, we want to be the guy/gal on a first name basis with the CEO, COO, CFO and all the VPs. Sure if you are at a $50 billion a year company that may not happen but those people will be appraised of your contributions much more so than anyone else at your level. They may not be able to pick you out of a crowd but the certainly know how you are performing. If you are at a $2-10 billion company it is a very real possibility that you will interact with and be known personally by all/most of those people.

MBA's hires are often viewed as the potential future leaders of the company, they will work you hard to see what you are made of. Those that can't cut the demands may be relegated to an individual contributor roles and most likely have a nice easy cushy job for years. If you do everything asked of you and do it exceptionally well, then it will be recognized and you very well could move very far up the ranks. Don't have allusions of working 40 hours a week, never leaving HQ, and somehow advancing into senior management. I was hired with another MBA who has managed to obtain a 40 hr week and has avoided a lot of the travel they wanted us to do. Unfortunately for him, he has also developed a reputation of being lazy with some important people. I know a few of the VP's who will be the ones giving us our next job assignments want to show him the door (plane rides are very educational). I travel even more now because the SVP doesn't even think of bringing the other MBA.

Think about it now before you sink 150k into a degree and give up two years pay, do you want to advance far in your career and are you willing to do whatever it takes to do that...if the answer is yes then you should come to grips with not having a great work life balance no matter what you want to do. Make sure you discuss this with your significant other, if you work a 40-50 hr a week job now they may appreciate knowing that you might work double that post MBA. Lucky for me my wife's hours have ramped up a lot lately too so I haven't had any personal issues but more than a few friends have had angry spouses. If you would be content with very little advancement, then you may be able to achieve that especially if the company hires multiple MBA since chances are someone will step up and take on all the extra work. However, you may want to redo that ROI calculation if you value work/life balance that much.
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2011, 10:24
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Great idea for a discussion, I've been thinking about this a lot, especially after reading through all the posts in Rhyme's retrospect thread. To me, realizing that MBA level jobs in industry don't have the best work-life balance either is causing me to look at upcoming full-time recruiting in a new light. Whereas before I didn't really consider consulting now I'm thinking about whether or not the actual nature of the job fits me well as opposed to just being deterred by all the travel and hours. Conversely, many of the leadership rotation jobs that seemed so appealing before have lost some of their luster as I've found out more details.

Probably the biggest realization that I've had touches on much of what river wrote, that post-MBA positions that make the most of the degree are ones that require a great deal of hours and/or travel. Even though that seems kind of obvious, it's pretty easy to forget about that when the majority of people at any given school are interested in the same types of jobs. In other words, there's a lack of examples of people taking other paths to contrast with. Add the desire to have fulfilling work into the mix and it can start seeming like finding the right job is an impossible task.
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2011, 12:13
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Lots of consulting gigs aren't all the are cracked up to be either. You wont be working with CEO's all the time like they will lead you to believe. We use consultants from one of the big firms at my work and trust me they aren't working with the top guys. The extent of interaction with the big wigs is when presenting stuff. Don't be scared off by my above post, GM and marketing offer great opportunities. A lot of the guys higher up in my company actually work and travel less than I do. My work life balance I think will actually improve as I move up.

A lot of my friends who enjoy their jobs and think they have long term futures with their companies are the ones who are traveling and working the most hours. If you enjoy what you are doing long days are much more tolerable than hating what you are doing even if you are only doing it for 40 hours a week.
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2011, 16:15
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You probably just described one of the big reasons women are only 20-30% of a lot of MBA programs. And why there's so few women in the upper echelons of the corporate world. If they don't already have children pre-MBA, many women will want them at some point, and there's only so many years that's physically possible. Those happen to overlap with the years that a company will likely want you to travel the most. So everyone has to make their choices about what they want more.
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 11 Jul 2011, 17:12
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Izvos, could you please give credit and direct people to this site.

Besides women, there are also plenty of men who decide that the extra hours and stress aren't worth it in the end. It is probably true for many women who have kids and other commitments, then again taking 3/4 months off wont kill a career and plenty of women return to work that quickly after having kids. If/When my wife and I have kids, we will end up with a nanny since my wife working and paying a nanny makes far more sense than my wife quitting. This is a decision plenty of women who are successful will make.

Don't be scared of the hours, there are plenty of jobs that wont demand more than 50-60 hours and lots of those will pay plenty. That may sound like alot of hours for people who work 40-45 now, but if you really are enjoying your work then it is very tolerable. I think my long hours are easier to take than my previous life as an engineer working minimal hours. For one, there is much greater job satisfaction. Most people going to top MBA programs are very motivated and want to succeed and have an impact. Many of my friends who are working long hours, do like it since they feel that their contributions are valued and important to their companies. One ironic things is that my friends who are working the least hours actually aren't very enthusiastic about their jobs. Either they feel they are not getting to show what they can accomplish or that they are already being marginalized.

Some industries also offer much easier hours. I know some friends in oil/gas who work 45 hour weeks, where as I have friends at tech and manufacturing companies who work much more than that. If you are passionate about what you are doing those hours fly by. If easy hours is important definitely look at industry norms.
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 11 Jul 2011, 17:59
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Great post riverripper! As someone who has worked a great deal in CPG, the work-life balance situation for general managers, brand managers, and finance analysts post b-school isn't all that it's cracked up to be. My brand manager friends regularly work 60-80 hours a week and depending on the time of the financial calendar, my finance friends also work similar hours. So while travel is minimal, you're being paid significantly less than consulting or banking with still a great deal of work to be done. Also, these positions (since they are grooming roles for organizational leaders) are extremely competitive (imagine 80-100 new MBA grads from the top schools vying for a handful of management positions). You really have to love corporate finance or brand management to go down this route. Sure, you can find functions and roles in CPG that will be 40-50 hours that pay in the low six figures but like riverripper mentioned, you're not going to ever climb the ranks that way. The 40 hour work week is a myth. :)
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 12 Jul 2011, 13:48
eskimoroll wrote:
Great post riverripper! As someone who has worked a great deal in CPG, the work-life balance situation for general managers, brand managers, and finance analysts post b-school isn't all that it's cracked up to be. My brand manager friends regularly work 60-80 hours a week and depending on the time of the financial calendar, my finance friends also work similar hours. So while travel is minimal, you're being paid significantly less than consulting or banking with still a great deal of work to be done. Also, these positions (since they are grooming roles for organizational leaders) are extremely competitive (imagine 80-100 new MBA grads from the top schools vying for a handful of management positions). You really have to love corporate finance or brand management to go down this route. Sure, you can find functions and roles in CPG that will be 40-50 hours that pay in the low six figures but like riverripper mentioned, you're not going to ever climb the ranks that way. The 40 hour work week is a myth. :)


Thanks! Any other CPG knowledge you have to share would be extremely valuable to me as there is not too much available here :)

Are any of your friends in brand management looking at alternative industries/career paths?
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 12 Jul 2011, 14:20
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Very nice article. I posted it to my blog EDITED

Actually, i did not consider this factor till now and really started thinking about it. And how your life changes after of years of such work?

Speaking about those IB 100+ hours week guys, how are they?


Izvos -

On your blog you are not giving credit to the original writer of this post (Riverripper). This is plagiarism, and I’m sure that the original poster doesn’t appreciate it. This makes me wonder if any of your articles are legitimately yours.

Riverripper has written many helpful posts for future MBAs. Please give credit when credit is due.

Thank you.
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 12 Jul 2011, 14:26
I second Mreevit's comment, wholeheartedly!
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 12 Jul 2011, 16:15
The compensation myth is another one that people always spin. A lot of people think consulting pays a lot more, while it pays more than most it is not always the case. The spread isn't what you would think, I know my total 1st year income probably matched consultants. I know many of my consultant friends who are working very long hours and doing work on weekends too. I also know a few that have not enjoyed the work or people very much and area already looking for a new job.

Due diligence is very important no matter what you do, the culture for difference companies is very different no matter what the function. You may want to consulting and realize only a few of the firms are good for you. You may want to go GM and avoid the major recruiters who are massive corporations for a position at a small or mid-cap company. Alumni are typically very honest about all aspects of a job, as long as they aren't part of the recruiting team. I knew what I was getting myself into pretty well thanks to an alumni, I also can say for certain that my company is not for everyone and a lot of my classmates would hate it.

I didn't travel this week and probably will work a 45 hour week as long as something crazy doesnt come up. I think this is one thing that corporate jobs do have, peaks and valleys. For example, if you are finance then quarter end will probably be crazy for you. It seems to work out for me when I start to hit that wall I get a break. That definitely doesnt seem to occur with my friends in consulting or banking. For them it is go go go, consultants really depend on the length of the project and I know people still working on the same project 10 months later and they burned out long ago.
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 12 Jul 2011, 22:36
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Some great points all around here.

Only thing to add:

The irony of b-school admissions is that they want these super ambitious "change the world" types who put career first and who value "what matters most to you" and self-fulfillment, ambition, etc. -- or even some sort of social conscience ("save the planet'!) sort of mantra where the seeds of that ambition is still ego and self-interest.

But in reality, like most human beings, it comes down to family. And family first. No matter what nationality or cultural background.

The fact is, most people (MBAs included) don't have the equivalent of winning the lottery by "having it all" -- being at the very top AND having all the time and resources in the world to have a wonderful personal life. Of those who are at the top of their professions (business, law, medicine, politics, entertainment, etc) most still have a lot of trouble with work-life balance. The very few who have both tend to recognize how incredibly lucky they are, because it's luck (being at the right place at the right time and having everything align).

For everyone else, sooner or later you are forced to make tradeoffs between your own career satisfaction and the needs of your entire family. And if you come from a culture where the extended family is very close knit (or you don't just kick out aging parents into a nursing home), it becomes even more of a difficult tradeoff.

When you have kids, your own self-fulfillment, career satisfaction, etc. becomes secondary if you are being the classic responsible parent who wants the best for his/her kids. "Work-life balance" takes on a different meaning when you are responsible for a family.

Which is why this whole talk about "career goals" becomes moot once you have kids -- because it's no longer driven by what YOU want to do. It's no longer about you. But about what you *need* to do to provide for your family - not just financially, but also everything else (school districts, spending time with them, etc).

If applicants were to answer the "career goals" essay honestly -- especially medium- to long-term, it would most likely be this:

"I will take whatever job at that time that is best for my family, especially my kids."

It's that which dictates what your job will be. You may not like your job at Behemoth Bureaucratic Corporation, but it provides health insurance for your entire family that Super Sexy Startup doesn't provide. Or you stick with another "okay" job over another "super sexy" job offer because the "okay" job means you don't need to move (you're in a great school district, you don't want to move your kids mid-year, etc). Regardless, your own personal career satisfaction may not be irrelevant, but it becomes secondary.

You may rather live and work in Manhattan, but with kids you may not have that choice. So you compromise for your kids to make sure you're living in a great school district, or you're living in a cheap enough area so you have money to pay for private schools if the public school system in your area sucks.

The reality is, most of you out there had parents who compromised (or even completely put aside) their own personal career aspirations after a while to raise you. And chances are, you'll do the same thing for your kids.

That's why in the end -- consulting, finance, industry, etc. really doesn't matter as much - it's all dependent on the situation and specific job/company at the time. You do what you need to do that you feel is best for your family.
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 12 Jul 2011, 23:20
I would be interested to hear some perspectives on jobs outside of the U.S. Would the same industries or similar levels within a corporation have the same descriptions as the U.S when looking at work-life balance?

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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 13 Jul 2011, 02:49
riverripper wrote:
Izvos, could you please give credit and direct people to this site.




Thanx for the answer. I will give a back link.

I like the part with the hours will fly :-D
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 13 Jul 2011, 02:53
mreevit wrote:
Izvos wrote:
Very nice article. I posted it to my blog EDITED

Actually, i did not consider this factor till now and really started thinking about it. And how your life changes after of years of such work?

Speaking about those IB 100+ hours week guys, how are they?


Izvos -

On your blog you are not giving credit to the original writer of this post (Riverripper). This is plagiarism, and I’m sure that the original poster doesn’t appreciate it. This makes me wonder if any of your articles are legitimately yours.

Riverripper has written many helpful posts for future MBAs. Please give credit when credit is due.

Thank you.


I added back link. Sorry for that
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 13 Jul 2011, 04:53
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I've got to say that a lot of this is also dependent on where you are currently at. I'm in public accounting, which is renowned for having absolutely awful work/life balance. From January to June I'm out of town about 50% of the time, and when I'm not out of town I'm working minimum 6 days a week. Not to mention, in terms of compensation per hour worked, I'm positive that public accounting has ONE of the worst returns on hours worked that you'll find in professional life. Big 4 people might argue, but lets face it, they're usually brainwashed into thinking that 70+ hrs per week and 60k per year for 5-6 years of their life is just paying their "dues". In reality, sticking in public accounting is just about the absolute slowest way to work your way up in the world. The only slower way might be hanging out at bars hoping to befriend a billionaire CEO who subsequently hires you because he likes you. Public is GREAT for getting awesome experience in a variety of industries and for building a great resume. But long term? It's a heart attack at 40 just waiting to happen.

Anyway, yes, you have to look at your current situation. For me, in public accounting, my hours might increase marginally, but my pay will increase substantially. For many others, going to 60+ hour weeks year round might be a significant factor for consideration.

Oh, and riverripper, I live and work in West Virginia and you speak of it like it's punishment!! haha.
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 13 Jul 2011, 05:28
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Pretty weak link back. I think its common courtesy to say at the beginning of your post something along the lines of this:

Hey everyone check out this great article of found here_________ by ________. Enjoy. They way you have the link masked at the bottom the post still appears as your own prose.

Not trying to highjack the thread just trying to point out proper etiquette.

Izvos wrote:
mreevit wrote:
Izvos wrote:
Very nice article. I posted it to my blog http://izvos.com/after-mba-worklife-balance/.

Actually, i did not consider this factor till now and really started thinking about it. And how your life changes after of years of such work?

Speaking about those IB 100+ hours week guys, how are they?


Izvos -

On your blog you are not giving credit to the original writer of this post (Riverripper). This is plagiarism, and I’m sure that the original poster doesn’t appreciate it. This makes me wonder if any of your articles are legitimately yours.

Riverripper has written many helpful posts for future MBAs. Please give credit when credit is due.

Thank you.


I added back link. Sorry for that
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 13 Jul 2011, 08:04
All of his articles are from somewhere else. In one post, it even says "MBAmission" in the article. I'm not sure if he understands that this is not acceptable, or if he is attempting to make some kind of "wiki" of useful articles.

Go ahead and see for yourself. Pick an article and paste a few sentences into Google. You will see his page and the source's page.
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 13 Jul 2011, 09:15
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Michmax3 wrote:

Thanks! Any other CPG knowledge you have to share would be extremely valuable to me as there is not too much available here :)

Are any of your friends in brand management looking at alternative industries/career paths?


Some are. I've had a few friends leave for tech product management roles (Ubisoft, Microsoft, etc.) but many just bounce around from one CPG to the next. Procter, J&J, Unilever, Kraft, General Mills, Cambells, Pepsi... etc. Definitely "the grass is greener" syndrome.
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 13 Jul 2011, 12:49
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Izvos: thumbs down to you! Booooooooo.

Not only are you plagiarising the post, but you are even distracting everyone's attention from the OP's great post.
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Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA [#permalink] New post 14 Jul 2011, 08:46
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riverripper wrote:
The compensation myth is another one that people always spin. A lot of people think consulting pays a lot more, while it pays more than most it is not always the case. The spread isn't what you would think, I know my total 1st year income probably matched consultants. I know many of my consultant friends who are working very long hours and doing work on weekends too. I also know a few that have not enjoyed the work or people very much and area already looking for a new job.

Due diligence is very important no matter what you do, the culture for difference companies is very different no matter what the function. You may want to consulting and realize only a few of the firms are good for you. You may want to go GM and avoid the major recruiters who are massive corporations for a position at a small or mid-cap company. Alumni are typically very honest about all aspects of a job, as long as they aren't part of the recruiting team. I knew what I was getting myself into pretty well thanks to an alumni, I also can say for certain that my company is not for everyone and a lot of my classmates would hate it.

I didn't travel this week and probably will work a 45 hour week as long as something crazy doesnt come up. I think this is one thing that corporate jobs do have, peaks and valleys. For example, if you are finance then quarter end will probably be crazy for you. It seems to work out for me when I start to hit that wall I get a break. That definitely doesnt seem to occur with my friends in consulting or banking. For them it is go go go, consultants really depend on the length of the project and I know people still working on the same project 10 months later and they burned out long ago.



Based on my experience working in Corporate Finance for a Fortune 500, you are spot on with your peaks and valleys statement. At certain times during the year (quarter close, mid year analysis, end of year close, etc.), work weeks probably resemble that of Consulting or Ibanking (80 hrs plus, extra travel, etc.) The nice thing about these jobs as you mentioned is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, which may not exist in these other functions. It makes it much easier to put in three consecutive 80 hour weeks if you know you will get a month of 45 hour weeks to follow.

I'm curious about the compensation spread of Corp Finance/Gen Mgmt vs Consulting...I agree that it probably tends to be overstated. I always figured similar post-MBA salaries with Consulting getting much larger bonuses.
Re: So you want great work life balance post MBA   [#permalink] 14 Jul 2011, 08:46
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