MBA Jobs: The Real Deal

In our work with MBA applicants and as former business school students ourselves, we can’t help but notice that there are certain jobs that are incredibly appealing as folks embark on their MBA career journey. Some of these jobs feel like pure expressions of the impact they want to make – going into venture capital, social impact, or starting their own company. Some of these jobs are just plain intriguing, like working in entertainment.

But there are some inconvenient truths to be aware of as you consider these careers. And we have some *very* strong opinions about these jobs. So many opinions, in fact, that we couldn’t fit them all into this blog post for fear of it being painstakingly long.

So, we’ve included as much as we can here, but to get even more juicy details about our take on these jobs, data about placement at the top US business schools, AND a bonus section about Rotational Programs / Leadership Development Programs, download our awesome Career Report.

All right, here we go!

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Venture Capital

If you’re interested in the fast-moving world of start-up investing, you might be drawn to venture capital (VC). VCs invest in innovation, but the bulk of the work is geared towards helping companies grow/scale, which requires a touch of finance along with strong competencies in HR and talent strategy, as well as insight on the start-up’s industry, marketing, technology, M&A, etc.

It turns out that VC funds generally don’t directly recruit MBAs. The VC industry is small and niche, and VCs generally don’t give a ton of weight to the MBA degree. So if you want to work in VC, you’re looking at an off-campus job search, hustling and networking while proving the value you can bring to the fund – for example:

  • Core knowledge that is make-or-break for their portfolio companies
  • A track record of scaling companies in your past (e.g., as a GM, in sales, etc.)
  • Access to proprietary deal flow to the VC fund
  • A ton of cash that you’re ready to invest

So, to have credibility with VC funds, you’re going to want to gain the type of experience above, and an MBA alone isn’t going to get you all the way there. Our advice, then, is to think of VC as a longer-term career goal, with some shorter-term career steps and experiences that an MBA can help you achieve. 

The real question for you to answer is… what impact do you want to achieve as an investor? What underlying problems do you want to solve, and which human beings do you want to affect with your work? Then think through where you can get the experience you need, and consider where you can pick up that experience or invest in innovation outside of VC (like at an in-house incubator at a big company).

For more detail about our take on becoming a VC and placement stats, download our Career Report!

Social Impact

When folks imagine using their skills and career to make the world a better place, a lot of people immediately dream of a social impact job. The fascinating thing about social impact is that it’s everywhere – it’s not a particular industry, function, or role; it’s really an outcome that you can achieve in any industry.

That said, when people imagine a future in social impact, there’s a set of organizations that come to mind. They think about working in impact investing, or at a climate change start-up, or working for a billionaire’s philanthropic foundation. 

These jobs are super exciting, but super rare for MBAs to get. So rare, in fact, that only 4 schools report what percentage of students went into social impact: Georgetown McDonough (6.0%), Wharton (5.3%), UCLA Anderson (2.1%), and Northwestern Kellogg (0.2%).

Here’s what we want to stress about wanting a career in social impact: Open your mind and heart to jobs that have a social impact and are hiding in plain sight. What impact do you want to make? How do you want to make the world a better place? And what are ALL of the avenues that you could pursue to make that impact? 

All companies exist to help humans. If you want to help a lot of humans in a specific way, chances are there is a regular old for-profit business already doing that (like working in operations for a grocery chain to reduce food waste). So don’t limit yourself in your search!

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in social impact post-MBA, we’ve got some tips for you. Check out dual degree programs, vet the social impact resources at your target schools, and plan to either leverage your existing experience or build best-in-class experience post-MBA to transition into a role at a social impact-oriented company.

YouTube video

For more tips on pursuing a career in social impact post-MBA, download our Career Report!

Media & Entertainment

Media (TV, film, and music) is not a common industry for folks to go into post-MBA, but there are definitely opportunities if you have the right expectations going in.

This is the biggest harsh reality for starry-eyed MBAs who dream of jobs in media: Creative jobs (film/TV development, music A&R, etc.) are not looking for MBAs. These jobs require a very non-MBA set of skills and have a well-defined career path that starts at the very bottom of the ladder, as an assistant at a talent agency or studio (no matter how fancy your degree is). 

But there is good news – since media companies have standard corporate functions like strategy, business development, finance, and marketing, you can find a role in media by leveraging your past experience to go into corporate roles or media-specific roles like content acquisitions, where your MBA is valued. 

Another harsh reality: There aren’t a ton of post-MBA media roles, and media companies generally do not recruit on campus (unless, for example, you have alumni at certain companies). You’ll need to prepare for a long, off-campus search with heavy networking. The upside here is that there are positions (especially internships) available, and that there is some structure around the recruiting process. Your school’s media and entertainment club will have the latest, but some companies have open resume submissions and invite potential applicants to networking events (usually in LA) to kick off the process.

We’ve got some juicy data in our Career Report about which schools send the most MBAs into entertainment (hint: these schools are located on the coasts), median salaries, top hirers in media and entertainment, and a list of interesting companies that hired Class of 2020 grads from a single campus. Be sure to check it out!

Entrepreneurship

We’ve got some great info for you from Aziz, Career Protocol’s Career Whisperer, who became an entrepreneur during his time at Booth and has led an entrepreneurial life ever since. He’s got two takeaways and a bottom line for folks who want to start their own businesses.

Takeaway #1: If you want to start a specific business to solve a specific problem, don't go to business school!

Think about what you actually need to start a successful business – some combination of a problem that energizes you, time and money, business intuition, expertise, customers, a particular temperament, and a bunch of luck.

Business school is a spectacularly poor place to acquire or develop almost all of these. The MBA isn’t designed to turn you into an entrepreneur; rather, it’s designed to give you the hard and soft skills to be a stellar middle manager in a large, complex organization. At best, general business coursework is irrelevant, and (non-targeted) network-building is a distraction from actually building your business… however pleasant or engaging b-school ski trips are.  

More likely, you're heavily expending the very scarce resources – time, money, effort, goodwill – that you need to start your company or even pursue your idea, on irrelevant ideas and people. And if forego a more traditional post-MBA career for a few years after business school, you’re essentially taking a wasteful detour to reach your entrepreneurial goals.

Takeaway #2: If you want to be an entrepreneurial leader throughout your career, get a top-tier MBA

Think about what you need to launch and grow multiple initiatives over the course of your career. This is dramatically different from starting a specific business to solve a specific problem; likely some combination of financial security, business expertise, problem-solving skills, leadership and persuasion skills, and a strong network.

A top-tier MBA is a great masterclass and launchpad for many of these areas!

By getting an MBA, you're investing in your ability to continuously learn, explore and experiment after your graduate – all of which are central to launching and building successful businesses over time.

You're developing the ability to play multiple roles in early-stage or innovative ventures without foreclosing any options! You can get a job or series of jobs before you end up as founder of your own firm. You can balance your life, family, and personal needs with a lot more flexibility, especially if you build monetizable and transferable skills in some industry or function for a few years after school.   

The bottom line:

  • If you want to solve a specific problem now that excites you deeply, just do it. This self-knowledge and passion for a cause is a gift in itself. Start working on that problem. Keep your job if you can. Don't go to business school.
  • If you want to spend your life advancing innovation or solving deep problems as a jack-of-all-trades or generalist leader, and you're flexible about the means to do that, get a top-tier MBA.  It will not make you an entrepreneur today, but it can make you dramatically more innovative and productive as one over the course of your career.  

For more of Aziz’s wisdom and stats about how many students started their own ventures post-MBA, check out our Career Report!

Jackie Laine

Jackie Laine

Playful Problem Solver | Senior Instructor

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