Monday, October 20, 2014

Telling My Truth about MBA Graduate Employment

One of my top MBA students, who is scheduled to graduate in May 2015, recently expressed his fears about landing a full-time job by then. What prompted his concern was the status of one his fellow students, who since graduating last May has yet to obtain a satisfactory offer.  

My perspective regarding such concerns is as follows: everyone is different, and each person (including those who have earned advanced degrees) is on his or her own path and concomitant career timeline. This reasoning may sound trite, especially when coaching MBA students who have spent considerable time, energy, and money earning their degrees and want an immediate payoff.  Nonetheless, my personal experience--and that of countless graduate students with whom I've worked--resonates clearly and profoundly in support of it.  

My perspective also renders problematic the emphasis on how many MBA graduates are employed three months after graduation--data routinely collected and used religiously by administrators in their efforts to recruit new students.  As I have seen repeatedly, the time  to find that first position after school ends varies greatly for those seeking new opportunities--as do the circumstances individual students encounter on their path to meaningful employment. 

A number of students come to realize the first job after their degree program concludes is not necessarily their ideal one.  In such instances they typically either recognize it's a poor fit for their skills or interests; the organization's culture is not to their liking; and/or the industry does not appeal to them. Others simply have unrealistic expectations about their first job based on the fact that they've earned an MBA, have other related experience, and/or have received certain promises that remain unfulfilled. Yet another subset of students realize they need some time (three months or more) to prepare themselves for the job search after completing what they found to be a rigorous academic experience, so their status will not be reflected in official employment data even though they ultimately could represent shining post-graduation professional success stories their respective degree programs will want to share.  Finally, others recognize that their dream job---the one they had in mind when they decided to get an MBA--will be their second, third, or even fourth job, and that they best take an incremental approach to ultimately get what they want by accepting a role other than the one they truly desire. 

While I fervently hope that every MBA student lands a satisfactory role by the time they graduate (or continue in a position they held during school at the very least reinvigorated by the educational experience, if not having assumed a new role in the process of earning their degree), the reality is that some will choose not to do so or will fall short of this deadline in some fashion.  That doesn't make them any more or less competent than their colleagues. Just different. The bottom line is that there's no one right path for MBA graduates once they finish their studies, regardless of the emphasis on employment data by their alma maters.  As is the case in all career-related matters, I've found, we need to consider individuals' longer-term activities in the workplace rather than their short-term prospects to help them achieve what they decide professional success means. 

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