It takes an MBA to spot an MBA


We have ample opportunity to talk to newly minted MBAs as they begin their search for employment, either with us or with one of our clients.  A pattern is emerging in my mind that reminds me all too much of my own post-graduate experience (guilty as charged).

Indoctrinated MBAs have a perception of career advancement, acquired during their 2 years of weekend classes and nightly team meetings, that is disturbing but consistent. First, they all want to be M&A experts, leveraging their new found knowledge of valuation techniques and statistical regression. The thought is that they can have “real impact” by driving acquisition strategy.  Second, the Holy Grail of big company jobs is in Corporate Development (as opposed to business development, I guess). Seems every graduate’s dream job involves pushing paper and crunching numbers. Third, everyone seems to have “discovered” they just love finance. I ask every new MBA what subject infected them with passion and enthusiasm. The answer is inevitably financial analysis and investment theories. Wall Street calls them to service like the NBA calls for undergraduate players; both too early I might add. The question I have to ask, and I know the answer, is why the consistent career views of new MBAs?  The answer is institutional preservation.

Universities are about to get hit with cataclysmic change. (For all those MBAs who studied ROI and COGS and Debt, etc.…) The economics no longer close. Take away the government grants and self-paying students and you are left with alumni donations. I can’t help but see the MBA programs focused on building their own ROI into their students. Where are the MBAs passionate for manufacturing optimization models? Where are the MBA’s with passion for marketing research and neural networking insight derived from social media metrics? Where are the language translators with a passion for international business? Frankly, they just don’t pay right now apparently. But we all know that will change.

Corporate development careers don’t last. The people who have those jobs are very smart, yet incredibly adverse to real accountability. The perception seems to be that analyzing an M&A opportunity is the be all and end all. No. The real end all is the return that ACTUALLY is realized. NEWS FLASH; The majority of M&A events don’t pay off as planned. Show me a corporate development person without final accountability and I’ll show you a staffer who is not going to last. Show me a corporate development person WITH accountability and I’ll show you the one in 100 that will be rich; the rest will be seeking adjunct professor opportunities.

 Why don’t I hear MBAs emerging into the work world and saying “I want to be an entrepreneur and advance to CEO and hire staffers”?  This is just one more example where the educational system fails to educate to the current needs of society. Self-preservation seems to outweigh mission. Like in the movie MOONSTRUCK, after the lead character (played by Cher), gets screwed, she slaps her romantic partner saying “Snap out of it!!” If only that is all it would take.

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