Are MBAs Under Employed?

Underemployed

The summer internship experiences of my classmates fall into two main buckets. The first bucket loved their internships, were given an offer to return and have already accepted the offer. Kinda boring so let’s move on. 🙂

For those that didn’t enjoy their internship experience, they usually had a bad boss, had too much work, or were bored. I found the ‘boredom’ reason to be quite interesting so I probed further, and it seems to me that MBA boredom roughly translates into:

  • Lacking adequate intellectual stimulation on the job.
  • Lacking the opportunity to drive high profile projects that ‘move the needle’ and bring significant change to an organization (all that good stuff we read in cases! 🙂 ).
  • Lacking an overcrowded schedule that needs ninja prioritization and time management skills to coordinate.

Which brings us to the question: are MBAs under employed over the summer? Yes! but with good reason:

1. It’s not Business School: After spending 9 months managing an insane schedule, working with incredibly smart people and tackling C-level problems (through cases), the crazy business school pace really becomes our pace! Apart from banking, consulting and maybe startups, most internships are unable to match the speed and variety of a top tier MBA experience. However, I do believe that individuals can upgrade their job pace by raising their hand and taking on more. It’s really a win-win situation as you get to work at your ‘normal’ pace, and you may even get recognized for stepping up!

2. It’s not your Old Job: Our bschool application essays are filled with stories of leadership; how we led cross-functional teams to deliver on high-profile initiatives for our employer. We’ve done this before, so why shouldn’t we get to do it again over the summer? One word: trust. Those high profile projects weren’t given to you on your first day on the job right? You were given something small at first, and when you did that well, you were given more. I think the same rules apply during the summer, even though it’s frustrating for MBAs with years of work experience under their belts, eager to apply the new stuff they’ve learnt on real world problems. Notwithstanding, I think it’s fair that most managers are unwilling to bet the company on a new hire, even if he/she has a fancy MBA.

3. It’s really an interview: At the end of the day, the summer internship is really be a drawn out interview. A potential employer is able to get a good feel for what it’ll be like to have you as an employee, and you are able to get a sense of what it’ll be like to work there full time. If things work out on both sides, you get the gig, and the opportunity to build the credibility and trust that’s needed to bag those fast-paced and high profile projects!

That’s what I think. What do you think?

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Why All MBAs Should Recruit for Management Consulting

strategy consulting

These past weeks have been particularly challenging in terms of adhering to my personal commitment of having at least two posts a month. The reason is simple: internship recruiting.

One of the most stressful industries to recruit for at business school is strategy consulting, yet every year roughly about 50% of the MBA class at Kellogg (including yours truly 😉 ) interview for consulting internships, and about 23% actually get consulting internship offers. The reason? Salaries are quite decent, and there is the allure of “working with the world’s top companies and helping them to understand and solve their most challenging problems.”

Another reason for the strategy consulting internship rush in my opinion is that it tends to act as some sort of reputation currency on campus. So you got an offer from MBB (McKinsey, BCG and Bain)? You’re awesome! You didn’t? Maybe you’re okay… Of course this type of thinking is really nonsense. We all have different strengths that may or may not lend well to a strategy consulting career. As Victor Cheng, a former McKinsey consultant would say, “the most creative and successful CEOs would make really lousy consultants!”.

Despite its very demanding preparation process, relatively low success rate, and the fact that failure can be a very public and painful event, I still think everyone with the slightest interest in strategy consulting should participate in the recruiting process for three reasons:

1. You Learn

I found the process of preparing for consulting cases interviews to be a sort of mini capstone for my first quarter courses. By working through different cases, I was forced to think through business problems in a variety of functional areas like marketing, operations, and finance, in industries ranging from pharma to agribusiness. I think this was a really good way to consolidate the knowledge I had already gained and even learn some new things along the way.

2. You Reflect

The stress of recruiting for consulting starts quite early in the Fall – as you constantly run from company presentations to coffee chats – and continues through case prep all the way to when you actually walk into your interview. From my experience, the sheer pressure of the entire process really makes you to stop and reflect on what you really want from your life and career, and I think that this is a really valuable thought process to go through while at business school.

3. You Build Relationships

By doing case preps with some of my class mates, complaining about the entire process with them, and sharing some of the outcomes of the introspection process that I mentioned earlier, I was able to create some new relationships which I highly value.

It is important to note that all the benefits that I have highlighted above come during the PROCESS of recruiting for consulting, and not from actually getting a consulting job offer. It’s about who you become in the process people! 😀

Do Grades Matter @ BSchool?

Good gradeKellogg is definitely unlike any other academic pool I’ve played in; it is different in two main ways. First, I’ve never been in an environment with such a high density of really smart and talented people, and this is definitely beneficial in terms of intellectual stimulation. Second all exams at Kellogg are graded on a curve, with about 30 – 40% of the class getting an A, about 50 – 60% getting a B and then the bottom 10% end up with a C. This doesn’t seem so bad, until you consider the fact that your final grade is now dependent on the performance of your awesome classmates, and when you’re among a group of incredibly smart people, the difference between an A and a C might not be as large as you think.

Stealing a line from my consultant friends, “So what?”. Does all of this matter? Do grades matter? Being at a top business school already says a lot about your intellectual ability and potential. Unfortunately, you still might need good grades if you plan to recruit for certain industries like investment banking or management consulting. Of course this varies from company to company. I’ve heard of Kellogg folks who had a 3.0 GPA and got into McKinsey…

If your school has a grade non-disclosure policy (Kellogg doesn’t), you may worry less about grades, but is this really true? My current understanding is that schools with a non-disclosure policy still give students the right to disclose their grades to employers. So if an employer asks students of such schools about grades, I’m not sure how they would respond without looking like they’re hiding something.

I think getting good grades is something worth striving for. Most of us haven’t gotten this far by settling for less than stellar grades, and that habit might be hard to shake off in “old age”. Notwithstanding, I also think that in some cases the difference between an A and a B might be three to four times the required effort. In such situations, channeling all that effort into getting that A might mean missing out on business school activities that provide opportunities to grow personally and professionally, build new relationships and participate in transformational experiences. This is when focusing on good grades can be a mistake.

Delivering ‘High Performance’ on a Weekend: Accenture Case Competition

accenture

Last weekend was the Accenture Case Competition at Kellogg. Considering everything else going on at the time (extracurricular activities and preparations for two mid-term exams), I thought I would be unable to participate but I eventually decided to do so. What I’m beginning to realize is that for everything you want to do here, there’ll be about three attractive alternatives. A lot of times you just have to raise your hand and jump in! I don’t remember this piece of advice all the time of course… 🙂

Something I really liked about this case competition was that it was only for one day so the time commitment was very well defined. My team members of fellow ‘Meese’ were pretty awesome, and I also liked that we were provided the case information in the same way we might get it in an actual consulting engagement: through emails, PowerPoint slides and Excel spreadsheets as opposed to the standard twelve to twenty page cases that we get in a strategy class.

While we were flooded with all kinds of data (I don’t think we had time to read every single exhibit), the case turned out to be less about quantitative analysis and more about idea generation and idea generation is cool! Unless you don’t have ideas… but my team did! We came up with a ton of ideas and eventually had to refrain from cramming them all onto our ten-minute presentation. The one-day case turned out to be a bit of a time challenge: ‘one day’ was really about four hours! As much as we tried to manage time, we still found ourselves scrambling towards the end to get our slides ready and shoot them off to the judges. 🙂 

Our presentation went well enough to make us finalists, but not well enough to give us first place. Overall I think it was a great experience. I’ll definitely want to do this again!

Open Doors: The Bain Diversity Pre-MBA Program 2013

One of the main reasons I decided to get an MBA is to get access to people and opportunities that I would otherwise not have. What’s cool is that although I haven’t yet set foot on the Kellogg campus, I have already begun experiencing the benefits of a Kellogg MBA. 2 weeks ago, I was in New York for the 2-day Bain Diversity Pre-MBA Progam 2013. The program aims to expose Black/African American, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American MBA students to the management consulting industry and to Bain & Company: one of the top strategy consulting firms in the world.

Bain’s diversity pre-MBA program clearly exceeded my expectations. It afforded me the opportunity to interact with MBA candidates from other top business schools, and gain early exposure to the management consulting industry and to the life of a Bain consultant. The best part of the program for me was the case workshop. Through different group and individual exercises, I was able to get my first taste of case interviews. Of course my performance was less than encouraging. Nonetheless, I appreciated the opportunity to fail early and get good feedback in a risk free environment. I also liked the opportunity to see what good case analyses looked like by watching a Bainie crack a live case.

Something else that stood out for me (and other attendees) was how young some of the partners looked! Without exaggeration, either Keith Bevans (a partner at the Chicago office and Global Head of Consultant Recruiting) or David Waller (a partner at the Boston office) could easily have been mistaken for one of us: a wide-eyed youngster looking to go business school this Fall. The open and friendly demeanor of these clearly accomplished individuals was also quite refreshing.

I will definitely recommend this program to anyone thinking about consulting as a post-MBA career. On my part, Bain has proven to be a desirable ‘damsel’. I hope to keep the conversation going, and with any luck, I just might get an actual ‘date’. 😉