Eminem was onto something when he sang “because opportunity comes once in a lifetime”… I doubt he realized that his advice is extremely relevant to MBA students!
When I came out of MBA, I specifically remember large banks posting “rotation programs” (sales &, or capital markets), associate positions, PE jobs, etc.
Many of these roles were specifically designed for “new grads”. The idea is you have to enter the field as a new MBA grad, or the odds of getting into that role later on are very slim. Sure you can always sneak in the back door, but thefirms are primarily interested in recruiting on-campus.
These on-campus employers are treating the MBA program as the big stage – it’s your one chance to get noticed.
Here is a scenario to consider...
you graduate at 22 with an undergrad and can’t land a great job. Therefore, you enroll in an MBA program in order to improve your chances. Upon graduation (age 26), you are not as competitive as your top classmates and you end up with a tier 2 job.
After performing fairly well for 6 years, you are now an outstanding 32 year old finance professional. In theory, you are easily more qualified than most 32 year olds coming out of MBA. Many of them have 4-5 years of non-business experience (i.e. engineering) and are simply trying to make a career change into finance. Despite being extremely qualified, nobody is willing to hire you as a new MBA grad because you are officially “not a recent grad”.
The solution is to understand that employers want “recent MBA graduates”, and they don’t care if you are 26 or 34. Therefore, it’s important to time your MBA and make sure you are competitive coming out of the program. Besides obtaining work experience prior to your MBA, it is also helpful to complete 1 or 2 levels of the CFA which will give you a leg up over the competition.
So here are the main take away points:
1. Don’t rush into an MBA until you have sufficient work experience.
2. If you intend on doing an accounting designation or CFA, do it before enrolling in the MBA program.
3. Make sure to be up to speed on the industry (i.e. fill up your reading list with books, Warren Buffet's teachings, WSJ, FT, etc) prior to enrolling in the MBA.
4. Don’t settle for a tier 2 school. If top schools rejected you, it might be because they require additional work experience. Don’t rush enrolling into an MBA program.