Traits/Profiles of the Most Successful MBA Students Post -MBA

Question for those of you who are post-MBA: looking at how your classmates have fared, what do you think those who have been particularly successful have in common? Strong pre-MBA profiles? Good network? Hard workers?

I'm a first year in an M7 MBA program. I have a pretty fluffy liberal arts degree from a top school and ended up switching to business later on in my career (in the middle of the recession). My resume is a bit disjointed and I wasn't able to land a job with a brand name company pre-MBA. Reflecting on the summer internship recruiting process, it seems like the most coveted internships went to those who had strong profiles pre-MBA. For my summer internship, I've ended up with an internship at a top 50-ish company. It is the top company in the industry I was in pre-MBA, so I really shouldn't have any complaints. My only complaint is that I don't feel like my MBA has been particularly transformative in terms of opening up opportunities.

Related to the questions I originally asked, I'm trying to get a sense of what type of opportunities outside of the internship that I should really be taking advantage of to set up myself up for future success and establish credibility...or, not to be too much of a fatalist, if it's kinda too late for that...

Comments (8)

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MBAApply, what's your opinion? Comment below:

A couple of things:

  1. The undertone of your post makes it seem you're mid-life already as if what you do now will either set you up or doom you for life. Perspective: you are at the very beginning of your career of what will hopefully be a long life. If you assume 65 to be retirement, you have 30-40 years remaining of adult productive life. And right now, you have, what, 3-5 years? How you plan/choose your career path today isn't going to impact you beyond the next 5 years or so. You're at an M7. You're going to be fine.

  2. Careers are non-linear. Count on reinventing yourself every 8-10 years or so (starting over in a new industry/profession). What you did 10 years ago, or whether you did an MBA or not in your 20s isn't going to really matter in your 30s or 40s.

  3. An MBA doesn't open doors. You do. That so-called prestige isn't as big a deal as current MBA students (and recent graduates) would like to believe.

  4. Speaking of "success" -- if you're talking about it in 20-something, alpha male terms (i.e. getting rich, attaining status in the public eye, etc), then from what I've seen from my own classmates and those of my generation (15 years ago at H/S/W, etc) is that they bust ass. They are willing to fail. They don't follow the herd (read: years of hardship). AND, they are lucky - right place at the right time. Also, the so-called "success" you may be assuming usually happens 10-20 years out of b-school (like I'm seeing now) and not necessarily right away. Those kids you may be hearing about selling their startups to Google, et al these days is also "right place right time" - i.e. being in the midst of a tech bubble that will burst in the next few years.

  5. Stop worrying about your future. Stop. Enjoy your time in b-school now. YOU WILL BE JUST FINE. Yes, you'll go through tough times in the future, but that is life. You can't engineer your way around it. See #4 - no matter how you slice and dice it, no matter how "successful" one is, we've all faced some hardship, setback, and despair. And the greater your goal, the greater the hardship you have to endure. The pain you suffer in climbing Everest isn't the same as walking up a hill at your local park.

  6. Focus more on learning (not just in b-school). If you truly want to "succeed" - be driven by your curiosity and craving to learn and master - to strive to be an expert at something.

  7. If you notice an underlying theme or undertone here, it's that your priorities and definition of "success" WILL change in a few years. Here's what will happen:

1-3 years post-MBA: alums get together, talking money, status, jobs, etc. Fantasies of being the next billionaire, startup craze, wanting the lifestyle, blah blah blah. But also lots of engagements, and weddings. Plenty of job hopping, trying to figure shit out.

3-5 years post-MBA: Weddings. A lot of that alpha male bravado starts to dissipate. More babies start to enter the picture (if it hasn't already). Less job hopping, but not unusual to change jobs every year or so (not necessarily promotions, but lateral moves, experimenting, or personal stuff because it's no longer about your career, but your partner, kids, etc).

5-10 years: Even more babies. Alpha male bros in b-school are now dads. Mortgages. The "career" has become just a "job". When someone does well, we cheer them on (rather than feel competitive or jealous like we did when we were fresh grads). Many have been in a steady state job-wise.

15-20 years: Kids. No longer just "young parents" but families. Some divorces. More cancer and illness. Some deaths. A few here and there doing extremely well financially, but fellow classmates aren't "trying to be like them" because that's not really what it's about. Everyone has scattered to all kinds of jobs, lifestyles, family situations, etc.

Can't tell you beyond that, because I haven't experienced beyond 20+ years post-MBA.

Point is, over the longer haul, virtually everyone goes through periods of ups and downs. For some it's front loaded (right after b-school). For others, it happens in the middle, for others more recently. And it's not "just career" either. How your career evolves over time is interrelated with your personal situation - you can't isolate them completely like you did when you were fresh out of college.

Bad news happens suddenly, but good news takes time.

So enjoy your time in b-school. One step at a time. Take the internship that piques your curiosity and hunger to learn the most. Stop "positioning" - lots of MBA students do that and with hindsight it's fucking laughable. STOP WORRYING ABOUT WHAT IS COVETED BY OTHERS. You know what was "coveted" by my classmates when I was in b-school? Optical networking companies (Cisco was buying them up like no tomorrow) - what is coveted is whenever MBAs see $$$$$ in their eyes. You can't position your way to money and status (or "success" - the good life, living like a king/queen, etc) - or you could, but at a huge cost. Again, it's about what interests you, and not what is coveted, or sexy, or whatever, because that shit changes, it's a cycle.

This isn't a race. Who fucking cares what your classmates do or their profiles - the MBA environment is the sheep following the sheep anyhow. Focus on you. And just know that you and your fellow classmates will be spending the first 1-5 years post-MBA trying to figure shit out anyhow, jumping from one job to the next, figuring out your life situation (relationships, family, etc).

Alex Chu

  • 26
LuckyDuckling, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Awesome post! Thanks for the reality check MBAApply. Business school in some ways has felt like a long exercise in resisting peer pressure. At the same time, though, I do believe that there is something to be said for putting in your time at high prestige, "coveted" companies. It is sending a signal to the market on how competitive of a candidate you are. We all want options and to have our worth easily recognized.

  • Business School in CorpStrat

Commenting so I can save this for later. This is gold. 1-5 years out is so true from what I've seen and heard from alumni.

Very true on career goals. Some people in my class want to make $$$ and some just want to make a comfortable 150-200K for the rest of their life with strong WLB / time with their spouse + kids.

  • 1
  • Teller in Non-profit

Legend has it that Cisco is still acquiring optical networking companies to this day…

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MBAApply, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Holy necro thread!

Interesting seeing how much time has passed (wrote it six years ago) and whether anything needs updating or clarifying.

In short, it has been more than 20 years since I graduated b-school in 2001 (literally right during the dot-com meltdown, and a few months before 9/11 happened). We're heading even more into a different stage, also as the working world around us changes too. Most of us are in our late 40s to early 50s now.

I know at least one of my classmates is already a grandparent (!!) - a young grandparent but still, it's a jolt to many of us.

And even more so, the focus is even more on personal stuff. More and more of us are seeing our parents pass away and having to deal with that, and how that changes how your life. More and more of us are seeing our kids graduate high school (!!) and enter college.

For work, the thing that isn't talked about publicly (but amongst ourselves) is that you're at a point in your life where you're too young to retire (regardless of money) but too old to really start over. It can be a tough spot to be. Money is still a source of stress, no matter your situation because it's usually adaptive to whatever your priorities are. For many it's kids, it's housing, it's taking care of sick family members, and the fact that you're more reliant on your asset growth than you are on your income (more on that below).

Speaking of income. There have been layoffs as you've heard, especially in tech. Lots of talk in the press about how easy it will be for tech workers to get re-hired. That is TRUE - if you're young and say, less than 7-8 years out of college (under 30).

Age discrimination is real. It's simply harder to pivot and shift, even if you are willing to, the older you are. In your early 50s, it's REALLY hard (again no one cares you did an MBA 20-25 years ago) because employers are less willing to give you a chance. You graduated Booth in 2000? Great. But you're like, a boomer and old. We want "enthusiastic" people who are "driven" - essentially assuming that as "boomers" (which we're not), we're burnt out. Also, the work environment has and is changing in ways that it's simply harder to adjust (which is a fair knock on us, especially if you're not making a lateral move). Not just work-from-home/hybrid, but the work culture, the way Gen-Z and orgs dominated by under-30 socialize and communicate. We're not boomers - we're Gen-Xers and we look at you guys at times with a bit (or a lot) of confusion!

There are only so many C-level or exec level positions. And on top of that, having been through it, you realize how much of a toll it takes on you - they pay a ton because they require or extract a ton from you (arguably more than it's worth, for many exec positions frankly). And even if you want those positions, the lead time to getting that job is measured in *years* not months like it is for entry level or mid-level positions.

With all these forces at play, the one backstop we have (can't speak for everyone but a lot of MBA grads of our generation) is assets. Most of us were simply born in the right era where everything was cheap enough when we were beginning our careers, that we could afford to pay off our (much smaller) student loans relatively easily, and could buy our first home within a few years, and build up our asset base from there.

Long-winded point is that I'm seeing that there isn't a hard "work/retire" delineation. There's this semi-retirement phase now that seems to be happening. Those who are still working full-time are thinking of finding ways to scale back. Those who aren't full-time, are in this weird in-between state. Some are working on their hobbies, volunteering, doing odd jobs/consulting here and there, etc.

Again most of the priorities tend to shift inward, towards family, and personal fulfillment.

What that means for those of you who are still early in your careers now in 2023? I don't know. My hunch is that by the time you are in your late 40s/early 50s, what you have to deal with may be very different than what we're going through - both good and bad, but in ways that NO ONE has any way of predicting. Hopefully the good outweighs the bad. Maybe by the time you've gone through a "working career" (or careers), when you're in your 50s, the idea of a "career' may be obsolete for your own kids.

I guess it's my way of saying that no matter what, the only thing that is 100% you'll know for sure, is that everything is temporary.

Also, and this may go against what I said six years earlier - while there may be some wisdom gleaned from more experienced and/or older folks, there's also a lot that has changed currently for your situation in your generation where our experience/wisdom may not apply.

I see some of the challenges you guys are going through, and I feel for you. Most things seem a lot harder to get settled in, to find your footing coming out of college and/or grad school these days. If you're struggling or feeling incredibly anxious or even overwhelmed at times, just know it's not your fault - you're facing some incredible challenges that generations before you haven't faced.

Alex Chu

  • 11
  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A

As a 23 year old that recently left IB to try something different and is feeling a bit lost already.. these comments definitely helped put into perspective how much more time I have in front of me to change and evolve in my career. Especially on this site, it feels like you need to follow this golden path of finance career success and glad to see people also feel the same way about their motivations 10, 20, etc. years out as well. 

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Winning related, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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