Post-MBA career options

MeatProduct's picture
Rank: Monkey | 49

Hi All,

I could use a bit of advice on choosing a career path for after I get my MBA. I'm planning to apply to programs next summer, and for a few months now I've been running with the idea of becoming a management consultant after getting an MBA. But upon looking at the consulting lifestyle more closely, I'm becoming less sure that this is a good path.

I don't care about working hard per se. What I do care about is not having enough time to start/maintain a family, or take care of myself (exercise, decent food, a bit of recreational reading here and there).

I've considered banking as well, but what that lacks in travel hassles it makes up in sheer working hours, among other things.

...And, what else? I don't know. Career corporate man? That path doesn't really exist anymore, does it? Or at best, it seems to end in a morass of middle management, with lots of stress and low pay.

So, I have a bit of tunnel vision here: it looks like consulting, or i-banking. Conceptually, I realize that this is probably a false dichotomy. But I'm having trouble seeing other options.

Except for a strong aversion to marketing, largely I don't care what I do. I just need to make a reasonable living (inflation-adjusted equivalent of 120-150k+ a few years into my post-MBA career).

A forum for bankers and consultants may not be the best place to inquire about "other" options, but I thought I'd try :) So, what are some other career paths that you all have pursued, or know of?

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Comments (28)

Nov 4, 2009

Don't apply for an MBA until you know what you want to do with it. This is your last (easy) way to switch careers. Internship recruiting begins around December-January of your first year, and you should be networking heavily from the get-go. It is a whirlwind and you should have a game plan from day one.

I disagree with idea that corporate management is a dead end job with low pay. Grads from top schools are pulling mid-6 figures in their first year and get tracked for upper management. They also work 50 hour weeks. Do you think Director of Financial Planning & Analysis for Microsoft is a dead end job?

Nov 4, 2009

You can leverage your MBA any way you like but again you have to have some semblance of what you would like to pursue upon graduation. Examples include:

Real estate (development, RE PE, RE IB, REIT, etc.)
Brand Management/Marketing (place like Nike, Pepsi, etc.)
Corp Development at places like GE, Microsoft, etc.
etc.

Nov 4, 2009

Buyside CFA is exactly right. Do not apply until you've done more soul-searching and have a clearer sense of industries/jobs you're interested in.

Saying you don't care what you do except for marketing really isn't what you want to feel or communicate to others. You're not going to get very helpful info from people when you ask them for career ideas and can't communicate your strengths and interests. You never want to ask a question like this of someone. You're putting the burden of your job search on them, which they don't want, and the conversation isn't likely to be helpful to you. It also won't fly in an interview, especially a consulting or banking interview where you should be oozing real or fake passion for the business and type of work they do.

Here's one suggestion for how you might start to get some insight into possible career options:
1. make a list of the things you like and don't like. Try to be specific (quantitative analysis, the stock market, working on teams, working in a competitve environment, working in a low-key environment)
2. make a list of people you know who have jobs that on the surface seem a least somewhat interesting.
3. schedule 15-20 min to meet/talk to them about their jobs. Have a list of questions to ask them. Here's a list to use as a starting point 20 Questions to Ask During Informational Interviews http://bit.ly/41oTof
I think that process will start to help you eliminate certain options and identify things that are worth finding more out about. Don't feel like you need to be 100% convinced about a particular job. You'll have many many jobs in your career. You learn something about yourself and what you want to do next in each one.

Good luck,

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Nov 5, 2009
MeatProduct:

I don't care about working hard per se. What I do care about is not having enough time to start/maintain a family, or take care of myself (exercise, decent food, a bit of recreational reading here and there).

I've considered banking as well, but what that lacks in travel hassles it makes up in sheer working hours, among other things.

MeatProduct,

Very viable concerns. You can definitely start and "maintain" a family when working in both fields but I am not sure whether I would recommend a career in IBD or consulting if family & taking care of yourself are very important considerations for you. Both consulting and IBD are high-power fields and demand quite some sacrifices until you get to the promised land of being Partner or MD. Effectively, principals in my firm are very much working around the clock, including weekends. If you carry a certain inner fire, going through these years will be no problem -- I'm confident most principals in my fire actually enjoy what they do -- but if the luxuries of good food and exercise are that important to you, you need to seriously consider whether there are better options. Think slice of pizza in your hand while your shuffle around presentation slides one hour before a board meeting etc -- would you enjoy this?

Nov 5, 2009

Thanks for the feedback. I should've phrased myself differently - it's not that I don't care about what I do, it's that I could see myself doing any number of things, and being really into it. I very much wanted to be a consultant, and still do, but it just recently dawned on me that maybe I care about having a life outside of work more than I thought.

But you're right, of course, I need a clearer idea of what I want to do. I better get to work on that.

Thanks as well for the positive bit about the corporate career track. Seems I should give that route another look.

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Jul 25, 2011

Look into federal consulting as an option. I work with many folks straight from B-School that land $100-110K starting salaries and work 45-60 hrs (max). Target Fortune 500 firms like Deloitte, Booz Allen and Accenture that focus on bringing thought leadership to clients v. implementation (slower, boring, less glamorous) with General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, L-3, etc. Some work you can get involved with could be pretty cool if it involves a security clearance and work at the Pentagon. After 2 years you would be in the $120-135K range with ample opportunities for account management and business development. The lifestyle is not that bad either, you could flex your work time and put in 36-40 hrs in Mon-Thurs then take every Friday off permitting your contract allows for this. Not Wall Street, but if you're open to living in the DC Metro area that boasts 6/10 wealthiest counties in the nation, excellent public schools, and stable housing markets, it could be a great move.

Jul 12, 2012
johnniewalker:

Look into federal consulting as an option. I work with many folks straight from B-School that land $100-110K starting salaries and work 45-60 hrs (max). Target Fortune 500 firms like Deloitte, Booz Allen and Accenture that focus on bringing thought leadership to clients v. implementation (slower, boring, less glamorous) with General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, L-3, etc. Some work you can get involved with could be pretty cool if it involves a security clearance and work at the Pentagon. After 2 years you would be in the $120-135K range with ample opportunities for account management and business development. The lifestyle is not that bad either, you could flex your work time and put in 36-40 hrs in Mon-Thurs then take every Friday off permitting your contract allows for this. Not Wall Street, but if you're open to living in the DC Metro area that boasts 6/10 wealthiest counties in the nation, excellent public schools, and stable housing markets, it could be a great move.

What are the general prerequisites to getting into this just before business school? What sort of backgrounds are they looking for?

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Jan 23, 2012

Agree with Buyside CFA. MBA is not the time to figure out what you want to be when you grow up, MBA is the time to successfully execute on a plan that you've already figured out in advance. Also, consulting with family is doable, depends on the firm and the office. NYC/SFO is probably harder for a family man than Dallas or Atlanta, for example, just because of the culture and expectations. That said, I know consultants in our (MBB) NYC office with wife and kids that are doing just fine. As long as your family knows that they won't see you except on weekends, you'll be fine. And unlike IB, you will get to spend most Saturdays and Sundays with them with few if any interruptions.

Buyside CFA is also right about F500 corporate jobs. If you get into a top 10 MBA school, you can easily expect 100+ out of school and 150+ after 3-5 years... and that's just base, not total. Post-MBA jobs have more variable comp and stock compensation that allow you to actually build a retirement nest egg too. It's not the same pay you'd get in MC or IB, but enough to raise a family on comfortably in most parts of the country.

Finally, the dirty little secret in MC is that most people won't make partner. In fact, if you break into MC at MBA level, you're at a disadvantage to the people in your firm who have been doing it since undergrad. Maybe half will make it to engagement manager/project leader, half of them to SEM/principal, and fewer than half of them to partner. But exit opps after 2-4 years at MBB will put you 5-10 years ahead of your peers who went straight into corporate.

Good luck!

Best Response
Jan 29, 2012

Now is a good time to get your priorities straight and think about career paths. That said, while it's good to go into school with a detailed course of action (and it'll help you get in), you'll also see that people can change their minds and still get good jobs.

What background are you coming from? That will influence the choices you have (or how hard you have to work to break in). You'll probably want to identify what industries you're interested in by networking with people in that industry, and look at roles within those industries.

Besides marketing, most MBAs going into industry usually do either corporate development/strategy or general management.

Most corporate development jobs have a good work life balance with a low six figure income working in corporate finance (burned out bankers love it). The culture really varies by industry though - I remember hearing that Amazon's corporate development group is basically a VC fund inside Amazon, and I think that holds for the tech sector in general.

Also, corporate strategy groups provide opportunities to work as an internal consultant to different divisions with the opportunity to network with people in the division and eventually jump to a leadership position within one of those divisions. You won't be formally schooled in the jedi mind tricks they teach at MBB, but some of your colleagues will probably come from consulting and you'll be able to pick some of it up as you go.

In general management, large corporations with strong "grow your own leadership" philosophies like GE or Chevron and Shell in energy have formal leadership rotational programs where they groom you to be C-suite leaders. This is pretty similar to corporate strategy in that after the rotation, you'll go work in a division as a product manager or some other mid level leadership position. And a lot of people are also pretty pumped at getting into healthcare in a general management role - whether its pharma or biotech etc., it's a fast growing sector with a lot of long term potential.

The reason why a lot of people recruit for consulting (when they know they don't want to do it for life) is because they see it as a way to jump start their career development while getting exposure to different industries. But it's also a way to procrastinate for a few years on choosing an industry to specialize in. Which is a lot like MBA. It's life and there's no right answer here. Some consultants walk on water and jump from one high paying job to another after a few years. Some stagnate ("up or out"), go into industry and blow up because they don't have experience executing and making decisions. YMMV.

    • 2
Jul 12, 2012

Either an engineering degree or previous military experience are going to open most doors. Or having a clearance already but that typically comes from the military experience.

  • Anonymous Monkey
  •  Mar 5, 2016

How would a JD/MBA ,prior military, SF fare in this career path? More pay for added JD? What companies MC for these places?

Oct 25, 2012

i was also stuck in the same boat... Its hard to find a good work balance/payscale going..

Mar 5, 2016

"More Cowbell! I still need more Cowbell!"

Mar 5, 2016

An MBA is means to an end, not an end in itself; you shouldn't want to get an MBA for its own sake. You should start with a goal and then figure out if an MBA is a logical step to that goal. You're doing it backwards.

Oct 26, 2012

Hello Meatproduct, as JohnnieWalker infers, not all consulting jobs are alike. I have worked with a number of consultants who are living fairly sane lives; it really depends on the firm and depends on what you sign up for.
My suggestion would be to look into different companies and different sectors, and perhaps look at a firm that isn't the world's largest or the biggest meat grinder. You may find a cultural fit more to your liking, some interesting travel, but not road warrior stuff.
Another thing you might look at is to try to get a job in planning/strategy inside a forward thinking company. I know lots of top b-school grads inside firms like Google or even financial firms, who are evaluating lines of business from and M&A or biz dev point of view.
Look at some of the job descriptions of companies that are big post-MBA hirers and see if there's something that appeals. Research (and LinkedIn) are your friends.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... Ask away!

    • 1
Mar 5, 2016

Most MBA's do one of three things (It's common to see people going from role to another though):

Product Management - Getting the 40 year old virgins (programmers) to build something useful. Most PM's have some sort of engineering background pre MBA (most were developers who got sick of it) and now spend their time talking to customers figuring out what they want and more importantly will pay for. A lot of PM work is figuring out whether solving a customers problem is a) technically possible b) feasible given developer resources and c) profitable enough to spend time on. Basically, these guys decide what gets built. Their bonuses are tied to revenue so if they end up spending time and money building a product no one wants somebody gonna get a hurt real bad (Russel Peters reference!)

Corporate Development - Artificially boosting stock price through pointless acquisitions. It's important to generally have some sort of sell side banking experience for this. The key is to get a few good deals under your belt before going to a competitor. Too many examples to list here. Really any company with the word 'social' in it's title or mission statement falls into this category.

Corporate Strategy - LOTS of ex MBB people do this. You're basically an in house strategy consultant providing 'vision' and 'roadmap' for products customers will need in a few years time. See Microsoft's strategy development group for an example of what these people should -NOT- be doing. I knew someone who worked in corp strat (ex MBB) and his 'strategy' basically consisted of asking himself 'what would Microsoft do?' and then doing the opposite.

Hope this helps.

Mar 5, 2016

Buying Tumblr :)

Oct 26, 2012
JSonDx:

If you want to do Tech, you'd be better off going to a school in the West as opposed to NYC?

If you want to work around Silicon Valley, then it's hard not to get caught up in tech out here. And also, once you move out here for work, you'll definitely not want to leave. It's too pretty, there's too much going on, there's a lot of excitement, and it doesn't really get cold. I'm not trying to be cavalier about it, but the tech vibe is in the water out here.
Here's an example -- even if you were to want to go into investment banking of some kind (deals presumably), you would most likely end up dealing with tech firms. So even finance counts at tech.
And if you wanted to work in a "tech" firm, there are a zillion things you could be doing, particularly on the marketing side, that could be considered general management.

As for Haas, which is right around the corner from me, tech is a big focus, partly because Haas has a kind of geeky culture. Sort of relevant link: http://mba.haas.berkeley.edu/academics/technology....

But I suppose the number would be the same for Stanford GSB as well, where innovation and design thinking rule. Here's one example: http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/headlines/student...

As for east coast, yes, there are plenty of ways to get into tech, and Wharton specifically opened up a San Francisco campus to access the community here. It's a good idea, and over time, will likely have an impact in the region. But not yet, (and I don't know if *everyone* will have the chance to take advantage of the Whartron SF campus. Right now it is largely a center for the Executive MBA program).

I do think it will be easier to "get into tech" if you are based here, preferably Northern California, but SoCal can hold its own as well.

FWIW: A Poets&Quants link to a comparison of Berkeley and Stanford written in 2010, so somewhat dated-- note the one line "Berkeley send more than twice the percentage of MBAs into technology jobs than Stanford (that's quite a surprise given Stanford's location in the heart of Silicon Valley).

http://poetsandquants.com/2010/08/30/berkeleys-haa...

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... Ask away!

Mar 5, 2016

Every school posts employment reports on their websites. Salary/bonus, industry, and function with breakdowns by percentage are all there. Many schools also publish specifically which firms their students are hired by for a particular year.

Depending on industry, adjust perhaps 5-20% for living in those cheaper markets. That is highly company dependent though. Many industries and firms pay the same regardless of location and in that case you can buy a mansion surrounded by stifling humidity and rampant obesity. I kid, I kid. To each their own, my sister lives in OK and I just don't know how she does it.

Mar 5, 2016

The base for corporate finance roles starting off are generally 100K for most locations. Signing and annual bonus aren't as high as banking/consulting.

Mar 5, 2016
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Mar 5, 2016