Career Development 101: Choosing a Post-MBA Company

My MBA journey at Duke Fuqua came to a close in 2015. During those 2 years I’ve written a lot of content on my thoughts on the MBA and the admissions process with a lens from my experience at Duke, and I feel this blog has pretty robust content on that. Prospective students and current students alike should find the content useful and the feedback I’ve gotten from readers reflects this. 

Now that I’m done, I want to shift the content of my blog to more general post-MBA career development and leadership, since this is what I’m currently going through right now.

I’d like to start this new chapter of the blog with a series called Career Development 101. These blog posts will cover the basics on career development tailored specifically to the post-MBA experience. Prospective students should still feel comfortable in reaching out to me with questions on the Duke MBA as I enjoy giving back to the program and I’m always happy to talk about Fuqua.

Series content:

1)      Choosing a Post-MBA Company (this post)

You can find all the posts to the series here.

Choosing a company to work for after an MBA is never easy, but is front-of-mind for every MBA student. Essentially, the MBA is a two-year recruiting process. There are two major times when an MBA student needs to consider companies – before the internship and before graduation for full time. Let’s start with the basics.

People First

It is my firm belief that when choosing a company, evaluating the people in that company is the most crucial thing to do. Do the people that the company sends or who you interact with impress you? Are they in roles that you envision yourself being in? Do they have qualities or traits that resonate with you and inspire you?

These are the questions that I asked and it has been very helpful for me in the decision process. It’s also the framework I used when mentoring the first year students during my time in the Duke MBA program. Why are people so important? It tells you about the company’s culture, and most importantly, what qualities the company looks for in developing its leaders.

When you start in your first role fresh out of the MBA, you need a lot of help from the people in the company to do your job well – this includes your manager and mentors, but also the people in your extended team and various other business units. Therefore, how well you do is a direct reflection of the company’s culture and its people. 

Prior to the MBA, our work was mostly about individual contribution and personal drive. I’ve noticed that in the corporate world post-MBA, it’s more about relationship management and motivating others – or in other words, leadership.

The qualities the company looks for in developing its leaders is also important. Looking back, I was only impressed with the leaders in a handful of companies that I interacted on campus. Keep in mind that I have a very particular kind of leader I want myself to become, so this is extremely subjective and biased – you will have your own set of qualities that may impress you. 

I chose the company that had the leaders that impressed me the most, and who I genuinely reflected and envisioned myself becoming in the future. I’ve never looked back since.

Industry Growth and Company Cycle

As a post-MBA guy or gal, you are limited by how the industry you are in is doing. In other words, if you join a stagnant or declining industry, there’s only so much you can do and the opportunities for you to develop yourself may be limited. 

It’s essential to evaluate the industry carefully and figure out if this is a good industry to be in after the MBA. In MBA programs you’ll learn about the major industries in classes, and this is sort of a no-brainer, but I wanted to keep it here for completeness.

Another thing to consider is the cycle that the company is in. Bigger, stable companies go through cycles of growth and decline (think Fortune 500) and this is completely normal. In an ideal world, you would want to choose a company that is in its growth phase. Opportunities for development will be more abundant and there will be more resources available. 

MBA hiring is a huge investment by companies so you could assume that most companies that recruit at your school is growing. I’d still take the step to do a deep dive in the companies you’re considering to see if you believe in the company’s vision and growth strategy.

Also, you’re inevitably going to be asked in your interview the standard “Why Industry?” and “Why Company?” questions, so definitely do your homework on this. It’s good for not only killing the interview, but also for your own benefit when you decide which company to work for after the MBA.

MBA Leadership Development Programs

The company you choose to work for should have a robust leadership development program for its MBA hires. This does not necessarily mean that the program is a rotational program (more on this later). However, you do need to make sure that the company is putting resources into developing its MBA talent and that you will get the experiences and exposure to senior leaders that you need. 

The top consulting firms and banks generally do this very well, but for corporate roles students may need to do a bit more investigating since their programs may vary.

Now regarding whether the MBA program is rotational or not – this is a personal decision. One pro of a rotational program is the certainty that you will get exposed to many roles. It also strongly implies that the company is putting their resources into developing future leaders, and not just hiring MBAs to execute. 

However, one con with rotational programs is that each rotation may not be sufficient time to truly learn about that role, and when people know you’ll be leaving in 6 months, the experience may not be as robust. Another con is that rotational programs are somewhat rigid, whereas in a non-rotational program you can choose roles that fit into your career development timing.

Regardless of the program, you just need to make sure the program has a history of developing leaders and that it truly is a leadership development program.

Things that don’t matter

MBA recruiting is a little different than non-MBA recruiting – things are highly standardized. The first thing that doesn’t matter in my opinion is your salary and bonus. Look, MBA recruiters know their competition and will give you a very competitive package. If you think your salary is low, it may be because of geography, as some cities have higher costs of living than others.

Industry and function are also important, as consulting firms and banks have some of the best compensation packages and benefits for MBA grads. 

Ultimately as an MBA you need to think long term. If Company A has really good people, is in a growing industry, and has a strong leadership development program but has $10k less in starting salary than Company B that doesn’t have these things – I’d go with Company A for sure.

Remember, things that matter to me may not matter to you, and vice versa. Think about your own personal and professional development needs. Is being in an urban setting important to you? Is having to travel or not having to travel a deal breaker? Is compensation a driving factor? These are all things to consider – but fundamentally I would recommend folks to think about their long term goals.

I wrote a post about this in my first Advice to First YearMBAs post, and I’d like to echo it here: Figure out what you want to do long term (10-20 years later), and make the right decision in your first post-MBA role to be closer in achieving that goal. 

If you can do that, you can start filtering out things that don’t matter to you and have a laser focus on the things that do.

Read the other posts in my series, Career Development 101




1 comment :

  1. Choosing a career is a wise decision for us. It helps to develop our skills and strategies, therefore, before choosing a career, we must take suggestion from experts and do a complete survey on that particular field. I would like to follow the essential ingredients from here to improve our career goals. Thanks for such a wonderful article with useful information.

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