Is There Life After an MBA?
Apparently, there is! But it may not be the one graduates expect.
This month, INSEAD released a case study on MBA graduates from the Class of 2002: Memoirs of Life and Work a Decade After an MBA. Unlike a traditional case study, this work is a compilation of 19 narratives from MBA grads.
Rather than slicing-and-dicing quantifiable data, the study focuses on various post-graduation themes. For example, some students shared their difficulties with balancing work and family and finding larger meaning in life. Some stepped away from their career paths to follow their passions or care for aging parents. They experienced major life changes they didn’t anticipate, along with the fears, frustrations, and disappoints that come with any career.
Co-author (and INSEAD MBA) Jennifer Petriglieri is almost emblematic of her subjects’ experience:
“…I always feel as if I’m failing. I never feel that I’m dedicating enough time to my husband, my kids, myself, or my career. But if I look at it in terms of energy between the various domains that are important to me, I realise that actually they feed and enable one another. So for me, a lot of this is about framing, how you look at things.”
In many ways, the study is a gift to current students. According to Petriglieri, “We often witness our students getting so caught up with trying to meet traditional expectations of what their career and lives ought to look like after graduation, that their MBA starts to feel more like an obligation than an opportunity…For some of them this is an ‘Aha’ moment of a possible future for them, for others quite frankly it can be a warning sign of potential pitfalls ahead.”
One of Petriglieri’s students apparently agrees:
“My first thought on reading the case studies was one of relief. To see that other classmates didn’t have their lives entirely sorted out at the point where they were leaving. But also, even ten years down the line they were still in some kind of flux.”
The Myth of the Job-Hopping MBA
We’ve all heard the stereotypes: MBAs are only looking out for themselves, always searching for the bigger paycheck and the better opportunity. Businessweek editor Louis Lavelle disagrees with this depiction – and has the stats to back it up.
Recently, the Graduate Management Admission Council (publisher of the GMAT) ran the numbers on MBA job-hopping. The conventional wisdom is that MBAs will leave their first post-MBA job after 18 months. So how does that stack up against the facts? Here is the real data:
- 71% of 2011 MBAs are still with their first job, along with 63% of 2010 graduates.
- MBAs from the Class of 2000 have held 2.8 jobs since graduation, meaning they change jobs, on average, every 3.6 years. Businessweek came up with the same 2.8 number when it surveyed the Class of 1992 in a 2003 study.
- A 2011 study conducted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 70% of jobs held by individuals with bachelor’s degrees or higher who were born between 1980 and 1984 lasted less than two years – suggesting that job-hopping in the regular workforce is comparable to that in the MBA world
Bottom Line: Everyone changes job. And it is usually for the same reasons (higher pay, lack of opportunities, bad bosses, mind-numbing work, etc.). MBAs are no different. They job hop just as often as everyone else.