Landing Your Dream Job – The Best of Ivan Kerbel (The Sequel)

Ivan Kerbel, founder and CEO of Practice LLC

Ivan Kerbel, founder and CEO of Practice LLC

How important is a school’s reputation and brand to employers and peers?

“With regard to the brand, network, and other ‘soft’ effects (beyond the technical skills) you will gain from a specific alma mater, I would think of the usefulness and power of the degree as applying to two specific time windows. The first, as you’ve pointed out, is when you’re in school and/or about to graduate … the market-making power of your institution’s on-campus recruiting process (especially vis-a-vis banking) plays a big role in the opportunities that you will have access to, both for internships and full-time roles.

The next time period, in my opinion, when school brand tends to matter is when you’re some ~7-10 years out of business school, and success in your job function (whatever that may be) increasingly relies on your ability to sell new client work, conduct business development, create strategic partnerships, find companies to invest in / acquire, etc. … all activities for which having a broad personal and professional network and close friendships with fellow MBA alumni (who are themselves leaders at peer organizations) can make a positive difference. My assumption here is that the more competitive the school is, the more ambitious and likely to find their way to leadership roles your fellow graduates are likely to be… a broad, generalization, I know.

In between those two time windows, of course, is a long stretch of years in which your own efforts, track record of success, and ability to be promoted and take on new challenges ‘on the job’ make all the difference….

A last thought: one way to cancel some of the effects of school rank/brand is to spend a lot of time up-front researching the types of employers, organizations you’d like to work for, and, simultaneously, to think about what city/state you’d like to reside in long-term. All business programs enjoy strong relationships with local or regional champions (in addition to the major national/international employers), and that can be hugely advantageous, if you know you want to remain in a specific part of the country, post-MBA.

Of course, during that long mid-career period when you’re truly ‘earning your stripes’ and building your reputation, staying in the same place (avoiding multiple moves, and the necessary process of re-building your network, etc.) can also be a smart move, and one that also mitigates alma mater brand and network differences…”

Can I develop a career out of my interest in sustainability?

First, I think all topics related to sustainability are currently experiencing a transformation from occupying a specialized niche to having a universal presence across all aspects of an organization (meaning, transitioning from having a small team of a few individuals at each company working to spearhead a few initiatives to an organization-wide mandate baked into the job description of every major role and function).

I think the types of roles you will one day pursue are less likely, therefore, to be stand-alone “jack-of-all trades sustainability expert” (that is, until you acquire the wide-ranging responsibilities of a Chief Sustainability Officer) than they are likely to be about the underlying function, product, organizational process, etc. that you are in charge of. Hence, you may find that you will first need to pursue and select a specific function (product development, or supply chain, or marketing strategy, for example) or a specific industry as a way to focus your career and domain expertise, with the added layer and possibility that you then become the sustainability expert for that function, industry.

A former student of mine at Yale SOM, who has a similar set of interests as you do, put it this way during her first week of MBA orientation: “I have to prepare myself for a job that doesn’t exist now, but will exist two years from now when I graduate.” I think that is a valid expectation for you as well, and given how dynamic and mutable the field is and concepts around sustainability are, I think it makes sense, therefore, to worry less about what that future job/role is than to focus on and choose the underlying thing that interests you … whether that’s water, transportation, or carbon finance, etc.

If my assumptions e are correct, sustainability will be such a universal part of business that you might as well start now in researching what type or organization and industry you’d like to work in, resting assured that you can make a sustainability-focused career out of it (think of it in the same way as someone who says he wants to go into “finance” … o.k., what kind of finance, for what type of company, etc.).”


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