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


What admissions advice would you give to a prospective MBA?

“First, in any given year, there are many applicants who would have succeeded at business school X, and who would have gone on to represent the school well in all their future endeavors, who are not admitted, simply as a function of high demand and limited supply. It makes sense to apply to a portfolio of schools, with a specific reason for applying and detailed career goals for each one.

Second, and this is more of a personal perspective, I think it makes sense to have one very cogent story and career trajectory, rather than multiple possible paths (being interested in both banking and consulting, as an MBA applicant, is almost like saying you’d like to become a professional hockey player … or a professional golfer…they’re simply too different in so many other ways…(and being equally interested in both may imply either a lack of research or indecisiveness, or both, to an admissions committee).”

“Some quick thoughts on your process of putting applications together: I think it always helps not only to highlight achievements and credentials, but to focus on why you pursued the things that you’ve pursued, and how you accomplished what you’ve accomplished (a narrative sense of your underlying interests and the changes you’ve experienced over time in your life — a true story that explains where you’ve been and where you believe you’re headed). That, plus finding a true match and ‘fit’ at a small set of target business schools that are right for you (rather than merely the top ranked schools), will be helpful to you not only in terms of getting in, but also in terms of enjoying and getting as much out of the business school experience as you can.”

For an engineer, would getting an MBA be the right move to make?

“This is a great question to ask, not only because it’s a shared question among other fellow engineers… but because it addresses the clear risk-reward trade-offs that must be considered with regard to any educational pursuit.

First, I know of almost no one who has gone to business school who regrets having gained the additional knowledge, skills, and expertise, or who is not better off, financially and career-wise, from the experience, but I also realize that that’s not the same thing as feeling absolutely satisfied that one’s efforts in business school have achieved all that was possible … and there are those few cases in which the immediate returns, compared to the big up-front investment, seem small and/or tenuous…

Beyond [your career goals and personal finances], everything depends on you. Can you get into a strong MBA program? Can you navigate the MBA recruiting process successfully, making sure to generate both U.S./domestic career options as well as options in your home country, if need be? Is business a better career path for you personally, and one you can stick with in the long-run, rather than your current trajectory as an engineer? Ultimately, your decision about whether the costs are worth it, and whether you will realize your career ambitions will depend on how much you want to succeed and make these changes, rather than how easy or difficult it is to do so.”

Am I better off hunkering down in one locale or going abroad for business school?

“I think the easiest way to answer your question with regard to studying in L.A. and continuing to work vs. going abroad for business school is to consider two opposing options.

[First], think of your career path as one that should/must remain on its current trajectory … have a conversation with your current VC firm leadership about any degree of assurance (perhaps even sponsorship?) that you can continue with the firm even if you take time away to pursue a full-time MBA degree and then, depending on the answer, compare your MBA options. (The added value of being abroad, the intensity of a full-time program, the expansion of your professional network, and the quality of programs may comprise attractive option to you personally, and perhaps to your firm as well.)

Or, the alternative option [is to] plot out the scenario in which you will not be able to progress in your career in its current form, and that you will almost certainly need to be working for a different employer, in a different capacity, after graduation. In that scenario, it may or may not make sense to stay in L.A. But to continue to play devil’s advocate, let’s assume that the UCLA Anderson option might then give you the greatest leverage in terms of deepening your connections and knowledge of the L.A. marketplace, while allowing you to continue to gain experience in your current role. Your job search may be easier and you may be better ‘protected’, from a career perspective, going with the local option.

It’s truly hard to predict what the ‘safer’ path is, in the long-run, and I think you could make a valid argument for either staying in the U.S. or going abroad as affording you the greatest amount of long-term career insurance.

Perhaps the best way to tip the scale in one direction or another is to try to figure out how likely you are to stay in Los Angeles permanently vs. live and work in another part of the country or the world in the future. I’ve often encountered MBA alumni who are world citizens and have world-wide career options, but who bemoan the lack of depth and close ties and communal and professional bonds that come with being from or staying in one place for a long time. At the same time, I think there are MBAs who would like to experiment and challenge themselves by living and working in a new city or country, but who simply couldn’t make that transition without “starting over” or having to pursue sub-optimal career options.”


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