Retailing Legend’s Advice To MBAs

“Now, most companies don’t last that long, and you’re not going to get a gold watch.”

The fact that many entrepreneurial ventures fail should not deter MBAs from attempting startups, Baker says. “You do it for a couple of years and it doesn’t work out. You’ve got your MBA. You can get a job. You’re not a failure . . . at age 26.”

No matter where a business student’s career interests lie, internships are vital, Baker says. “All students should do internships,” he says. “You might find something that you really love and you might be offered a job. You might do something and find out you really don’t like it – that’s good, too.”


Constant, rapid change in nearly all business fields means business students should plan on taking advantage of mid-career education programs delivered by B-schools, Baker advises. “You’ve got to be willing to learn and keep learning. If you want to stay on top in a lot of these fields, you’ve gotta continue to be educated in them.”

In 2002, Baker and his wife Patty established the Jay H. Baker Retailing Initiative at Wharton, and endowed it permanently as a the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center in 2010. Despite the fact that fewer than 3% of Wharton MBAs have been going into retail, Baker remains a believer in the value of a career in that sector.

“People don’t always starve in retail,” Baker says. “You put all the Waltons together, they’re a hell of a lot richer than Bill Gates.”


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