What I Learned About A Harvard MBA

Harvard Business School - Ethan Baron photo

Harvard Business School – Ethan Baron photo

Graduation day is fast approaching for business school students, which means most are asking: What’s next? What is my life going to look like after school? Or should I go back and attend more schooling? These were questions I was asking myself two years ago as my own graduation from HBS approached. Now, two years out of the program, I have some perspective, and I think it’s useful. If you are considering an MBA or other graduate level education, keep reading.

1. Not All Harvard MBAs Are Raking In The Dough  

While some graduates do command incredible salaries eventually, none that I am aware of made millions their first year after school. Furthermore, in many anecdotal cases, those who choose jobs making less money than their peers were often the happiest and found their jobs most rewarding.

2. Prepare To Hop Jobs

I changed jobs less than two years after graduation. Many of us did. Some people changed for personal reasons (geographic preference or relationships), and others moved after being exposed to unexpected opportunities for learning or places they could leverage their expanding skills. Moreover, many dozens of my peers found something amazing, unexpected, and risky, and yet were comfortable making a leap into the unknown given the confidence in their future  derived in large part from graduating from HBS.

3. A Harvard MBA Is Not A Ticket To Easy Street

Some people believe a myth that with a Harvard MBA you can start slacking and still succeed. The truth is the opposite. No matter your education, your work ethic will be the  deciding factor in your success. Someone else without your academic background may feel they have something to prove, and they could be prepared to work rings around you.  Putting in the work, even after a grueling education,  is still required for  success, as well as gaining the trust of others for increased responsibility and authority. Your  MBA sends a powerful positive signal. But it does not show up in the morning and work. Only you can do that.

4. Your network is everything

The combination of your proven abilities and your access to influential people in their fields matters. Regardless of the industry or function you enter, there is a strong chance that at some point early in your career another alum will be able to help you out in a meaningful manner. In my own case. a friend of a friend from HBS helped me secure a call with a potential client only a few months into my first job after school. Without his support this prospective client might have never spoken to me (as they had turned down calls with other sales representatives from my company for months). With this kind introduction a relationship was formed, and eventually a deal was closed, and later on this client was one of the largest revenue drivers for my entire business unit.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.