Friday, September 19, 2008

Glad To Get An MBA

Megan McArdle says she is glad she got her MBA and gives some great advice for recent grads going into an uncertain job market:
I graduated from business school in 2001, straight into the teeth of the last recession. This article sure brings back some painful memories. If you're a newly minted MBA, I offer the following, not very helpful advice:
  • Cast a wide net. I did both journalism and technology consulting after my management consulting firm blew up; I figured one of them would hit. I was right.
  • Try to get a job that's going somewhere. It's better to be flexible on pay and hours than to take a job that doesn't lead anywhere you want to go. The first job out of business school is important.
  • Reassess your goals. Did you really want to be a management consultant? Or were you bored with your job and hoping business school would let you find your bliss? Now's a good time to figure out if you really wanted to go into investment banking, or just couldn't think of anything better to do.
  • Network. I sent out about 1400 resumes blind after my firm failed. I got not one response. All the jobs I interviewed for came from personal contacts.
  • Look back to your old firm or industry. Unless you really hated it, they'll be more willing than most to take you in.
  • Cut expenses now. Right after you lose a job is the last time you want to give up your fun--you feel entitled. But you will regret it if you run through your savings before you find a job and have to move in with Mom and Dad. Allow yourself exactly one feel-good treat of under $150, such as a spa day or a really epic night of drinking. Then promise yourself something really good after you find a job.
  • Find other people in the same boat. Being unemployed in America often feels like being invisible. Other people are made uncomfortable by it, and if it drags on, they may start to get irritated with you, as if it must be your fault. That's their own psychological protection: they need to believe it couldn't happen to them. Protect yourself by finding people who know what its like. Also, those people will be amenable to hanging out on a tight budget. PBR: it's not just for hipsters any more.
  • Find some way to make money. You can't job search all the time, and it's easy to sit in your apartment getting depressed. Even if you're walking dogs, as one friend did, it both smooths your budget and gives your life some structure.
  • Don't panic. Everyone I went to school with is gainfully employed, except for those who have chosen to stay home with children. No one is living on cat food. It's hard to believe it, but you will come through this, even if it takes you, as it did me, eighteen months to get back on your feet. Believe it or not, losing that job was the best thing that ever happened to me. More than a few of my classmates say the same.
Her last point is particularly well taken. I too am very glad I got my MBA. It helped give me enough security that I can find a decent job in the future (combined with my work experience and engineering degree), that it made coming back to school full-time feel like a less risky proposition. I feel confident I can find gainful employment again in the future when the need arises. (In fact, I just turned down a job offer this week.)

For anyone on the fence trying to decide whether to go to business school or law school, as someone who has been through both (still working on the law part), I highly recommend business school between the two. It only takes two years instead of three, gives you skills that will serve you well no matter where you end up, arguably has the same level of average salaries (although law school has a lot higher variation -- both high and low), has broader marketability, and is a ton more fun.

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