The data we analyzed yesterday from the five years of Kellogg MBA employment reports hopefully got you thinking, and researching further into career paths and data from your target schools.
One clear takeaway was that you don’t have to do an internship in consulting to land a post-MBA job in consulting in your second year. This isn’t the case for certain other sectors, especially finance, where the summer internship is considered a critical rite of passage or pre-req to landing the full-time offer. It’s not mandatory, since nothing in life exists without exceptions, but it’s atypical to go about that goal any other way.
Why though so do many people end up in consulting when that’s not where they spent their in-between summer?
The reasons are unique to every person, but we have some common patterns to share.
The most basic is a career changer who does a summer internship in a brand-new sector and they find that they HATE it. If your MBA summer is a hellish experience and you realize you’re just not cut out for whatever job you thought you wanted to use bschool to pursue, then you’re going to land back on campus and look around and say “F__K!” and scramble to figure out your next best. And you’ll end up just like many BSers start out today when they’re starting at the computer screen and trying to answer the question in the MBA app that asks about post-MBA goal. “I dunno. Consulting?”
And then there’s a variety of versions of FOMO that kick in.
Here’s the scenario:
You come into the MBA feeling very idealistic. You’re the one who pitched corporate social responsibility as your career goals on your MBA essays. Or maybe you said education or non-profit. But then, you get caught up in the frenzy, everybody else on campus is all about CONSULTING!! and you take a look at some post-MBA salaries, and even with the tuition reimbursement programs that a bunch of schools have for the do-gooder types, still… (Pro Tip: This is why the adcom won’t believe your save-the-world goals in those essays.)
Another case is the unrealistic situation. If you thought you were gonna try for something like VC straight out of school but you’re coming into it with no experience, or you wanted to shoot for cleantech or impact investing or the Gates Foundation but now you realize there aren’t that many jobs, or an increasingly common one is the student who’s been bit by the entrepreneurial bug and spends all of the first year trying to get her company off the ground… And then the reality of student loans and an upcoming graduation date stokes fear, and your wife or husband or parents or others who care about you start expressing nervousness about your actual plans…. These fear factors can be very motivating, and it’s easy to see why prior dreams are often abandoned as the threat of reality looms large.
There’s tremendous peer pressure at bschool. You’re surrounded by all these a-ma-zing and incredibly accomplished, driven, smart, successful Type A personalities who are go-go-go. You thought you were one too, but in comparison to everyone else (or at least, to what they put out about how awesome they are) you start to feel uncertain. Imposter syndrome is a very real thing and that can be one contributor to a shift in priorities away from what you had originally intended.
This is at least in part captured here in a first-person account by a Stanford student (and former BSer!) who shares a personal story about hardship, and reveals the degree of flip-flopping that happened during Stanford before deciding for sure what to do:
Consulting is an excellent career, it’s stable and as long as the economy keeps humming along (fingers crossed it will be still when it comes time for you to be recruiting for these jobs in a year and a half) there will be plenty of grads hired by these firms. It can be a jumping-off point into a wide number of other things down the road.
Just make sure you’re going into it for a reason — both now, when you’re pitching it in your apps to the schools* and later on, as you make multiple small and large choices around what you’re going to pursue with your post-MBA life.
For some background, this post from venture capitalist Mark Suster talks about what strategy consulting is really like (with other very useful advice!).
Here’s a reasonably short video courtesy of a Stanford speaker (CEO of DaVita Healthcare, which BTW is one of Kellogg’s leading employers) on why consulting may not be the best way to prepare for truly impactful leadership:
Gosh, you’d think we’re anti-consulting with the tone and angles here! Hmmm. That’s not intentional. What we’re trying to do is be pro introspection. In other words: Don’t just go along with the crowd. Question your decisions. Why do you want to do X? Why are you not doing Y? What were the inputs to your process of deciding? How do you feel it’ll make you more happy?
Because in the end, it’s personal fulfillment that matters.
Make sure you’re paying attention at each step of the way.
And oh yeah! Look at the data! Question it! See if you can come up with your own hypothesis that explain what you’re seeing. This is an incredibly valuable skill and an important habit to develop in the world that we’re living in.
*Having actual reasons behind why you’re interested in Career X can make your MBA essays stand out as almost nothing else can. Especially when X = consulting.