Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Dealing with MBA Entitlement

I was catching up a few weeks ago with the alumnus who hired me last summer. (He is still at the fund but confirms that it's still brutal in IM land.) Towards the end of the conversation we discussed the fact that a sense of MBA entitlement was counterproductive these days and yet it is awfully hard to escape.

Last autumn I wasn't ready to compromise as I saw many of my classmates doing. I wanted to keep my options open. Now, I hugely regret that stubbornness. I wish I had just taken any old corporate job and been done with it. I've been job hunting more or less for 3 years. I have no more enthusiasm for this game and no more faith in an ultimate payoff.

It's final dawned on me that the reason I was so resistant to returning to Seattle is that it felt like the ultimate admission that I had just made full circle without anything (yet?) to show for it. After all, one of my primary reasons to get an MBA was to get out of Seattle. W/o the MBA my husband and I would both be gainfully employed homeowners, enjoying our children, getting exercise, taking the occasional vacation. W/ MBA we are roughly half a million poorer (tuition, childcare and foregone earnings for both of us), hoping we can get something roughly as good as what we had before, unsure of what we can afford in rent and too busy getting our lives together behind our laptops to pay attention to our children.

Hopefully with time the value will become apparent but the point is to say that MBA entitlement arises not just because the folks who get the MBA are just schmucks (though you can't rule that out entirely ;) but when you pay such a price you really want something big in return. And while the advice to humble oneself and get to work resonates with me, (after all that's what I was doing pre MBA), having spent so much money and time already and having two little ones that I'd like to spend some time with, makes this an increasingly bitter pill to swallow. If the qualities that will make me successful post MBA are just those that I possessed pre MBA - what was I paying for?

I went into this degree with eyes wide open to the financial risks that it entailed and the potential ramifications to my family. (And the '01-'02 MBA job market was still a fresh reminder.) I thought it would be worth it as my ticket to hedge fund land. And it may never be. Which is frankly the best lesson of all. I did not sufficiently hedge my risks* and I let greed blind my inner Eeyore.

In investing and in entrepreneurship losses are to be expected, so hopefully I'm more prepared for that reality than before. And I do believe that things are more likely than not to get better for me from here. But even more than before, I concur that for a happier life, shake off your misplaced optimism. (Passed on by the alumnus just before our chat.)

*Such hedges would have been applying to a broader range of programs and choosing the lowest cost provider. Applying to programs earlier before children. Doing a part-time program. Taking my employer up on sponsoring me for an executive or part-time program. Compromising on employers for the sake of security/stability. Etc.


a fan said...

I wonder whether only we, girls, think like this or only we, girls, are good at articulating the dilemmas so well in a blog post :)

I think it all boils down to taking calculated risk. How calculated can one be is the key and the difference.

Infact, the problem is accentuated when one isn't ready to compromise or lower one's expectations.

The.Grey.One said...

I follow your blog, and thus your life, closely.
I would not let you call it a "loss" now, we still have a life time to figure out its total worth. Don't we? So please don't be too quick to call it off. I'm sure it is easier said than done...and that too standing on the other side. But a top bschool saw something special in us to give us that coveted admit, now it is up to us to rediscover that and let that shine our way to both wealth & happiness.

Anonymous said...

I am also a mom, and I am in my early 30s now. I did not like my job and am always thinking if I should do an MBA to switch career. Do you have any advice for me? Thanks in advance.

MaybeMBA said...

thanks for the thoughts, a fan and!

Anon - whether or not the MBA makes sense for you is a complicated issue. But for starters I would certainly not let the fact that you are a mom stop you if it otherwise makes sense for you. I am thinking of doing a general post on this topic but until then I would say at least that it may be valuable for you to to explore programs and see what they have to offer and how well it will get you to your goals. And it never hurts to apply. Unfortunately, the MBA is quite expensive and not a surefire way to switch careers, but it certainly lends a credibility to your resume and, if you do not have a business background, can provide valuable knowledge. The problem, unfortunately, is that a mountain of debt for someone who does not have the time or interest in pursuing the classic post MBA careers which are best for paying off loans can be very depressing. So that is my only caution. Do some calculations for yourself. If you can handle/minimize/deal with that issue, go for it!

The.Grey.One said...


As you mentioned before that you are also thinking about Entrepreneurship, why not start with a relatively safe approach through "search funds". The search funds VC would provide the captial to buy out companies and remodel them to a new business venture. There is a post about these funds by a fellow Kellogg student (class of 2011).

Just thought that I would share the info if it might of any help or interest to you.

Good luck with your decision. Keep in touch.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. I am in a similar dilemma, just graduated from UCLA - Anderson from the part time program and have been without a job for over 9 months. I now see that my sense of entitlement clouded my self-awareness. You articulated a lot of things that I was trying to wish away. For opening my eyes to reality, thank you! I came from an engineering background and have resisted going back to it, even though that is a huge part of what I am. I thought, that by doing an MBA, I could jump several grades/levels (possible if I had graduated two years ago, but not now). My past accomplishments mean little to anyone and that has been very hard to swallow and knowing that a great job was waiting for me out of school is a fallacy.
Thanks gave me a spark of a guru!