This week’s problem
I am doing an MBA following five years working in a front office role at a small investment bank in London. I wanted to broaden my options and take time out to gain a degree, which seemed like a good call due to the pandemic.
But I think it was a mistake. The focus for most students is getting into investment banking or consulting, neither of which I am interested in. Given my background, would it make more sense to drop out, save the fees and spend a year interning at different companies to gain diverse experience, and then apply for a corporate development/finance role? Anonymous, 20s
Your original objective for studying for an MBA — to broaden your options — still holds. You successfully applied and were accepted to the course and have now sunk significant time and cost, and have presumably started to learn new skills and meet classmates from diverse backgrounds.
You are now questioning if the risk of quitting outweighs another few months on the programme. While the most popular destinations for European MBA graduates are consultancy and banking, only about 36 per cent head there; the majority go elsewhere including IT, industrial, ecommerce and consumer products. It may appear that the current and initial focus of your classmates is the City, but the reality is that others may share your dream of a job elsewhere. Peer pressure can be powerful but does it matter where others wish to go? Steer your own course.
One of the main benefits of any MBA is the network of contacts that you will develop. This can be the perfect group of people with whom you could consider starting your own business. Collectively, you will have many of the business skills, some experiences from your previous paid employment, and access to a range of potential partners.
You always have the option of dropping out, which would mean that you are foregoing the chance of a qualification you may find valuable in years to come, even if not immediately. Interning may well be an attractive option, but consider how likely you are to secure one when you are in competition with current MBA students still on the course. You will find yourself defending your decision at every interview, and also repeating that for all future applications. Such a discussion is distracting and raises flags about your staying power. As opportunities become more scarce over the next few months, you may find yourself losing out as recruiters play it safe with the few jobs they do offer.
If you decide to stick with it, explore ways to make the course more relevant for your interests. On the curriculum, select options that stretch you and will be useful for your proposed future industry and role; within the class, seek out like-minded people with whom you share common interests. Arrange some outside speakers, networking visits, or group discussions. Return to your course with renewed intent and specific ideas to get the best out of the new year.
It’s madness to drop. An MBA from a great institute will do wonders to expand your knowledge of the business world. Oz
Do not be concerned whatsoever with what your peers are interested in. The data shows the majority of income gains from an MBA occur later in one’s career. Aquinas
In the asset management sector, people like me are far more interested in your background, your experience, your values (do you have integrity), and your judgment. Sam the Springer Spaniel
Jonathan Black is director of the Careers Service at the University of Oxford. Every fortnight he answers your questions on personal and career development, and working life. Do you have a question for him? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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