Many MBA students choose to go to business school so they can transition into a new field, industry or career. Unfortunately, not all companies hiring MBA’s are willing to take on “career switchers.” Recent research conducted by Professors Camelia Kuhnen (UNC Kenan-Flagler) and Paul Oyer (Stanford University) suggests that larger companies are more willing to take risks with recruiting MBA-grads with little to no industry experience whereas lower prestige firms are less willing to take on that risk.
The conventional wisdom goes as follows: Larger and higher prestige firms have larger HR departments, more robust talent management processes, and more resources to educate their employees, so not only are they likely to be given the tools needed to be successful, but the cost of hiring a new employee and the risk associated with it hurts much less than it would for a lower prestige or smaller firm.
In the article featured in Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs is highlighted for drawing over 267,000 job applicants – an incredibly large volume. 3% of those applicants were extended an offer, and over 90% accepted. Given the supply and demand, it’s logical to believe that even if one of those applicants was not a fit, there are plenty more standing right behind them to take on that role.
On the flipside – take an early stage growth startup. Unlikely that the start-up has an HR department, campus recruiting team, or robust training and HR management practices to onboard a new hire, and in the event that they brought someone into the company if in fact the person did not work out the cost to fire (and potentially re-hire) could cause ripple effects throughout the entire organization.
What does this mean for MBA Grads?
Targeting a big company but don’t have industry experience? Looks like you have data on your side. But even for those with or without work experience, there are plenty of ways to beat the data that is suggested in this research
What you can do:
Internships – The internship, is a way to gain experience to transition into another field. The internship is a strategic opportunity to obtain a set of skills and experiences that could help you transition into the field of choice, regardless of your work experience. While some students look to use the internship to transition into the company for a full-time offer, internships (or multiple ones) can also be used as leverage to get into a field post-MBA.
Contract Work – Didn’t land the internship with that start-up? Look for opportunities to get contract work during the school year. With sites such as HourlyNerd, a platform for MBA students to sell their skills and services to work on projects for companies of all shapes and sizes, there has never been more opportunity to pick up experience and skills outside of the regular MBA learning environment.
Academic Study – While classes can provide the theory and technical knowledge, other academic options such as an independent study with a professor can also give you greater exposure to a field, industry, function, etc. Furthermore, you’ll be able to pick up valuable skillsets such as analysis and data collection and if you are paired up with a great Professor their network and guidance could be valuable in helping you find career opportunities.
Personal Projects – Tried all of these and still not satisfied? Try thinking of your own side-project to build knowledge or network. Take a personal trip to a specific company or set of companies and interview MBA grads from your school to learn more about the company and industry. For instance, I was interested in tech startups, so I went and interviewed a bunch of MBA grads from UNC that went onto be Founders of Tech Companies. Not only did I get a crash course in becoming a Founder, but I also made valuable connections for future opportunities.
Regardless of where you are hoping to go, switching careers through the MBA is a challenging but incredibly possible option. With the right mindset and hustle, there are plenty of ways to create the career opportunities you want for yourself.