MBA Student Dilemma: What’s My Mission?:
Where would you work if you could go anywhere?
That’s the dilemma facing MBAs matriculating from top b-school programs. It’s a current dilemma that I, and several of my veteran classmates, face. “ … if we could go anywhere,” may be a slight overstatement, but not by much. Our veteran cohort has several job offers in various industries and at a myriad of firms, as well as dozens of interviews lined up. I anticipate more offers to follow, even if we assume a 50/50 success rate, which would be a conservative estimate.
So the question arises again: where would you work, post military, if you could go anywhere???
Do we, as veterans who often times have little to no “business experience,” need to get our feet wet in business before we branch of on our own?
There are a number of great introductory vehicles just waiting for us … namely management consulting and investment banking. These industries claim* to provide a broad, if not shallow, exposure to many of the functional areas of business: finance, sales, strategy, etc. Grab a blue chip firm for the ol’ resume and no telling where you can go, right? But where do vets typically go after consulting or finance?
(*Aside: I say claim because I find the term “business experience” to be a loaded one. Recently a professor, and former CEO of a Fortune 100 company, discussed what he called “The Primary Colors” of business jobs. He said that you’re an advisor, an investor, or an operator. He challenged us to discover what role was the best fit for us, and then pursue those roles. He was’t without an opinion and made a case for veterans pursuing operational roles, at least initially. The Primary Colors is relevant when considering what “business experience” to pursue. If you ultimately want to be an operator/entrepreneur, experience as an advisor / investor may not be the most relevant experience to chase.)
What about “Search Funds?” This relatively new investment vehicle allows aspiring entrepreneurs to search for and purchase small businesses (all over the country) directly out of b-school using investors’ capital and debt. After running the business for 5-7 years, the entrepreneurs sell the business often realizing a capital gain in the 7-8 figures, and investors often enjoy a 30%+ IRR. A lot of “start-up risks” are mitigated by purchasing a strong, cash-producing business with steady revenues. Is this well suited for vets?
If we consider those two options opposite ends of a spectrum, so much lays in between. There’s general management in just about every major industry: tech, pharma, med devices, retail, food/bev, etc. I mean vets are generalists by nature, no?
I’m asking these questions because so many of us are currently in the horns of this very dilemma. How do you build a framework useful in making this decision? For most of us, it’s our first jobs after the military. We’re beginning to build our next careers, and starting young families. These are exciting times.
I think it’s helpful to remember that first, and foremost, you don’t need to have clear answers to these questions to decide to leave active duty and start another chapter. Many of us will not get clarity on this matter (in the next few months) and will have to jump headfirst into our next adventure before we truly know if it’s a good fit. And, we’re uniquely equipped to thrive in such a situation.
It’s also helpful that over the past few years, you’ve been wired to be purpose (mission) driven. But I’d offer that this dilemma can be reduced (or elevated?) to a sobering confrontation with the following question:
What’s MY mission? Does this job, or opportunity, allow me to accomplish that mission?
This mission will certainly evolve and develop over the next 50 years (*number of years not guaranteed, just a statistical approximation), but I’ve found that a mission centered lens has helped. At the very least, it has eliminated certain roads.
Will you dodge the mission question?