New MBAs Don’t Know Jack

I’ve helped several people in MBA programs before, and so have been contacted by a slew of recent MBA grads in recent months inquiring about opportunities in the B.C. business scene. After congratulating them for completing the rigorous program, I had to give them some deflating advice.

Get over yourself, I tell them. You still don’t know anything about today’s business.

This is my standard view of MBAs. They’ve bought the whole package that the training confers on them a kind of priesthood status, and they can move right in and run or manage a business.

This is the underlying message in b-school marketing: Shell out 50 to 80 Gs a year for our program, and you’ll instantly become a high-level manager earning bundles.

In some cases, that’s true – if you work for any arm of government, which automatically raises your pay grade for any advanced degree. But in most cases it isn’t.

Big companies – especially banks – usually hire MBAs because they know they’ve been trained in the best practices of big companies and so make good functionaries and maybe even analysts – some day.

But business is changing, and today, more and more companies want strategic or innovative or entrepreneurial thinkers who can see the big picture as well as individual details. I’m thinking of the chief of one of the biggest business intelligence operations in the world who bluntly told a consulting firm he kept his company private because he didn’t want some “know-nothing 25-year-old investment banker with an MBA” running his company.

BC especially is an entrepreneurial business scene. But I haven’t met too many MBAs who were pleased with the entrepreneurial training they received, if they had any at all.

So if your aim is to be a cog in a big company, and fight your way up, great, go for it.

If you want to work with entrepreneurial businesses, you’re going to have to start learning all over again.

Am I alone in this kind of thinking?