Earlier this year, I graduated from one of the top 15 FTMBA programs with a fat full-time return offer to the company of my dreams, and of course, the ambition to “become a leader who creates persistent impact.” However, a few months into the new job, I found myself trapped in the classic corporate grind, spending a tremendous amount of my time performing grunt work, and killing to climb the corporate ladder to make the grunt work others’ problems eventually.
I work in corporate finance at a company that everyone knows. I like the company culture and people a lot, but I hate the bitch work I have to do 50% of the time — processing piles of data, and editing and re-editing slides. The work is tedious, not very intellectually stimulating, and shouldn’t take two years of higher education and $160K.
Some might argue that my work seems boring because I picked corporate finance, one of the least “sexy” career options in business school (which I disagree but that’s beyond the point). But when I talked to my classmates in consulting, corporate strategy, IB, PM, etc., I found we are all in the same shoes — working near the bottom of the corporate pyramid and dealing with all sorts of grunt work, whether it’s making pitch decks, crunching numbers, scheduling meetings, or interviewing business partners. No matter what role we are in, we do not influence business decisions the way we thought we would. We follow instructions from our managers, and we make recommendations our managers may or may not care. We have few opportunities actually to lead a team or initiatives. The analyst or associate working at the very bottom, who, ironically is technically sounder than us MBAs, also does not report to us.
I chose to go to business school because I wanted to make a career transition from engineering and nonprofit to something more challenging with better pay. I think MBA will introduce me to more options. It did, but later did I realize it also closed many options. While in school, I had the idea and opportunity to start my own travel company, inspired by another MBA grad who chose to start her own company over a return offer from the MBB. However, after I did an internship with her, I feared the pay cut, and the volatile lifestyle. After all, I am $160K in debt, and only my corporate offer stands a chance to pay it off.
If I’m dissatisfied with my current job, why don’t I switch to a different role? Because the seemingly exciting work often requires me to sacrifice my work-life balance. One thing I have learned from the Pandemic is that life is too short to work my ass off. A classmate in IB told me she just got to ring the bell at NYSE for the IPO she worked on. But she had to work 110+ hrs per week and many all-nighters. Consulting can easily hit 80+ hrs. The less intense work doesn’t get paid as much as finance, such as marketing, general management, and social impact. I know I sound like a whiny kid from the first world. My point is that pursuing an MBA is a commitment to a vigorous career path that comes with many trade-offs that schools don’t talk about.