Ask 100 working-age individuals why someone would intensively pursue a career in business. What do you think the most common response would be?
Often the response revolves around money and greed— not Adam Smith’s broad “self-interest,” but the type of greed you don’t want your friends to have. Immediately people conjure up stereotypical images of a Gordon Gekko-esque executive reveling in egomania. They see the MBA candidate as the money-hungry suitor of the next promotion.
Bombarded with these stereotypes and entering an elite MBA program, I feared an environment with a Wolf of Wall Street around every corner. With a few quarters down, I’m writing this to communicate the reality of how greedy my fellow Boothies are, the reality of why they’re pursuing an MBA, and the learning environment their motivations create. In doing so I hope to ease a potential fear for the recently admitted, inspire motivated professionals to consider an MBA, and encourage MBA candidates to forcefully confront the stereotypes cast upon them. Sadly, the recent rise in populism brought about by the invisible forces of global economics has found a scapegoat in the financial industry; with investment management, consulting, and financial services comprising the top 3 industries of Booth MBA candidates, sharing the reality of who the MBA candidate is has become more important than ever.
Let's begin by admitting the obvious: most MBA candidates around you are looking for their next career opportunity and eventually will make more money. The hidden truth, however? By and large the vast majority are searching for the “right” next step, not the next big check. Geoff Foulk is the perfect example of the type of person you’ll meet at Booth: smart, successful, and genuinely passionate. When asked why he’s pursuing an MBA his response was simple: “I’m passionate about energy, and it's obviously going to be a problem in the future. I want to apply the Chicago Approach to that problem…I’m not doing it for the money; I’m doing it to influence the outcome for a future I might not ever see.”
Although anecdotal, empirical evidence too has shown no causal relationship between incomes and happiness once incomes reach about $75,000. Pre-MBA students, I suspect, are distributed near that figure, suggesting they’re now searching for careers that fuel their passions rather than fanatically fighting for random promotions. With corrosive self-interest stymied, business school becomes a concentrated melting pot of genuinely passionate individuals who you want to engage and collaborate with. Ironically, rarely will you encounter the stereotypical businessperson in business school; rather, you witness the inspiring pursuits of people motivated by visions of a brighter tomorrow for everyone. The Social Enterprise Initiative, New Social Venture, and Social Enterprise Lab stand as a testament to the sincere motivations of MBA candidates. The daily encounters you always wish could last longer stand as a testament to the character of the MBA candidate. So if you’re new, engage! If you know someone passionate looking for the next career step, suggest a Booth info session. If you’re an MBA candidate, push back on the stereotypes!
Ardi Baftiri is currently a Booth evening student and works in real estate development. He is an avid traveler and has visited over 35 countries.