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The Ten Biggest Lies of B-School

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The Ten Biggest Lies of B-School
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Sunanda K. Chavan
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Talking The Ten Biggest Lies of B-School - August 11th, 2011

Here are the ten biggest lies of B-School you should protect yourself against:

1. You will be rich. My experience (and from talking to others) is that it will take you 2 or 3 times as long as you think it will take to succeed after Business School. So take it easy running up your student loans and credit card debts expecting you’re going to be a rock star later.

2. You are smarter than people without an MBA. You were smart enough to get in to Business School. That doesn’t mean you are smarter than other people without an MBA. Stay humble.

3. There’s always a right answer. B-School students are usually very analytical and achievement-oriented. They like to think there’s always a “best” answer. There’s not. The perfect answer is always the enemy of the good enough one. You make decisions you can with the best information available. Life and business today doesn’t let you count how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.

4. If you’ve made it this far (to B-School), you’re destined to succeed. In my B-School, there were always amazingly talented executives coming in to give talks on business and life. They’d always compliment us on what a great school we attended and why we had our future by the tail. It made us all feel invincible — destined to succeed once we set out on our various career paths. It doesn’t work that way. I know B-School classmates who’ve failed miserably, under-achieved, gotten divorced, gotten severely depressed, etc. B-School is a great educational opportunity in life, but you still have to go out there and succeed. Nothing is given to you as a birthright.

5. You know how to “fix” the first few companies you join after school. You’ve probably worked at companies were people who’ve been there for 2 decades roll their eyes telling you about the new hotshot MBA who just started and is now telling everyone how to do their jobs. It’s so clear to him, yet others find it deeply offensive that he would think he knows how the company works when they’ve spent countless years there and are still trying to figure it out. All hotshot MBAs should wear tape over their mouths for the first 3 months on the job and not be allowed to “fix” anything.

6. Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) will always tell you what a company is worth. MBAs love DCF. They think the true answer to what a company is worth is always a DCF away. Just crank it out on a spreadsheet or whiteboard, show the boss, and move on to the next problem. Unless you’re going to be a sell-side analyst, you’ll never do a DCF after B-School. And even the sell-side analysts get their underlings to do them. And no one reading your reports will read them anyway.

7. The “soft” courses (leadership and people management) are least important. I remember talking to the professors from the Management Department at my school who had to teach the courses on leadership and people management. They used to lament that the MBAs never paid attention to them in class. Yet, the Executive MBAs (usually in their 40s or 50s) always told them that these courses were the most important of all the B-School classes they took. You learn after B-School that the perfect answer or strategy means nothing if you can’t get people around you to buy in to it and help you achieve it. To do that, you need to motivate them, listen to them, connect with them, and support them when they need it.

8. You are going to be more creative and entrepreneurial after Business School than before. In my experience, B-School makes you less creative, the longer you’re in it. They teach courses on entrepreneurship but it’s kind of an oxymoron the idea of the analysis paralysis B-School Students being entrepreneurial. You will learn a lot of tools and frameworks in B-School, but you won’t learn how to start a company. You just need to start a company.

9. Your peers will give you lots of tips and insights that will help you succeed in your career. In my experience, the majority of B-School students are lemmings. They don’t know what they want to do afterwards, so they just do what their peers say they should do (maybe that’s why they applied to B-School in the first place). Ten years ago, everyone at my school wanted to be a dot com entrepreneur. That didn’t work out so well and most students later went back to being investment bankers or management consultants. Your peers don’t know what you want to do with your career. You need to start listening to that voice inside your head.

10. The Ivy League MBAs will be even more successful. An Ivy League credential will be a big plus for you on your resume – no question. However, you have to realize that if you’re getting an Ivy League MBA, you’re probably 10x more susceptible to the previous 9 lies than other MBAs. Don’t let yourself be the next Jeff Skilling, the smart Harvard MBA, who worked at McKinsey and then went to Enron and drove the company off a cliff. He had a golden resume – and where did it get him?

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