|GMAC shared the results this month of a global survey of MBA graduates|
Like all surveys, there are flaws or short-comings, even in the GMAC survey. Graduates who are doing well professionally or have done well over many decades may be more eager to take the time to complete a long list of questions and share their stories of promise and good fortune and report their upward-sloping compensation ranges. As well, measurements of "success," "accomplishment" or "senior management" benchmarks are often a function of personal experiences, values and objectives.
Yet like many surveys, there are some intriguing trends and worthwhile messages. Some of them are highlighted here:
This suggests a notion many have stated all along--that MBA learning focuses on senior leadership, senior management, and global businesses. Business schools are often praised for teaching students to become sector leaders, business heads and chiefs of finance and marketing.
Such sentiments might suggest the difficulties MBA graduates of the last decade have confronted, when financial crises, recessions, and massive restructuring across many industries meant graduates had to push beyond MBA credentials to find the best opportunities. Meanwhile, more experienced MBA alumni, established in their roles, may not need to rely as much on networks and contacts.
They are more willing to embrace innovation and change, more willing to be pro-active in business strategy and more tolerant regarding risks of all kinds (financial risks, market risks, business risks and social risks).
Survey results say it takes about 17 years of related work experience to reach the top of an organization, business unit or sector. The average age is 48, and the survey tells us something we already know well--that the officer in their C-suite slot is likely to be male.
That contrasts from popular notions that entrepreneurs and owners of their companies are those with unlimited courage, willing to tackle business and financial risks boldly. Like others, they attribute parts of their success stories to business-school learning. They take risks, they acknowledged, but they are measured, calculated risks, especially because they are singularly responsible for employees and accountable to demanding lenders and investors (venture capitalists, banks, and funding backers who want a five-year payout).
They survey shows that the oldest MBA alumni worked more prominently in finance (about 20% for graduates before 1990). For later graduates, the global MBA workforce in finance has remained flat, notwithstanding the financial debacle of the late 2000's.
MBA graduates in greater numbers are marching into technology and consulting (17% and 12%, respectively, over the last five years). The most notable decline is the significant decrease in recent alumni (over the past five years) choosing government and non-profit positions.
Meanwhile, they prefer their schools offer alumni seminars in business strategy, business analysis, and data science. They also want continuing access to career-development offices, alumni networking events, and more contact with professors on campus.
Expanding the Survey?
The GMAC survey omitted many questions and topics it could have (or should have?) covered. No doubt it needed to present a polished, easy-to-check-the-box list of questions, one for which there are discrete answers and which would not be time-consuming for survey-challenged executives. For the sake of efficiency, it avoided topics where responses are ambivalent or deserving far more than a multiple-choice selection.
The survey, for example, didn't provide breakdowns among some segments of alumni--women and under-represented minorities, for example, although there was ample categorization based on geographies and industries.
It would have been informative, for example, to review trends and signs of success among Latino graduates or to review the MBA skills women in senior roles saw as affording them a big advantage in pushing their careers. It could have provided hard data about trends among African-Americans in corporate hierarchies and compensation. And it could have confirmed whether the pipeline to senior leadership is dwindling or promising.
GMAC is already doing research and sharing its finding on many of these topics. The 2014 effort was likely about getting maximum participation from the largest number of respondents possible, from all over the world and from all ages and letting the data alone speak.
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CFN: Who are the Most Satisfied Business School Alumni? 2011
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