What does a Harvard MBA really do for you?


image: Harvard Business School posted on flickr.com by Alter-lachs

Caroline Baum of Bloomberg reviews a new book about the Harvard Business School experience, Ahead of the Curve, by Delves Broughton. I can’t wait to read it!

What does a Harvard MBA really do for you?

By Caroline Baum

What do some of the world’s most successful business leaders, savviest entrepreneurs and reviled felons have in common?

Six initials: HBS MBA.

A master of business administration degree from Harvard Business School is an elite calling card. It opens doors, provides a network worthy of Who’s Who and can be the first step on a path to untold riches. (So what if former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling ended up in jail?)

Intrigued by the opportunities open to someone with this golden degree, journalist Philip Delves Broughton quits his post as Paris bureau chief for London‘s Daily Telegraph to attend HBS.

His book, Ahead of the Curve, is the funny, insightful story of his experience.

Delves Broughton, class of 2006, was one of 895 students selected from a field of 7 100 applicants – a 12.6 percent acceptance rate. Once you’re in, though, it’s “almost impossible to fail”, the author writes. Students in the bottom 10 percent are given “every kind of support”.

That doesn’t mean the programme is without its challenges. The competition is intense, the workload daunting and the pressure to secure a job worth $400 000 (R2.9 million) a year with a hedge fund or private equity fund never far from students’ consciousness.

Students are taught business using the case method, adapted from the law school. Instead of listening to lectures, they learn business principles by analysing real situations in class. Professors “cold call” students to present the assigned case, intensifying the pressure to be prepared.

Some students come to HBS with a purpose: their companies send them or they want to make a career change. Others come to find themselves. Our narrator falls into the second category.

He struggles with technology (Word is the only Microsoft application he’s ever used), concepts (liabilities are the money banks have, assets the money they don’t) and a constant sense of being behind his classmates, many of whom have started companies and worked as consultants and public servants. Where Delves Broughton excels is in applying his journalist’s eye for detail. He’s at his best – and most hilarious – when describing his classmates and, by design or default, deprecating himself.

For some members of his class, accustomed to 80-hour working weeks, the 55 hours of academic work expected of them seemed like a vacation, he writes. One veteran of a private equity firm “did not expect to learn much, but she was looking forward to sleeping, working out and taking long vacations”.

Delves Broughton wrestles with the prospect of corporate life. He tries to follow the advice of the business luminaries who come to HBS – do something you love, the money will follow, family comes first – with the reality for most graduates.

After many job applications, dozens of interviews and a series of rejections (McKinsey & Co) from employers he didn’t reject first (Google), Delves Broughton comes up empty-handed. (“You went to Harvard Business School and couldn’t find a job?” he imagines people thinking when they meet him.)

That doesn’t mean the two years and $175 000 for tuition and living expenses were for naught. In the end, he realises HBS isn’t about getting a job. “It was about putting up the structure for a more interesting life,” he writes.

That may sound like a rationalisation, but if this book is any indication, Delves Broughton got his money’s worth from Harvard Business School.

Caroline Baum is a Bloomberg columnist

Read the original post here.

Author: Grayson Leverenz

Grayson Leverenz founded MBA in the USA® to help international students build networks, find jobs, and have fun in the USA. Hundreds of global professionals have benefited from Grayson’s intercultural workshops, and she has worked with people from Brazil, China, India, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, and the USA to build effective virtual teams and craft brilliant careers.

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