Non-Soul Crushing Careers for MBA Graduates

Non-Soul Crushing Careers for MBA Graduates

Key Takeaways

  • Diverse and less traditional careers for MBA graduates may offer more personal fulfillment and alignment with your values vs. the typical focus on management consulting and private equity.
  • Post-MBA careers in brand management and entrepreneurship are satisfying alternatives. They combine creative problem-solving with strategic thinking to meet consumer needs and drive business growth.
  • Search funds and impact investing are emerging niches for MBAs. They cater to those looking for entrepreneurship with lower risks or those wishing to blend financial returns with social impact.
  • Having courage and a healthy appetite for risk are key to pursuing unconventional careers post-MBA. Don’t be afraid to bet on yourself!

A post caught my eye on the r/MBA Reddit thread this week. It posed a question: “Are there non-soul crushing careers out of MBA?” The author, an M7 grad, was questioning their career choices. Despite landing coveted roles in management consulting and then private equity, they felt that neither had delivered on their promises.

The reason I’m sharing this with you is because I view OP’s situation as a cautionary tale. It’s a very real example of what can happen without in-depth research, self-reflection, and consideration of all post-MBA career options. Yes, even the ones that carry less prestige. Now I know first-hand how difficult it is to swim against the current of traditional MBA on-campus recruiting (which is typically comprised of management consulting firms, banks, and other large companies with highly structured recruiting programs). However, with a little bit of courage and a healthy risk appetite, MBA graduates can find seemingly endless career possibilities.

So for those looking to avoid the soul-crushing grind often associated with traditional post-MBA roles, I’d like to share 5 career options that offer a blend of satisfaction, challenge, and the opportunity to make a meaningful difference. (And yes, these are actual career paths that my classmates and clients have pursued.)

1. Brand Management

Brand management is an appealing career for MBA graduates who are creative, strategic, and interested in building and nurturing consumer products. CPG companies that recruit for brand management roles out of the top business schools include:

  • L’Oreal
  • Unilever
  • PepsiCo
  • Kraft Heinz
  • Colgate-Palmolive
  • General Mills
  • And many others

Brand managers are essentially the stewards of a brand. They are responsible for understanding consumer needs and developing marketing strategies that drive growth and loyalty. The role requires a blend of analytical thinking and creative problem-solving, making it a dynamic and engaging post-MBA career path. MBA graduates are well-prepared to succeed in this field after completing coursework in market research, consumer behavior, and strategic management.

The joy in brand management comes from the ability to influence and watch a product or service flourish in the market based on your decisions and strategies. And while brand management is a function most traditionally applied to consumer products companies, it can actually be found in a range of industries, from technology to fashion & luxury.

2. Entrepreneurship

For many of our clients, the dream of starting their own business is the ultimate goal post-MBA. Entrepreneurship is the epitome of freedom in the business world. It offers folks the chance to be their own boss and bring innovative ideas to life. This path is perfect for you if you are self-motivated, resilient, and willing to embrace risk for the potential of substantial rewards.

While an MBA is by no means a must-have for entrepreneurship, it can certainly make it easier and reduce risk. MBA programs not only teach the requisite skills for business planning and financial management but also provide access to a network of investors, mentors, and fellow entrepreneurs. While high stakes and stressful (I can’t sugar coat that part!), entrepreneurship offers a high degree of satisfaction. After all, you’re directly responsible for creating value and generating new employment opportunities! Despite its challenges, entrepreneurship is rarely described as soul-crushing. Instead, I think of it as exhilarating and profoundly rewarding.

3. Search Funds

A search fund is a somewhat niche but increasingly popular entrepreneurial avenue wherein an individual raises funds from investors to acquire and manage a company. This path is an excellent option for you if you are interested in running a business but prefer to skip the startup stage. A search fund model allows for direct entry into executive management, providing the thrill of entrepreneurship with potentially lower risk.

Running a search fund requires a mix of investment acumen, operational expertise, and leadership skills. These are all areas that MBA programs excel in teaching. The personal reward comes from successfully managing and growing a business. Then, the financial payoff comes when the company is later sold or continues to generate profits under your leadership.

4. Corporate Finance / M&A at a Pre-IPO Company

For all of the IB and/or PE alums out there, working in corporate finance or M&A at a pre-IPO company can offer a unique blend of excitement and challenge. (Bonus points for typically offering a better work-life balance.) These roles involve strategic analysis and execution to help prepare a company for its public offering, a critical and transformative time in a company’s lifecycle. The main downside is that compensation is typically much lower than what a bank or PE shop will offer. But the upside is in the equity.

For MBA graduates, this career path provides a fascinating insider’s look at the processes that drive business growth. Our clients in these seats enjoy the dynamism and high stakes of the pre-IPO phase, including developing strategies for sustainable growth and maximizing valuation. The satisfaction comes from seeing a tangible result of your efforts as the company grows and transitions into a publicly traded entity. That payoff is what you’re working towards.

5. Impact Investing

Impact investing is an increasingly popular field that combines the rigor of traditional investing with a commitment to generating social or environmental good. Unlike conventional roles in finance, impact investing provides an opportunity to contribute to societal challenges such as renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, or health, aligning your work with personal values.

MBA graduates in impact investing are equipped to assess both financial returns and social impact. This makes it an ideal career for those who want to make a difference while applying their financial expertise. This alternative to traditional buyside roles is particularly fulfilling for those who seek purpose in their professional lives, providing a profound sense of accomplishment and contribution to a greater cause.

Caveat: out of the five career paths shared above, this one is the most elusive. There are few pure impact investing funds out there (although that number is growing every year) and the roles are in extremely high demand. If this is on your radar, networking (frequently and early) and flexibility around timing will be key.

There you have it. These five careers represent just a sample of what’s possible with an MBA—opportunities where personal fulfillment and professional ambition meet. No matter which path you choose, the key is to align your career with your personal values and interests. Doing so not only promises professional satisfaction but also will contribute to your sense of personal fulfillment. And won’t crush your soul.

If you’d like to pressure-test your post-MBA goals with an MBA admissions expert who will give you honest feedback and point you in the right direction, book a call (it’s free) with us through the button below.

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