1. Self-employed creative. 2. B-school. 3. ??? 4. Profit!
November 2, 2011 7:53 AM   Subscribe

What are some logical and plausible post-MBA career goals for a self-employed creative type?

Bio: early 30's, male American applying to 2-year full-time MBA programs. 720+ GMAT, humanities BA from one of the most prestigious public universities, self-employed as a photographer since college, and a strong writer with an interesting story and a well-established Internet profile. I have lots of good reasons to pursue an MBA: to gain familiarity with operating in a corporate environment, to broaden my knowledge of business (and just as importantly, to credential myself as having said skills), and of course to network, which will be especially relevant with this big career change. My target schools based on fit are Kellogg, Yale, Darden, and UCLA.

What I'm missing is a set of clear, logical, plausible, and defensible set of career goals. There's no need to pretend that these are set in stone, especially with how much people sometimes alter trajectories during b-school; however, I will still need to have a target to guide me during the application process and through the early stages of school and the internship search. My question to those who are more familiar with the MBA/jobs landscape is: given my profile and the recruiters/jobs that are likely for the schools I'm targeting, what are some of the next steps that "make sense" the most? Are there niche consulting firms that like to take creative doer types? What about marketing possibilities for those with a strong background in the visual arts and Internet communities? What are some common paths for those coming from an arts/humanities background?

Any specifics (for example, names of likely companies and positions) would be especially helpful. Also, if you're a student or an alum from the above schools (or if you have any insights you'd prefer to share in private), please *please* MeMail away. Thanks!
posted by Socky McSock to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Since many of us make purchasing decisions based on what a product looks like, over its true performance, there are many opportunities for jobs that can negotiate business and creativity.

Further: increasingly, America's main import is culture and creativity. It sure seems like American movies and music lead the rest of the world in quantity and quality, so much so that it's sometimes unsettling.

When you're talking to these schools, you don't need a specific job position in mind. You just need to make it obvious that you're interested in this growing trend, a trend that these schools will recognize.

In summary: you're on safe ground. Enjoy the job change!
posted by Murray M at 8:13 AM on November 2, 2011

Make that "export"
posted by Murray M at 8:14 AM on November 2, 2011

Your thought process is all wrong about this. It sounds like you want to get an MBA, and are fishing for a reason to do so; realize that most MBA students already have corporate experience and need the MBA to advance. So yes, you need a clear objective. But once you establish what that objective is, ask yourself, do I really need an MBA to achieve this? Plus the debt and two years of your life? If you are still in the "general idea" stage, you would be better served reading as much as you can about various industries, asking around and seeking internships, all while supporting yourself with your photography. The MBA should be a thesis you are trying to prove, not a foregone conclusion you are trying to justify.
posted by blargerz at 8:54 AM on November 2, 2011

I agree with blargerz, you are going into it backward, thinking of your fit first and the output second. Most MBA programmes will want to see three things:

1) How your background will contribute to your coursework and colleagues
2) How the MBA will help you grow and develop your business capabilities
3) What you will do with the MBA -- why do you need it to get to the next step

There was a study of students at Harvard (no citation on hand) where they surveyed incoming students and divided them into two categories: 1) Harvard as a destination, or 2) Harvard as a next step toward a life vocation. What they found, unsurprisingly, was that the former category did not significantly contribute to their post-education organisations. The latter group however were the high achievers that leveraged their time at Harvard to help create the amazing world that they wanted to live in.

Point being, that you must know why YOU want an MBA and what YOU will get out of it. I can tell you a laundry list of things that I think you should do, or that I see my top tier alumni colleagues doing, however, you would do little at this point besides parrot that back with little passion, intention, or energy.

What I want to know -- and what they will want to know -- is how will you contribute to the world around you and use your education to enrich the world. For some, this is starting companies that will employ people. For others, it is getting rich so that they may architect philanthropy. For others, it is the difference between being an analyst and being an associate. And still for others, it is about leveraging the network to generate startup funding for their next great idea.

Whatever your destination is, you must weave a path from where you have been, through your chosen programme, and toward a destination. Ideally a destination that contributes to someone else. Either a team within a firm or your own business.

In terms of where you can start looking, commercial and innovation teams often take creative, outside thinkers. Your self-employment background will make you an ideal candidate for a start-up environment where it's all hands on deck and the job description is just a starting point.

One very key concept is that you should attempt to go to school in the location in which you want to work, for that will be your strongest network. In California, there will be many more opportunities for creatively-adjacent roles (a friend from UCLA transitioned into brand management at Disney for example).

Overall, you've done the basic work -- getting the boxes ticked on your capabilities. Now your next task is to focus on what you really have to contribute and why you need an MBA to do that.
posted by nickrussell at 10:07 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the helpful "big picture" feedback. I know that for the bulk of applicants, the MBA is an easily-understood step into the phase of their career, and that adcoms are especially wary of career switchers like me whose background may make them difficult to place for internships/jobs. What I find most difficult is that without sufficient foreknowledge of the lay of the land from not having that background, it's all-too-easy to come up with ideas that are impractical, unrealistic, or poorly-suited for my background and skills, or has been attempted too often before, etc. I feel like I'm taking shots into the dark when I could really benefit from being pointed toward a few well-matched areas to target, the industries where it makes the most sense to research and investigate possibilities (such as nickrussell's suggestions of startups and brand management). Any additional pointers would be helpful!
posted by Socky McSock at 8:44 PM on November 2, 2011

This isn't really about an MBA, but it's similar and geared towards creative types: have you looked at the KaosPilots or Knowmads?
posted by divabat at 5:10 PM on November 3, 2011

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