How do I become a business tycoon?
September 16, 2007 7:28 AM   Subscribe

How do I become a business tycoon?

What's the route that maximizes career opportunity on a general level? JD, MBA, MS, or working your way up the ladder with no graduate degree?

I'm a soon-to-be psychology BA, with an average GPA (3.58/4.0) from a well-respected state school with a couple of years of part-time research experience.
posted by doppleradar to Work & Money (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If today's NY Times is to be believed ("Bye Bye, B-School"), go work at Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley and then jump to a hedge fund. Individuals with 1 - 4 years of experience have a median income of $335k with the top decile pulling in $450k.
posted by Frank Grimes at 7:42 AM on September 16, 2007

Forget graduate school for now. Go work in a field that interests you for a few years. Figure out what you want to be. Then go back to school, if you feel you need to.

As to becoming a tycoon, the age-old advice is, OPM (other people's money). In other words, contribute your own brainpower, but let other people take the financial risk.
posted by beagle at 7:43 AM on September 16, 2007

Ditto what Frank Grimes said. But forget about having any time to spend or enjoy all that money, working at Goldman or similar firms you will be easily doing 70-80 hour weeks and will spend significant amounts of time with your ass in a chair or a plane seat. Some people really thrive in that kind of environment, and if you do I assume you already know it. Check out for opinions on any company from insiders.
posted by mattholomew at 7:59 AM on September 16, 2007

Move to NYC and get a job with one of the big financial firms (companies that don't do anything, just invest other people's money) like Merril Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanely, etc.
posted by phrontist at 8:41 AM on September 16, 2007

Best answer: Never be rude to anyone.
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:42 AM on September 16, 2007

Individuals with 1 - 4 years of experience have a median income of $335k with the top decile pulling in $450k.

Don't forget the massive coke habit!

"Maximizing career opportunity" will depend on the career, of course. Career as an artist has a different path compared to a career as a scientist which is different from a career in law which is different from a financial career.

If maximizing just means making a lot of money to spend on hookers and blow, I understand that yeah, you won't go wrong in finance. Though this probably isn't really available to you, I've been given to understand Math Ph.D.s can easily earn $500k plus bonuses.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:50 AM on September 16, 2007

Re: The "move to NYC and get a job at an investment bank" route:

You can't just do this. Goldman, Merril, et al just don't hand out jobs to anyone interested. Someone with the OP's background (a non-econ/math/business degree with a B+ average from a state school) is going to be at at a severe disadvantage; most investment banks get their annual crop of associates almost exclusively via established recruiting programs at the top colleges.

Broadly speaking, an MBA is still your best bet for "maximizing career opportunity". You'll always read stories about ├╝ber-smart college grads fast-tracking themselves into exploding niche markets, but they make up a ridiculously small percentage of the workforce. Meanwhile, an MBA will pretty much guarantee you a job as long as you want to work.

In the meantime- relax, get in an econ class before you graduate, and spend some time actually working. You'll likely find that your perceptions and priorities will change once you enter the work world.
posted by mkultra at 8:54 AM on September 16, 2007

Network, network, network. Also what DenOfSizer said. People and relationships will help you work smarter and not harder and be more successful. But you'll also have to work your tail off.
posted by powpow at 8:55 AM on September 16, 2007

Move to NYC and get a job with one of the big financial firms (companies that don't do anything, just invest other people's money) like Merril Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanely, etc.

With a BA in psychology and an average GPA from a state school? That will be very difficult unless you are very very good at networking and schmoozing people or you have established family connections in the industry, which I doubt the poster has or he wouldn't be asking the question here.
You need to figure out where your strengths lie and play on those. If you are really good with numbers then you might go the quantitative analyst route. If you are more of a people person you might work for a couple years in an industry you find interesting then go for an MBA and try to get on the executive track. Don't get a JD just for the money.
Whatever you do, you need to be dedicated as shit to it and have a constantly evolving gameplan. You WILL work 70-80 hour weeks in all likelihood for a number of years before you see the big rewards. Most people don't just fall into "tycoon" without some serious busting of their ass.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:57 AM on September 16, 2007

Best answer: I think you're asking two different questions here.

To become a "business tycoon," your best bet is probably to be a financial genius, and, as Frank Grimes mentioned, get into hedge funds/trading. (The article he refers to is here.) You can get into a top business school and graduate at the top of your class, or you can raise some investment capital now and wow prospective employers with your strategy and returns; but the bottom line is that you need to have a real knack for this sort of thing, the drive to follow through (70-80 hour weeks are no exaggeration) and the ability to distinguish yourself from all the other hopefuls out there. This is harder than it sounds. (You might want to check out some of the responses in this deleted askme thread as well.)

If you're wondering how to maximize your potential in terms of career opportunities, I would say an MBA is probably a good idea - in addition to high finance, you could go into consulting (the big firms will, again, want high marks from a top school but it's decent money), and this also opens a lot of opportunities in management in general, and will equip you with some general knowledge should you ever decide to start your own business. As I said in the deleted thread I linked to above (reinforced by many "alternative careers for lawyers" threads here on AskMe) a JD isn't as many people, especially right out of school. I'd personally go with the MBA.
posted by AV at 9:11 AM on September 16, 2007

arrgh! make "a JD isn't as many people" "a JD isn't as versatile as many people think."
posted by AV at 9:13 AM on September 16, 2007

Seriously, work hard in a high-paying field, invest very wisely, and be lucky.
posted by theora55 at 9:55 AM on September 16, 2007

Best answer: Amusing little parable on "how a millionaire thinks," seen on digg this week.
posted by scarabic at 10:20 AM on September 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

It depends on what you want really- lots of $$$ or time to enjoy it.

I'm certainly not a tycoon, but the ROI on my MBA has been better than I imagined. Plus while I work very hard, I have a manageable work schedule that's fairly close to a 40 hour week. If you go into Finance or Consulting, then kiss your personal life bye bye. <>
That said, you need a few years of professional experience before you apply to B-school. You'll learn more with a few years of practical knowledge, but you'll also get much more lucrative offers immediately out of grad school. That first job after your MBA is when you need to make a big increase in salary. If you miss that opportunity, then the degree doesn't pay off nearly as well.

If you pick the MBA route, then select a top tier school with a very active alumni network. The contacts you make there will be more important than the degree.
posted by 26.2 at 10:48 AM on September 16, 2007

Becoming a business tycoon is really much more about ideas and their use in a business reality than it is about starting out with a lot of money. Only recently, and it won't be lasting very long either, has liquidity become available to young and old beginners in business to start. But that money presents enormous caveats to the beginning tycoon. It becomes a thorn. Better to start with a great idea than a great load of someone else's money.

Business school is not the answer either. To become a tycoon you really just need to be vocal about your ideas and realize when is the right time to blaze your own path inside your own industry. Very few of the best and brightest ideas had the support of an industry-wide collective in the last 300 years. The other thing to remember is that only earning a lot of money in a job where you are still subordinate to others does not make you a tycoon, it makes you a cog.
posted by parmanparman at 11:05 AM on September 16, 2007

To me, the words "business tycoon" do not conjure images of I-Bankers and Wall Street types. Sure, a career in NYC High Finance will line your pockets with dollars, but if you're an attractive, personable guy with access to a country club, you can simply marry yourself off to a wealthy family.

To me, a business tycoon is someone who starts (or possibly buys) businesses, and builds success stories. Think of Jim Clark (SGI, Netscape, etc...), Malcolm Bricklin (Subaru, Fiat, Yugo), David Geffin, Richard Branson.

Each of these guys started a series of businesses focused on something that they _love_. They took risks, put in a lot of sweat, and ultimately reaped their own rewards. That, is the essence of the tycoon -- the self-made man. For every one of them, there are one thousand who tried.

The ones who succeeded did so not because of their bankroll, their education, or their name. They succeeded because of who they worked with, and the relationships that they built (and continue to build) over a lifetime -- plus a little bit of skill at money management, and a whole lot of luck. (Though, part of what a good entrepreneur does is put himself in positions to get lucky -- so even that involves relationships and skills)

So... to that end, DenOfSizer, powpow, and scarabic have the right answers.
posted by toxic at 11:13 AM on September 16, 2007

Upper management in the manufacturing sector tends to pay a very healthy salary. It's more realistic than the hedge fund or other finance type jobs talked about above. Played right, your psychology background can be an asset. It is a definite door-opener for human resources.
posted by yesster at 11:18 AM on September 16, 2007

If you are simply after money, the simplest path is as a consultant with a large firm. Accenture, Ernst & Young, etc. They will work you to death, travel you mercilessly, and you will learn how the corprosphere operates. You will also be paid well and get bonuses.

Once you know enough, you can hop into a Fortune 500 company at exec level. You are then going to navigate your way up internally or begin to hop jobs looking for bumps up the food chain.

OR, after consulting a bit, go a GOOD business school for your MBA.

The combo of early consulting work with an MBA is a ticket into many, many places.

Personally, now that I'm at a high executive level, I regret not having the learning associated with an MBA in the broader aspects of management.

Of course an alternate path is starting your own company. If you have some capital, the real estate ownership path is staightforward and can turn enormous profits. But without capital to start, it's hard.
posted by Argyle at 11:25 AM on September 16, 2007

Best answer: I've seen two routes for maximizing career opportunity:

1) Be extraordinarily ambitious and don't let anything get in your way. Most folks of this type end up in jobs that require lots of time and effort for middling-to-good financial rewards (e.g., sales, consulting) because their ambition pushes them to max out their earnings at the expense of a personal life. People like this who get into investment banking have set up their entire life plan around reaching that goal, so it's probably not feasible for the OP to take this route. However, finding an entry-level sales job and seeing how it goes is quite feasible.

2) Find a niche talent that pays well. If you can do something useful that few others can and are willing to make a few concessions to monetize that talent, you'll do quite well. For example, quants, by and large, are not ambitious people. The ones I know had to be talked into the job and are paid extremely well because, having relatively little use for money, it takes ridiculous sums to keep them motivated to work on problems most find uninteresting at best. So the OP should also be on the lookout for talents he has that could be marketed to others.

My take on MBAs: any job where having an MBA would make the difference between getting and not getting the job is a job you don't want, because any management that obsessed with appearances is doomed to underperform. Getting an MBA for the business education and networking makes sense, though.
posted by backupjesus at 11:49 AM on September 16, 2007

Best answer: You can marry more money in ten minutes than you can make in a lifetime.
posted by caddis at 2:10 PM on September 16, 2007

The other thing to remember is that only earning a lot of money in a job where you are still subordinate to others does not make you a tycoon, it makes you a cog.

Seconding this. Also, most MBAs I know are boring people of less than average intelligence, who clearly just decided to get an MBA at some point because, as far as getting rich, they obviously didn't have anything else going for them. If that's you, then, I guess, go for it.
posted by bingo at 6:25 PM on September 16, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks all. I feel that much closer to being able to take over the world. I'll keep checking back...
posted by doppleradar at 11:20 AM on October 12, 2007

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