January’s Fast Company magazine has an article entitled “The Four Year Career,” in which writer Anya Kamenetz highlights the zig-zag career paths of a Google sales and operations manager, an unemployed (but accomplished) 20-something, and a pseudo-retired HP executive trying to launch a nonprofit career. The upshot will be familiar territory for anyone working in business today: the US worker’s median job tenure is 4.4 years, and skills developed are more important than years logged in a given role.
But how does this information translate into guidance for an MBA who is looking for a job? The counselor in me thinks it boils down to self-awareness. Our students tend to fall into one of two buckets: those who know the type of skills they want to develop and are willing to take risks to do it, and those who basically want to find what they perceive as stable employment, preferably with the added bonus of a recognizable company on their resume. Since for most of us the number of students in the latter category far exceeds the number of on-campus recruiting opportunities available, many applicants will be disappointed.
But the marketplace demands that even students who join big, stable companies be the type of employees that take risks and build new skills—because there is no such thing as career stability (or, for that matter, big stable companies) anymore. So is our job to help “place” students into jobs, as the popular media would have us believe, or to help students become more self-aware? To just help them find jobs after graduation, or, in INSEAD professor Herminia Ibarra’s parlance, help them to determine their working identity?
I believe that business schools have a responsibility to teach students to manage their careers, not just find jobs. Part of career management is identifying what you want to learn, and what skills you want to develop. Relationship management is another big component. But instead of seeing these topics as a part of business education, faculty let the career offices—no matter how underfunded and understaffed— handle all these topics. Even career development courses, included in more enlightened curricula, tend to focus a lot of attention on the nuts and bolts of the job search process rather than on career management over time.
Do any of you feel like your institution does career education right? If so, please share!