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Is life after MBA hectic and stressful?

Life after MBA: Hectic, stressful?

Why do men and women, ranging from young adulthood to the years veering into mid-life, choose to get an MBA degree?

Some feel that their career can get a fresh “management” level boost while others venture in feeling the push for a career change.

Then there are the ones who seek the leadership training unmatched in any other educational program.

Let’s not leave out the many who choose it for the incredible placement, compensation, and networking opportunities it lays out, red carpet and all.

Whatever be the reason to determinedly walk, or wander, into an MBA classroom, the degree does manage to set the stage for a successful post-MBA career.

Of course, as long as the program is reputed and the student manages to make the most of what is offered.

There is no doubt that an MBA is motivated by career development.

But how much do we know about the aftermath of the degree – well beyond the initial honeymooning period when the hikes, bonuses, promotions, and responsibilities, lose their freshness?

Do the years lay testament to the pressures of workload after MBA? What do MBA alumni, with a few years of servitude in various corporate sectors, have to say about their work and life?

In other words, is life after MBA hectic and stressful?

Downsides of a Post-MBA career

Here are some factors that prompt a discussion about why life after MBA can be insufferable.

Long hours

The big salaries come with some of the most demanding expectations. The standard 9 to 5 is what Investment Banking or Management Consulting firm employees put in on their days off!

How many hours do you think an MBA usually puts in? While the average employee stays on the usual 40-hour work week schedule, a study by Transparent Career shows almost 8 days a week time table for MBA graduates working at some of the top IB and Consulting firms.

McKinsey workers put in 72 hours, Bain & Co. about 58, while Boston Consulting Group sees 63 hours of punch ins.

Investment Banking are far worse at 86 hours work week for Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan at 72 hour weeks and Morgan Stanley workers slog for 70 hours every week.  

Here are some of top few gut-wrenching stats in the various industries that recruit MBAs, apart from IB and Consulting.

Industry Hours typical employee works per week
Environment Natural Resources 75
Healthcare 58
Mutual Fund 58
Investment Management 57
Retail & Hospitality 55
Private Equity & Ecommerce 53

Source:Transparent Career
Weekends are hard to come by – try once every 3-4 months. While whatever time there is left over from this schedule, MBA graduates scavenge for a wink of sleep or commuting to and fro from work.

Many of these job descriptions require extensive traveling, leaving little to even less time for life outside work. Is that a cause for stress?

Well yes. This culture of working 24/7 and then some is highly cultivated and praised among management in the corporate world.

According to researchers at Columbia University Medical Centre, such long sedentary work hours are as detrimental to your physical health as is smoking.

Another study done at University College London claims that working for more than 55 hours a week, for more than 10 years, can increase your chances of heart diseases by 40%. And what about travel?

Studies show that frequent business travellers age faster, have weaker immune systems, suffer from disrupted mental and physical health, and are at risk from heart attacks and strokes.


Job insecurity, unemployment and performance pressure

The GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey, in the recent years, have indicated that most MBA graduates are hired into the mid-level management positions.

A closer look paints a pretty competitive picture for MBA graduates in the recruitment scene, though.

The survey (from 2018) shows that these MBA graduates, with heavy student debts, have to compete with other business Master’s graduates – Master in Management, Master of Accounting, Master of Finance, Master of Data Analytics, etc. – for similar job roles.

Especially when it comes to specialist and operational roles, where Master in Management folks seem to be the primary preference. MBAs fare well in strategic and generalist, as well as specialist, roles.

Here’s a snippet of recruiter preference in 2018.

Generalist roles 48% 40%
Specialist roles 52% 60%
Strategic roles 52% 46%
Operational roles 48% 54%

GMAC Corporate Recruiter Survey based on 1,066 employers from 42 countries
Though the overall MBA job outlook is still sunny, recruiters still have to justify and companies have to bear with the heavy compensations for MBA hires until they are trained and fully equipped to return fruit on their hiring investment, says the dean of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, Scott DeRue.

He also worries that big tech companies can manage their own training programs if they don’t get a worthwhile mixture of business and data analytics skills in these expensive MBA graduates.

In India, recent studies by ASSOCHAM shows that except for IIMs, most management institutes produce MBA graduates that are not employable.

Only 7% manage to secure employment.

The rest spend a considerable amount on their degree to only get jobs that pay them a meagre INR 8,000 – 10,000.

In 2016-17, only 47% of MBAs were placed according to data provided by the All India Council for Technical Education.

This is based on data collected from about 200,000 graduates (in 2016-17) from nearly 5,000 management institutes, under AICTE.

All these measures indicate a less than complete guarantee on career enhancement, post-MBA.

When it comes to job security, MBA graduates have to constantly justify and measure up to the expectations of their employers to maintain their job positions and salaries.

Does that make life stressful? You bet it does!

Upsides of a Post-MBA career


Job satisfaction scores

Not all post-MBA experiences cause heart trouble and hair fall though. 9 out of 10 Business School Alumni say that if they are offered a chance to do over their past, they’d still get their management education in a heartbeat, despite what they know now.

These, and promising more data, are the outcome of the GMAC Alumni Perspective Survey from 2018 conducted among 11,000 alumni from about 274 institutes globally.

While 73% praise its potential in increasing their financial well-being, and 89% claim its direct correlation to their increased responsibilities or better job role, the results are still a factor of whether the respondent has employment.

The ones with a job have a naturally better reason to value their MBA degree’s earning/career potential.

The more astonishing revelation of the survey is the relative irrelevance of an employment status (employed vs still looking) on the personal rewards.

95% among the ones already employed and 87% among the ones still looking for a job feel that their management education has made their lives happier!

Striking a work-life balance

Over the years, employers have realized the value of a healthy working environment for their organizations to flourish.

An important ingredient to that effect is the ability among employees to strike a balance between their work and life. A negative impact on one can be detrimental to the sustenance of the other.

On the one hand, work and life imbalance can cause physical and mental stress. On the other, the employer also pays a hefty price through a lack of employee longevity, bad performance, absenteeism, and high costs of training-retraining-rinse-repeat etc.

An MBA student is likely to face dissatisfaction due to lack of work-life balance as his career advances.

This is a phenomenon that has been gaining recognition on both sides. Hence, awareness for the same has been incorporated in management education programs.

Employers too have been looking for ways to diminish the negative effects of hostile work environment. Thus, their efforts at incorporating work-life balance programs.

A 2005 White Paper study done by GMAC on the topic showed that 67% of the 2,000 plus responding MBA alumni had company sponsored education and 50% boasted flexible scheduling available to them. Happily, companies are thus looking at improving work-life balance for their management employees.

These efforts go a long way in alleviating any job related pressure caused by unhealthy workplace policies or environment.


So, is life after MBA stressful?

You need a whole picture before responding to that question. What kind of sector employs the MBA grad? Coz’ not all sectors are alike.

Private equity (PE) and venture capital (VC) careers are known to be closer to traditional office hours with high rewards, for instance. What kind of corporation employs the MBA? Not all corporate giants are slave drivers.

Certain big ones like Apple, GE, Microsoft feature as some of the more generous companies work-week wise as compared to say Goldman Sachs, BCG, Accenture, and McKinsey.

While most MBA careers tend to revolve around demanding work hours and a jet set routine, there are those who manage to find a perfect balance to a desirable career and serenity.

Turns out, a lot of MBA graduates who find themselves drowning in work pressure, turn towards less lucrative but perfectly challenging and humane jobs in the non-profit sector.

Some venture out on their own and change careers to play their own bosses in their startups.

While others use their MBA learnings in enter completely different settings, far from the maddening Wall Street(ish) crowds.

If you are wondering about the future of your hairline, you should study your options.

Be prepared to compromise.

Often the big bucks come with too many worries. If you can find a middle ground that can give you a satisfactory career with just enough compensation to keep you honest and happy, go for it.

It is the value of the work and its impact on your life that you care about anyway. Isn’t it?
Here are some related reads.

Is your work-life balance suffering?

Dark side of management consulting

Dark side of investment banking

Women in investment banking on Wall Street getting a raw deal

8 Reasons why you hate your job

Buy side vs sell side jobs in Finance: Salaries, skills and work-life balance
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

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1 thought on “Is life after MBA hectic and stressful?”

  1. I believe that:

    – Product management seems to have better work life balance than Management Consulting & Investment Banking/Financial Services (the 3 top most popular post MBA career options).
    – MBA grads used to gravitate towards Management Consulting & IB but now are gravitating more towards Tech (PM) roles.


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