Over dinner last week, two classmates and I met to break bread and celebrate. Each of us had accepted job offers -- and we were excited to start the next phase of our respective careers. However, the dinner was all the better because the three of us were all successful career switchers.
One of the most common misconceptions about business school, especially one based in New York, is that everyone comes from a finance background -- and then wants to go into finance after school. At this dinner, none of us fit that profile.
Before school, I worked for the government in southern Afghanistan; after school, I'm going to work for a regional bank in Buffalo, NY. My two friends have equally diverse stories -- Drew previously worked in politics and will be working in energy; and Dana had worked at an NGO and will be working in tech.
Yet, when the three of us had a similar lunch during our first year, while we were adjusting to reality of business school, we all seriously contemplated whether an MBA was the right choice.
Business school can be intimidating to career switchers, both because it's a challenge, but also because it seems like a risk. We all had come from qualitative backgrounds, and thus needed to work harder to understand the subject material. We all had been successful before school and wondered if employers would recognize the skills developed in that former career.
Still, I've learned that an MBA can be an ideal path for non-traditional applicants. Some graduate degrees teach a discrete craft -- one that limits your ability to go outside that sphere. An MBA is different -- because the fundamentals learned are limitless in scope. And, instead of limiting options, it actually expands them.
The great thing about Columbia is that each student comes here to achieve different goals -- and the environment helps make those goals happen, whatever or wherever they may be.