Job prospects look about as sunny as possible for 2016s MBA grads. In fact, 85 percent of employers plan on hiring as many or more MBAs this year than last, according to The Economist. Im sure stats like this come as welcome relief to the thousands of people who have taken on over $70,000 in debt to earn their advanced business degrees.
Still, if youre an MBA grad looking to join a startup, dont let a positive jobs forecast lull you into a false sense of security. While you might have a degree from a top program and may even know about a particular industry inside and out, you can still be an expensive hire who might not have what it takes to make a meaningful contribution in the eyes of a founder.
When founders tell me that MBA candidates arent the right fit, their objections generally often fall into a few different categories: experience, attitude, and salary. If youre serious about getting your foot in the door at a startup, here are some tips on how to overcome these three common areas of founder skepticism.
You lack the right experience
Its quite possible that you have built up a very impressive resume from working at larger companies. However, a startup might dismiss your big-name business experience because it isnt an apples to apples comparison. A founders line of thinking could go something like this: How do I know youll succeed when you have to complete a project with significantly fewer resources and in a shorter timeframe?
The burden is on you to convince startups that you thrive in small team environments when the deadlines are tight, and the stakes are high for a projects success or failure.
If youre just finishing up your first of a two year program, spend summer 2016 working for a startup. For those of you about to graduate, consider volunteering with a startup for a few hours a week.
Not sure how to get involved with a startup on such short notice? Many universities running top MBA programs now have on-campus incubators, filled with startups that could likely use your expertise. Consider stopping by your university incubator and see if you can get involved with one of your classmates ventures.
At the very least, be ready to point to examples from your large company experience that highlight a time when you delivered a project critical to the organizations success with limited resources.
Having spent two years studying all aspects of business, you might feel like you deserve a leadership position with any startup you join. You could be expecting to be in charge of high-level company strategy the moment you walk into the office. Maybe you think youll be able to pass the nitty gritty work of putting your plans into action off to other workers.
This sense of MBA entitlement is exactly what founders dont want in their startups. They need people who are willing to prove their worth by not only coming up with great ideas, but also doing whatever it takes to grow the business. When it comes to leading a companys product or business strategy, founders are often times looking for people with very specific domain experience. Even though you likely have the intellectual horsepower to handle this type of role, it just might seem too risky for the founder to take a chance on someone without the industry or domain expertise.
When interviewing with a startup, be humble. Recognize that the current employees, while they might not have your academic credentials, are smart and driven. Make clear that youre ready to learn the business from the top down. Convince the founder that youre not just willing but eager to get your hands dirty with the tactical stuff, too.
Youre too expensive
You might have the right experience and attitude to join a startup, but are you willing to take a pay cut?
Even well-funded startups cant offer the same financial packages as Fortune 500 companies or management consulting firms. Founders are often concerned that MBA grads might understand this intellectually, but the pressure of paying off business school loans, or simply hearing about classmates getting cushy offers from big companies, can make taking a lower salary hard to swallow...