One of the most important decisions in life, next to picking your life partner, a house etc., is perhaps picking your next educational institution/college or the next landing spot in your career. Considering that this step can make, break and/or steer your life trajectory, decisions made for the right reasons here cannot be underscored enough.
This article is the result of a mixture of personal experiences, observations and conversations with colleagues and students. The focus here is to tap into life's successes, failures and lessons learnt to help steer your decisions before making the plunge into a college degree – Gradate, undergraduate, executive or part time. Before I even dive into this, I will add that not making the plunge is not a wrong decision either!
Fast forward from then, I have now spent two decades in the Pharmaceutical industry in several global strategy roles while building a family and gaining a ton of work experience. I remember placing that 90th percentile GMAT score on my resume for a while until a few years earlier when I realized how obsolete that was.
Several years later I got involved in mentoring and career counseling for the Biotech and Pharmaceutical industries. Given my journey in this space, it felt fair to share experiences and teach when requested. I should highlight that through my experiences I have observed that students, even those from some of the Top MBA schools, struggle with placements in specific industries because their school and their education wasn’t designed for the industry of choice in the first place. Some of the top finance and tech schools with a great global reputation did not necessarily offer the best placements and student experience in specific fields. This became apparent when I had to tweak the approach and content of my case studies at top schools vs. perhaps schools that were not ranked overall Top in Graduate programs i.e. students from some of the smaller schools actually had more knowledge in certain fields.
Several NJ based schools for example, focus on engaging neighboring Pharmaceutical working professionals into their programs to talk, speak and interact with students. Professors and program directors from the Pharmaceutical industry fuel their placements. I will however highlight that after interacting with students and career executives from several schools, I observed that those from big schools had a certain distinction in unteachable skills such as professional maturity and resilience. Plus the benefit of joining a student body that will mostly have really successful career trajectories - "If" you choose to stay in touch and keep the networks alive.
Case study workshops and career advisory sessions at Rutgers Business School for graduates and early career professionals
Guest lecturing at a Global Business Strategy class for MBA students at NYU. The growing focus on careers within Precision based medicine and Data Analytics within various backgrounds outside of pure science has been a trend that I continue to train and prepare professionals on - where to look, how to network and how to prepare
In summary, if you have your eye set on a certain career and you get into a big school that is not high on the list for your industry of choice, it will be an uphill battle. Slightly "uphill". You will however benefit from a peer group that will most likely make it big across several industries plus the benefit of getting roomed in some of these softer skills that arguably can make or break careers (If you want to climb the corporate ladder – again no wrong or right decision here).
On the other hand, in the event that you already have a strong network and just need a foot in the door, you might want to consider a school that is highly ranked in your area of expertise. Not too long ago my niece made a choice of school that might not have been the bigger name vs. some of the others she got accepted into. After gauging her own strengths and areas where she needed the right push to accomplish her goals, she chose faculty, alumni and curriculum over the brand name. She wanted to train in analytics and computer sciences. A year into the program, she had an internship at Goldman Sacs. Bear in mind that this was someone who was already very entrepreneurial and had established her own non-profit organization before getting into college – one of her strengths that got factored in.
Students and working professionals are always surprised when we show the set of schools that are great in their areas of interest vs. overall ranking. This prompted some research and here are some examples –