Western advertising director for Ebony and Jet magazines in Los Angeles adds that, “There are so many areas other than financial services and consulting that appreciate the M.B.A., and it can be a stepping stone for minorities when you consider how competitive the marketplace is.”
DIFFERENT DEGREES OF REWARD
For Edward E. Johnson Jr., the key to overcoming a competitive marketplace is not always rooted in acquiring an advanced degree. Johnson, a first vice president of the Managed Solutions Group and the Private Wealth Division at Merrill Lynch in New York, says that combining a confident attitude with coveted expertise is far more important to upward mobility in corporate America than simply attaining an M.B.A.
In the late 1980s, Johnson suspended his pursuit of an M.B.A. in his last semester at New York University’s Stern School of Business Management because he earned an opportunity to work in sales and trading at Salomon Brothers’ Atlanta office. He has since gone on to become one of BLACK ENTERPRISE’s Top 50 African Americans on Wall Street, proving, he says, that if you choose the right profession and company, your performance will deliver as many opportunities for advancement as educational achievement.
“Make sure that you have knowledge comparable to those who have M.B.A.’s and then operate with an air of confidence and you should get many of the same opportunities,” says the 46-year-old Johnson. “These days, there are people who enter corporations without M.B.A.’s, but they will prove to be tr
ue leaders, risk takers, and effective managers, and some of them will become captains of industry–and some will not. People with M.B.A.’s will also enter corporations and some of them will do well and some not so well.”
In the final analysis Johnson believes an M.B.A. is helpful, but it is not essential for success.
ADJUSTING TO MARKET CONDITIONS
Newly minted M.B.A.s are indeed struggling with the idea that obtaining the degree is only the first step to achieving their career goals in the current marketplace. The reality is that after you earn an M.B.A., you have to aggressively market yourself to reap the value of the degree. Sitella Glenn, who graduated from Harvard Business School in June 2002 as a member of the team that won the Executive Leadership Council/Goldman Sachs & Co. 2002 Business Case Competition, has had to adjust her expectations as she searches for her dream job. That has meant sending out more résumés, scheduling more interviews, and finding short-term consulting projects that can help her stay afloat and provide her with practical experience until she finds a job opportunity at an entertainment or media company.
“Historically, a Harvard Business School degree afforded you significant access to prime corporate opportunities with lucrative salaries. But I have many classmates who have graduated without job offers as a consequence of the current state of the economy,” says the New York resident. Glenn says with the economy lagging, many companies don’t want to pay the higher salaries that M.B.A.’s typically command. And since many companies have either downsized or eliminated