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The Real Lives of MBA Graduates

The stereotypical and often idealistic notion of MBA graduates looking like men and women dressed in crisp suits holding their heads over red marks on spreadsheets and heaping mile after mile of frequent flyer points with the constant risk of losing their job is now being replaced with a more subtle and nuanced look into the lives of MBA graduates and how they work.

INSEAD has compiled its results in a case study titled Memoirs of Life and Word a Decade after an MBA. 19 INSEAD graduates where part of her research pool and INSEAD professor Jennifer Petriglieri, as per her research on high-potential carrying executives and dual-career couples documented the lives of the graduates after their graduation. The narratives are all written by the subjects themselves hence they have personal sentiments written amongst them.

What Does Petriglieri’s Research Say?

The research was started with the graduating class of 2002 at INSEAD and candidates were asked to share their personal stories regarding their careers and advancements in their lives after graduation. Petriglieri first comments on the diversity that is present in the data that was accumulated, pointing towards a diversified research pool.

The research shows that people the path to people’s dream is an extremely variable one. People may start with dreams of become global CFOs, as did one of the subjects of the research, but they may also spend some time doing things such as marketing for a small wellness centre with friends or change jobs because of children and families.

David Bouchard, another subject of the research moved to Madrid, then found himself unemployed and then got a job organizing the Volvo Ocean Race.

This shows that if you’re just coming out of a great MBA college in Gurgaon, Mumbai, Calcutta or Bangalore, and you think having a strictly defined career path is the best method to success, you would find yourself having to constantly change your career path and may face a lot of disappointments simply due to the conditions you place on yourself. A better base plan to have would be to allow for the eventualities and unpredictable inevitabilities of life to take their courses. There are various things throughout your life over which you will not have any control but they will directly affect your life. The key is to figure out how to be flexible and move on quickly from small setbacks.


Consistently, the research also showed that the primary concern was maintaining a healthy balance between work and family. Career trajectories and personal lives have a certain dichotomy about them. Developing hobbies, looking after parents and heading after different aspirations is as important as working towards one’s career goals.

What this research has done in essence is break the mould regarding MBA graduate stereotypes. These aren’t machines built to run after ambitions. Rather, they have to balance a very demanding career choice with the normal facets of life as well. To excel in this field thus means not to simply be competent at work but also realize how to live life and manage time. When you are studying in MBA colleges in Gurgaon or in any other city, this is an often overlooked but important angle to the equation.

The subjects of the research were also pleased and relieved to find out that their peers were equally at sea as they were with lives and that the stamp of an MBA degree did not necessarily open all doors. There are doors that are not opened by degrees and these are often the key to having the right frame of mind to work with.


Kirsten Thomas is a career consultant free lance writer with over twenty years of experience in career consulting. Kirsten has been involved with many MBA colleges in Gurgaon and other cities in order to help their students realize proper methods to work with and how to balance various parts of their lives harmoniously.


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