Harvard MBA Indicator for Wall Street

Roy Soifer recently suggested, as reported in Photon Courier, that the percentage of Harvard Business School graduates going to Wall Street jobs can be used as a reverse indicator of the market (i.e. lots of graduates going to Wall Street means the market is peaking and due for a fall).

As a graduate of that HBS in 1989, I have a few thoughts.  First, the vast majority of HBS graduates go into Wall Street, consulting, or the corporate world.  The relative popularity of these three destinations tends to vary over time.  To some extent this variation is due to what's "hot", and to some extent its due to simply to what jobs are available and what recruiters are showing up on campus. 

Second, though pride urges me to agree with this statement from Photon Courier, I really can't:

But one would hope that MBAs from a leading school--who have certainly studied business cycles--would reflect more on the principle of "buy low, sell high" before deciding among their various offers.

When I graduated from HBS, I don't remember having a clue what I wanted to do.  Its all fine and good to talk about trying to get in early on a growth sector, but that implies I am taking a job to maximize NPV of future incomes.  If that were the case, I would have gone to Wall Street, or remained a consultant.  But I also would have probably hated it.

A more interesting HBS graduate job indicator for me has been "how has the jobs people have evolved since they graduated".  When I graduated, everyone seemed to be investment bankers and consultants.  At our fifth year reunion, everyone was posturing as to how successful they had been, how far they had risen, etc.  Most people were still in the same type jobs, with only a few outliers who had switched careers already.  Our tenth reunion was totally different.  At our tenth, no one talked about their job - everyone talked about their kids.  The contrast was dramatic.  Many people were in different careers, including a number who were testing the dot-com waters. 

At the fifteenth reunion, everyone seemed much more relaxed.  Job performance stress at from the fifth and family starting stress at the tenth were mostly gone.  Many, many people (including me) had their own businesses, and few of these were ones anyone would have predicted;  I don't think anyone was a consultant anymore.  Here are a few examples just from our 90-person section of businesses graduates are running now:

My observation - very few were the types of businesses that come recruiting at HBS.

My parting observation about career choices through life comes from Dan Simmons' great Hyperion series, where the prophet Aenea gives here famously concise advice to humanity:

Choose Again.

Certainly true with careers.

  • ZF

    Some recent HBS research showed that 10 or 15 years out most HBS grads were doing jobs they hadn't known existed when they graduated.