MBA Career Management - Using The Language Of Money, For Good

In most business schools,  successful MBA career management means getting a job with the biggest paycheck in the most prestigious company.  If you are an MBA professional reading this, you might be wondering how you could use your MBA to generate economic, social and environmental value.  If you are considering an MBA, you might be thinking that an MBA is a degree that carries prestige, and can serve as the reset button you need to get to jobs that pay well while making a difference.

Following the Great Recession and to attract top students, most MBA programs are integrating more coursework on sustainability, social entrepreneurship, and ethics.  Overall though, the main purpose of MBA Programs is to teach you the language of money:  how to make money, how to manage money, and how to maximize margins by minimizing the money you spend to bring your product or your services to market.  The ultimate goal is maximizing shareholder value by providing cost effective products or services at the best possible price so that investors can get the best possible return on their investment in the firm.  That's it, that's what business as usual is about.  The MBA is a toolbox that enables you to become fluent in the language of money.  Your career management strategy will define how you will use your MBA toolbox to contribute to a triple bottom line of planet, people and profit.

As a career coach for MBAs, I call MBA students who want to use business to change the world 'Galileos'.  MBA Galileos know that the most sustainable way to do business is to operate by a triple bottom line approach (i.e. the earth is round), but most of the courses they attend in MBA programs are still mostly talking about a single bottom line approach to business (i.e. the earth is flat).  If you are considering an MBA program, go ahead, and learn the language of money.  Within the program, find a core group of like-minded MBA Galileos.  You can find MBA Galileos on your campus through your local Net Impact chapter, your local Green Drink group, or by participating in conversation online here on justmeans.  Regularly connect with other MBA Galileos, and share ideas about how you can make a 'round earth' out of the 'flat earth' projects you are assigned or 'flat earth' courses you are attending.

If you already earned your MBA and are currently employed in a firm that you feel does not align with your values, you have several choices.  As an employee, remember that you are most likely to behave in the way that maximizes your opportunity to be rewarded.  If the professional environment your work in rewards creative accounting procedures or unethical behaviors, your will be very likely to engage in these activities, no matter how many ethics courses your had attended in business school.  These are the times you will remember, those who will make it particularly hard for you to get up in the morning and go to work.  If you are in such an environment, they are things you can do to call on unethical behaviors you observe.  Programs such as Giving Voice to Values (GVV) from the Aspen Institute provides guidance and best practices to empower young managers to help senior managers build a strong, honest organizational culture.  The GVV program is filled with scenarios, best practices and scripts you can use as career management strategies to emerge as an ethical leader in your current job.  In sum, you can find ways to be an MBA Galileo at work and contribute to create a strong and honest corporate culture.

An other alternative is to start your job search to join a company that have high accounting and governance standards, or organizations that truly reward making triple bottom line decisions based on planet, people, and profit.  There are more opportunities to do so today than ever before.  For more information about these opportunities, see our previous posts here and here.

So the good (albeit scary) news is that as an MBA, you can choose what you will be doing with your MBA toolbox.  Your MBA responsible career management is all about how you will use your MBA toolbox and your fluency in the language of money to get business done - better!

Sketch Credit:  Aaron Ross.