Are you a Hunter or an Explorer with your post-MBA career goals?

MBA Hunters and Explorers

Business school and the MBA, in particular, is a great opportunity to discover your real professional calling. The admissions office expect you to be specific about your post-MBA career goals at the point of applying, not when you graduate. However, the idea of sharing a year or two with individuals from all walks of professional life, cultural background, and personal ambition seems tailor-made for exploring ideas and devising a career path for the next 10 years or so. Added to that, business schools lay on a royal spread of assessment and coaching to help you define your professional road map.

The associate dean of one of Europe’s top schools, HEC Paris, Bernard Garrette, describes students as falling into two distinct career categories – ”hunters” and “explorers.”

The hunters have things fully mapped before they arrive on campus, single-mindedly pursuing a career in investment banking or strategy consulting. They are quick to network in their chosen field, arrange interviews with target firms for their internships or field work, and use the MBA to build the knowledge and competence that will serve them straight out of school.

The explorers on the other hand have enough self-awareness to recognize their talents and potential, but are using the business school experience to consider various career paths, imagine entrepreneurial pursuits, and try their hand at a wide range of classes and activities.

With a 16-month program, Garrette estimates that HEC Paris has more explorers than hunters, and gives the example of Minneapolis-based graduate Katherine Ainsworth, who prior to her MBA in Paris was working in ad sales at the Hollywood Reporter. Tired of the corporate ladder, and keen to embrace a different culture, Ainsworth used her studies to develop a jewelry business that now, two years after she finished school, attracts a global client base. Along the way she picked up a financial toolbox, used input from fellow students to develop new communication channels, and got the inside story on luxury brand management direct from the chief executive officer of Givenchy, part of the LVMH group.

Ainsworth has come away from the MBA experience doing the job she dreamed might be possible, though perhaps not the job she expected to do. A poster child for the explorers.

So my message this week goes out to the hunters. Business school has the power to completely transform the career expectations of individuals, even those who thought they knew exactly what they wanted to do. Hunting for a job at McKinsey, Morgan Stanley, or Google is an understandable goal, but the MBA is a golden opportunity to explore other options, and to learn if your calling lies elsewhere. And, in increasingly unpredictable job markets, even if you are set on a particular discipline or sector, having a Plan B is a good idea.

Perhaps one of the best things you can take with you to business school is an open mind.

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