B-School Life

Millennial MBAs Are Selfish, Hard to Please, and In a Hurry


Millennials make for easy targets. They’re more narcissistic, less patriotic, and apparently obsessed with posting photos of themselves on the Internet.

According to a survey released today by the Graduate Management Admission Council, the ones with MBAs are also less likely to work for the government or a nonprofit, less satisfied than past generations with the value of their management education, and far more likely to work for themselves immediately upon graduation. (Note: I’m part of the millennial generation, whose members are from 18 to 33 years old.)

The GMAC study didn’t set out to gauge the attitudes of millennials. The findings come from GMAC’s new Alumni Perspectives Survey, which polled 21,000 business school alumni, representing 132 schools and respondents who graduated from 1959 to 2013. But a segment of the survey’s respondents is a good proxy for millennial MBAs. GMAC polled students graduating from 2010 to 2013, many of whom are now in their late twenties or early thirties, given median ages for business school applicants. A few highlights:

Self-interest: Jobs that offer more in the way of social good than big paychecks haven’t lured the majority of MBAs. Recent business school graduates are more likely to go into lucrative fields like finance and consulting and less likely to be employed by the government or nonprofits. One in ten MBAs who graduated between 2010 and 2013 are working in nonprofits or for the government, compared to one in four who graduated before 1990.

High standards: Recent MBAs are a tiny bit more hesitant than the groups that graduated before them to express appreciation for the time they spent in business school. Ninety-one percent of respondents who graduated from 2010 to 2013 considered their graduate education a “good to outstanding value”—a high figure, but lower than the 95 percent of graduates from the years 2000 to 2009 who liked what they got for their money.

Entrepreneurial: Dues-paying seems to have lost its appeal for this group. Instead of spending a few years in the traditional workforce before striking out on their own, almost half (45 percent) of self-employed respondents who graduated from 2010 to 2013 started their business immediately after graduation, compared to 24 percent of self-employed MBAs who graduated between 2000 and 2009.

It’s important to note that the GMAC data compares respondents at different parts of their careers. The value of an MBA may look better to graduates in more advanced (and higher paying) positions, or as nostalgia grows for those end-of-semester mixers.

The survey’s findings on entrepreneurship reflect trends on campus, which in turn echo shifts in business more broadly; the share of grads launching companies right out of business school may well shrink when the winds change again. And maybe more MBAs will ease into nonprofits once they’ve had some corporate experience. The picture of the millennial MBA as independent and self-interested fits assumptions about the generation. Still, here’s one way MBAs may differ from the rest of their age group: While millennials are reputed to lack loyalty to institutions, across all years 95 percent of survey respondents would recommend their business school, and 96 percent were proud to call it alma mater.

Clark is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek covering small business and entrepreneurship.

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