Here’s a collection of interesting ideas from people who are talking about the value of business school:

1. Business school is not an effective means to self-discovery.

Most business school applications require that you tell what you’re going to do with the MBA. This is because most business schools think it is a waste to get an MBA if you don’t know what you’re going to do with it. If you don’t know what you want to do, you can’t rule out that you won’t need the degree. And business school is too expensive to use as a means to simply delay the real world.

2. Maybe you should try philosophy courses instead.

One of the most recent, and cogent critiques of business schools came from management consultant Matthew Stewart in the Atlantic (paid). “Most of management theory is insane,” he writes. “If you want to succeed in business, don’t get an MBA. Study philosophy instead.”

Stewart says that the three most important pieces of advice for business are also topics dear to philosophers:

Expand the domain of your analysis

Hire people with greater diversity of experience

Get good at communication

“As I plowed through my shelfload of bad management books, I beheld a discipline that consists mainly of unverifiable propositions and cryptic anecdotes, is rarely if ever held accountable, and produces an inordinate number of catastrophically bad writers. It was all too familiar. There are, however, at least two crucial differences between philosophers and their wayward cousins. The first and most important is that philosophers are much better at knowing what they don't know. The second is money. In a sense, management theory is what happens to philosophers when you pay them too much.”

3. Business schools are headhunters who charge a fee to the employee.

Stewart says the best thing that can be said about business school is that it is a way for companies to reliably outsource recruiting. McKinsey is a company built on this model. (But you can bet these companies don’t rely on middling business schools for this purpose.)

4. Common sense might get you further.

Charles Handy, a business guru who got way more press in England than the United States, eventually came down on the side of common sense — that business schools overemphasize academics and that’s not what you need to succeed in business.

5. Good networkers reach way beyond business school.

Many people say they go to business school for the network it provides. But be careful of becoming too dependent on that idea. Networking guru Keith Ferrazzi says that you need to be able to network independently of school if you are going to be good at it.

Certainly, there are good and bad things about going to business school. But think about this: If there were something you were totally excited about doing would you do it right now or would you put it off three years to go to business school? If you would do it right now, then you don’t need an MBA, you need an exciting idea.

Scott Newberg flew into Logan airport in the middle of the night. He went straight home to his office, and in the dark room the blue light of his computer glared — a screen full of unfinished work that piled up while he was gone. He sat down at the keyboard, and that's when he had the revelation. He gave notice. He has no other job lined up. He has no real plan for how he will make money. But the career he had was not fulfilling.

One of the contributions Generations X and Y have made to the workplace is the quarterlife crisis. It's not the midlife crisis, typified by a baby boomer in a Porsche obsessively speeding. The quarterlife crisis happens in one's twenties and more likely involves takeout pizza and obsessive IMing.

The journey toward crisis begins at college graduation, when the typical student has about ten thousand dollars in loans and no skills to land a decent job. Frank Furstenberg, professor of sociology at University of Pennsylvania, says the transition to adulthood is “more arduous today than it was fifty years ago.” Employers are not hiring people in their early 20s for staff jobs. “Employers hire temps for positions that don't require experience. Society can incorporate people only when they get some experience working and there is a better match between employee and employer.”

With little to lose, most twentysomethings use their post-college time as an opportunity for finding oneself, seeing what's available, and trying a lot on for size. (Which translates to more than eight jobs before turning 32.) The new behavior, which looks remarkably like flailing, is appropriate for the new workplace. Jeffrey Arnett, psychologist at Clark University and author of Emerging Adulthood says, “People have different personal time tables and it's nice that people can make choices that are right for them.”

Yet this new phase in one's career is unnerving in light of the stability of previous generations of people in their 20s. And if the job-hopping doesn't stop by age thirty, the stress intensifies to crisis.

Emerging adults “have high expectations for work. It is not just a way to make a living,” says Arnett. They want work to be fulfilling and to be an expression of their identities.”

This is true for Alexandra Robbins. She took the first job offered to her after college because she was “seduced by the trappings: Short commute, friends at the company, office with a door. The pay was fine, but the work was not rewarding.”

She realized that in the post-college world, people are judged by their answer to the question, “So, what do you do?” And she knew she needed to do something that could define her.

Typical of her generation, she does not claim to have extravagant dreams: “I never had a big dream. I wanted to make a living writing. Dreams that are too specific lead to missed opportunities.” As a writer she has become a sort of spokesperson for the generation of lost college graduates. Her recent book, Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis, chronicles the ups and downs of people like her, who finally found their way.

Like Furstenberg, Robbins sees that previous generations were more equipped to make the transition to adulthood. “We cannot gain a foothold in society until age thirty. But our parents' generation has twenty in their head. The crisis is a clash of generations.” Fifty years ago, people expected to find a job for life right after college and be married with kids by 24. But for the current generation, Robbins declares, “Thirty is the new twenty.”

Sure, GenXers and Ys have high expectations for work, and maybe they're unreasonable, “but the only way to find out is to try,” says Arnett. “Most people will fail. But by the time people are in their late twenties most have made peace with their dreams. Psychologically people tend to accommodate themselves to whatever they have.”

The problems start around age 27 or 28, when most people find a career. For people who do not feel settled, there is panic and what Arnett calls “desperate and dangerous” measures in order to reach their goals.

Which brings us back to Newberg, whose wife is about to give birth. His plan is to stay home with the baby while she supports the family. And he will write music for commercials, though he has scant experience in the trade. And he will “write some novels and shop them around.” He wants to support his family in five years but has not figured out how many novels or musical compositions he would need to sell to do that. Those people who are not turning thirty might bristle at Newberg's plan. But he says, speaking for many in his generation, “I don't want to be eighty and regret not taking this risk.”

I hate to dis Catalyst because they have provided great research to support women in the work place. But here’s a bit from their most recent study: “Most large U.S. companies have made scant progress in advancing women…to leadership and top-paying positions over the past decade.”


It’s clear at this point that women are basically stuck on their climb up the corporate ladder. In general, climbing the corporate ladder to the top requires giving up your personal life in order to serve the corporation. And research has shown that if women are willing to give up having kids, (or at least have a stay-at-home husband,) they can climb as well as men.

But really, why fight to get more women up a ladder that is basically dysfunctional? We should, instead, focus on helping men to get off the ladder. And then helping both men and women to get meaningful and rewarding work both outside and inside the home.

The Third Path is a nonprofit that addresses these issues. It helps people “redesign work to better accommodate family, community and other life passions.” The interview I did with the founder, Jessica DeGroot , was truly inspiring and made me think about all the possibilities for being a social change leader with my own family.

Another way to address the issues of creating meaningful work inside and outside the home is to go to court. No joke. Lisa Belkin reports in today’s New York Times that a new category of discrimination suit being won is a suit in which plaintiffs claim discrimination at work because they are giving care at home. Mary Still, professor at University of California Hastings College of the Law, coined the term “family responsibilities discrimination,” and both men and women are winning their cases in this area: Hooray.

The mood you come to work with sets the mood for your workday. This is the conclusion of a study by Wharton professor Nancy Rothbard. (Shout out to Wendy for sending this link to me.)

This study is a rallying cry for personal responsibility. Rothbard challenges you to stop blaming your boss or your co-workers for ruining your day: “The mood you bring with you to work has a stronger effect on the day’s mood — and on work performance – than mood changes caused by events in the workplace.”

This is good news for people who accept personal responsibility for doing the things proven to create a good mood — like a reasonable commute, a morning visit to the gym, and, in a more broad sense, cultivating a sunny outlook. For people who don’t want to take personal responsibility for their happiness, you will have to figure out a way to discount this study in order to continue blaming other people at the office for your bad mood.

This way of thinking works on the other end of the day, too. Keep your commute short so you are not a wreck on the way home, and say hello when you walk in the door to start the evening out right.

This means, of course, that if your personal life is going well, you are likely to be happier at work. Because you are more likely to walk into work in a good mood: “Start-of-day mood may come from myriad sources including persistent life challenges and opportunities, positive or negative family experiences before leaving for work, or even the commute into work,” writes Rothbard. “Non-work and work domains are permeable, and mood often spills over form one to the other. Specifically, start-of-day mood might affect one’s appraisal of subsequent events.”

This is reason number fifty why the term “work-life-balance” doesn’t work. It’s not a balance so much as a synergy that we should aim for. Work and life have to feed each other rather than provide a counter-balance.

The way you talk about yourself is very powerful. Whether or not you are conscious of it, the way you tell stories of your life frames how people see you, and how you see yourself. So you may as well do this consciously, and also be conscious that people get the most tripped up in their storytelling when they are talking about uncertain moments in their career.

“The stories we tell make an enormous difference in how we cope with change,” writes Herminia Ibarra in the Harvard Business Review. Crafting good story is essential for making a successful transition to your next point. Yet most of us do it badly — we can’t figure out a story arc, so we just start listing the facts of our career. But if you can’t tell people why your prior path and your new path are part of one story, then you probably can’t see it yourself, and that leads to feelings of being confused, lost and insecure — all the feelings that are typical of an uncertain life but do not have to be.

“Creating a story that resonates helps us believe in ourselves. We need a good story to reassure us that our plans make sense — that, in [making our next step], we are not discarding everything we have worked so hard to accomplish. A story gives us motivation to help us endure frustration, suffering and hard work,” says Ibarra.

For example, when someone bugs you about how can I trust you to stay at this company when you’ve changed your mind before, you can come at that person with a story. Don’t hide things because coherence is important. When you’re telling a story about yourself, coherence is the key to making the listener trust you. If you can make your story of change and self-discovery “seem coherent,” writes Ibrarra, “you will have gone far in convincing the listener that the change makes sense for you and is likely to bring success — and that you’re a stable, trustworthy person.”

Most importantly, coherence goes a long way in convincing yourself. “Think of the cartoon character who’s run off the edge of a cliff, legs still churning like crazy, he doesn’t realize he’s over the abyss until he looks down. Each of us in transition feels like that character. Coherence is the solid ground under our feet.”

The first way to envision yourself in a new phase of your life is to tell people about it. But there is another benefit to meeting new people: You can see yourself in a different light. Ibarra writes, ” Strangers can best help you see who you’re becoming, providing fresh ideas uncolored by your previous identity.”

The best reasons for wanting to change what you’re doing are grounded in character — they talk about who you are, what you are good at, what you like. Bad reasons are external, like getting fired. Giving external reasons for making change make you look like someone who is a fatalist. You need to show that you are taking charge of your life, not just reacting to what comes along.

More is good, though: The more detailed and more varied your reasons are, the more acceptable your next steps will seem to other people.

You feel comfortable telling it and the other person gives you positive feedback in the nonverbal cues department. When you are practicing, the best people to try it on are people who don’t know you. They don’t bring any preconceived notions of who you are to the conversation, so you can tell them whatever you want. In the conversation with a stranger you can try out being your new self, and you can tell if you ruin your clean slate with a terrible story.

Storytelling takes practice, but everyone who is making a big change in their life has everything a good story needs. You are the protagonist, and there is intrinsic conflict in that something changed in your world to make you want to change jobs. The journey of your story is your search for your next job.

If you’re feeling lost on this read John Gardner’s book, the Art of Fiction. Maybe you think it’s totally over the top to read 200 pages about story telling so that you can tell a one-minute story. But this is your life. And you are going to get through all the tough parts of your life by telling stories, intentionally or not. So why not take control of things and get good at talking to yourself about yourself?

The odds are that you will probably consider self-employment at some point: Eighty-nine percent of people in the United States who make more than $50,000 a year are self-employed, according to Entrepreneur magazine.

As with all decision points, the way to make the best choice is to know yourself. If you get bored easily, do a lot of different jobs. If you are a type-A hyperachiever, do one business really, really well. If you have a small tolerance for risk, keep a full-time job while you explore other options. All are great ways to make the shift to working for yourself.

One of the most interesting recipes for self-employment comes from self-employment evangelist Barbara Winter. Winter says that it’s easier to have five jobs that generate $10,000 a year than it is to have one job that generates $50,000 a year — the perfect scenario for opening an eBay business, renting out a room in your condo, writing press releases for your friend’s startup, etc.

This is, essentially, juggling five jobs, but Winter’s book describes ways of making it seem manageable: “The juggler walks out on the stage with ten sticks and ten plates, but doesn’t begin spinning them all at once. Methodically, the juggler positions the first plate on a stick and gets it into motion. Once done, the juggler moves on to the next, then the next, and so forth. Eventually, all ten of the plates are spinning away, each with its own momentum.” (This is how I feel about blogging — it’s like throwing another plate in the air for me.)

If you have spent some time in the workforce, consider becoming a consultant, which essentially is making a single, focused business out of yourself. “You should have at least five years of workplace experience before you go on your own,” says Laurie Young, founder of Flexible Resources, “because you are offering your experience.” Also, you need marketing skills to sell yourself. It takes a certain kind of talent “to show people you have skills they can use.”

Find a market niche that you can dominate. Otherwise there is no way to distinguish yourself from all the other consultants, no way to stand out. (Two good books on this: Small is the New Big, and The Long Tail.) Young did this herself, as a recruiter. She is a headhunter for people who want flexible jobs (she herself job shares the CEO position at Flexible Resources). If she were a more typical headhunter, she would not stand out above the crowd as well.

Alexandra Levit worked in public relations for Computer Associates and then struck out on her own, as a consultant in publicity and marketing communications. In terms of making the transition, Levit advises that you “try lining up a few jobs that you can have before you take the leap,” and be prepared to spend “about 30% of your time marketing yourself.”

Levit provides a snapshot of reality for all entrepreneurs when she says, “Don’t expect the drawbacks to be only financial. You need a lot of self-discipline to sit down in your home office and work without any external pressure. Working for yourself means you’re responsible for every aspect of the business,” and this means, ironically, even some of the annoying tasks you were trying to avoid by working for yourself.

If I had a dollar for every time I checked the traffic on my blog, I would have a decent income from this thing. The software I’m using is Performancing Metrics, and I adore all the ways it can slice and dice my numbers.

Last week I had uneven traffic, and my overblown analysis of just five days led me to believe that if I post twice a day, I will double my traffic. So I have been testing my theory this week.

The good news is that my traffic doubled. The bad news is that this is very labor intensive. I look at BoingBoing (ka-ching! another link to their site, helping them to hold tight to the number-one spot in Technorati’s ranking of all 37 million blogs) and it looks to me like they post 30 times a day. No wonder they are ranked so high.

Maybe I could post that many times. But I’d go nuts. I’m already going nuts spending about four hours a day on the blog. Plus, I am not a big believer in being a workhorse. It’s not me. I’m a big believer in figuring out shortcuts.

But I haven’t found any. So here is my first of two posts for today.

Research published in Nature Neuroscience says when we are hungry we release a hormone that makes our brain a little bit sharper. So I decided that I would try writing blog entries while I am a little bit hungry — to see if things go faster. Maybe my shortcut will be hunger.

The current issue of Psychology Today asks: Are you too sexy for your job?

This article has good information about managing your image. Here are the nuggets I liked best:

1. Wear short, low-maintenance hair.
“Both sexes perceive women with long, straight, blond hair as being sexy and those who have short, highlighted hair as smart and confident, but not sexy. More hair equals more femininity but also less intelligence. Likewise, high-maintenance hair makes others suspicious about a woman’s competence.” (From Marianne LaFrance, psychologist at Yale University.)

2. Wear a little bit of makeup.
“Women who wear excessive makeup are seen as trying too hard. But both sexes rate women who forgo makeup as less committed to their jobs.” (From Sherry Myaysonave, author of Casual Power.)

3. Don’t dress like the guys.
“When male executives are asked what holds top women back in the workplace, appearing too masculine is always in the top five. Most men think women should be business-like, but should not try to join the club.” (From Debra Benton, author of How to Think Like a CEO.)

The idea of having a perfect online identity is not realistic. Instead, maybe you should focus on making your offline identity one that you’re proud of.

First of all, no one is getting away with anything online. Today recruiters are expert and tireless Internet researchers when it comes to scoping out candidates. I just read a story about someone interviewing for a job who was asked about his wish list on Amazon. I would never have thought of that. (In fact, I can’t even figure out how to find other peoples’ wish lists on Amazon.) The list of ways to snoop feels infinite. And the list of ways to fix snoopable problems seems very limited.

If there’s someone in your life who is glued to their computer each night, posting career-killing commentary, maybe you should forward a link to this Wall St. Journal article by Vauhini Vara chronicling one man’s struggle to get his page removed on MySpace:

“He emailed MySpace, begging the site to take down his old page. Nothing happened. He sent at least eight more urgent messages to the site, including a note to MySpace co-founder Tom Anderson. Finally, he received a cryptic email telling him to write his user name — “craigisanidiot” — and password with a marker on a piece of paper, to take a photo of himself holding it up, and to email it to MySpace along with a note saying, ‘I wish to be removed from MySpace.” (Note to the concerned: It worked.)

A pseudonym will not save you. A majority of bloggers use pseudonyms, but people will find out who you are. The first weekly column I wrote was about my job while I was in my job. I used a pseudonym and presumed I was safe. I wrote about my CEO’s pharmaceutical cocktail and diagnosed him (correctly, I still think) as manic depressive. I described the scene of my boss sexually harassing me. I documented my expensive and useless business trip. It turned out, pretty much the whole company had been reading my column.

If you are going to be anonymous, take a tip from Waiter Rant, who never reveals his restaurant but never disses it either, or Your HR Guy, who writes funny human resources scenes, but publishes his policy of not getting fired for his blog.

But don’t go to the other extreme. If you get too careful, you’ll be like college student Matthew Zimmerman, and find yourself unable to write anything. (Don’t worry, he got over it.)

The BBC News tells us How to Blog and Not Get Fired, but it seems much harder to give advice on how to blog and still get hired. When it comes to recruiters, a blog is like a lighthouse: You don’t know how many people have been repelled because they never show up.

At some point, you just have to be yourself. Figure out your best self and be that — online and offline — and then no one will be surprised.

The people entering the workforce today did not grow up posting every little thing that happened to them. But in five years, those kids coming to work will have no way to cleanse the Internet of their posting transgressions from when they were fifteen years old.

There will have to be new standards for what is okay to have online. It will have to be okay to say, “Oh, yeah. I remember when I posted that. Stupid, huh?” Interviewers will have to judge people by what they are doing right now, or else they won’t be able to hire anyone.

So for now, take a look at that wish list you made. Does it make you look like a moron? Instead of getting rid of anti-social items and replacing them with crowd pleasers, ask yourself why you want to read books that reflect poorly on you. Ask yourself who you are.

Karen Salmansohn writes about the idea of congruence: “Be yourself wherever you are, whether at work, with your partner or with friends. When you compartmentalize yourself to be wildly different in different circumstances you can start to feel out of whack. Create a life that is congruent with the person you truly are.”

The impact of incongruence is big: You’ll have an online persona that conflicts with your work persona. You’ll have huge stress. When I was making fun of my co-workers in my column it was because I was a fish out of water in that office. When your impulse is to write mean things about the people you work with then you probably shouldn’t be there.

Research published in the Harvard Business Review (paid) shows that in order to be a great leader, you need to make your work consistent with your core self. When you can be authentic in your job and authentic when you blog that’s a step toward living congruently and you will be priming yourself for success.

The best thing you can do if you want a flexible schedule is ask for it. Younger workers are finding more and more success when they ask, which should give everyone encouragement to request flextime if they want it.

Laurie Young is a founder of Flexible Resources, a company that specializes in finding flextime jobs for people, and she spends her days convincing employers to create innovative positions. You will probably have to do some convincing as well.

It makes sense: You’d never ask for a raise without presenting competitive salary analysis, and you should do the same when asking for flextime. Fortunately, there is a lot of research to present because many companies offer flextime, and it actually helps those companies because flextime is a cheap and effective tool to boost employee morale.

But keep in mind that flexible schedules aren’t available to people who get the job done. Flextime is generally only offered to overperformers. So be one.