Sunday, March 13, 2011

HBS, Veterans, and where do veterans go after business school?

HBS Military Prospective Students Day

This past Monday, March 7th 2011, HBS hosted its first ever Military Prospective Student Day. We had about 35 prosective students in attendance and they received a full day immersion in the HBS experience. The day included an introduction by Dee Leopold, class visits to observe the case method, a presentation by Career & Professional Development, a lunch mixer with current students, exclusive guest talks by distinguished AFAA alumni, a student run AFAA panel, a presentation by the AFAA, and an end of day mixer with current AFAA students and alumni from the area (with guests going back to HBS military veterans from 1971).

HBS's interest in military applicants

The intent of the day was to help answer questions and dispel myths about what it means for a veteran to attend HBS. By the end of the day most prospective students indicated how surprised they were that HBS had such a pro-veteran environment and how greatly their military experience was valued by the school and the students. It didn't hurt that all prospective students were given a complementary copy of the Harvard Business Review with the cover of "Leadership Lessons from the Military."

Most prospective students said this was the best experience they've had with any MBA program, and as a former prospective student myself, I know of no other school being this specifically proactive to attract the best and brightest of military candidates who have decided to pursue an MBA. I believe this reflects HBS's efforts to emphasize the leadership component of its mission statement: "To educate leaders who make a difference in the world."

If HBS continues this practice of holding Military Prospective Students Day, I would expect the number of visiting prospectives to grow quite rapidly as this opportunity becomes more well known within the services.

During the presentation from the HBS Career & Professional Development (CPD), employment data was presented to the prospective students showing where their military predecessors are going after HBS. The last full set of data available is from the Class of 2010, and CPD has agreed for this data to be posted here.

Where do veterans go after business school?

HBS military veteran graduation job selection by function

What we see in the above first of all, is that the two are not extremely different. Of the general class, 61% went into finance or consulting, while 62% of veterans went into finance or consulting. Within this category, veterans tended to go slightly more into consulting than finance (compared to peers), and 4% more went into general management... though one has to remember that 4% represents one person in the data set, so these figures are not to be taken as long term patterns. That said, I don't find these results surprising. Veterans tend to be slightly more interested in general management, and many find consulting to be a great way to gain the business experience (and credibility) before moving on to their follow-on industry of choice.

HBS military veteran graduation job selection by industry

The above industry breakout shows that veterans don't tend to enter "niche" industries as often (ie retail, real estate, healthcare), but rather stick to more generalized career options (ie consulting, finance, manufacturing). I believe this reflects the same career choices made for the first job function; most veterans are seeking positions to give them a broad business experience right out of school. I would certainly expect that after 5-10 years, many more HBS AFAA alumni are leading companies or departments in a very wide range of functions and industries.

Final Thought

Several prospective students told me that after the day's events, applying to HBS seemed much more achievable, whereas before they thought it was out of reach. While obviously applying to HBS is very difficult, and getting in is incredibly difficult no matter what one's background is (military or finance wizard), I hope that nobody who wants to come to HBS would ever self-select themselves out of the application process. If coming to HBS is your goal, you should pursue it to no end... the last reason you shouldn't come to HBS is because you didn't apply!

"Control your destiny or somebody else will" - Jack Welch.