Why Today’s MBA Graduates Are Trading Salary for Impact

Historically, the objective of acquiring an MBA was simple: Financial success.  But for today’s MBA graduate students, entrepreneurship is trending towards a different goal: Making an impact.

In the past, MBA students would seek professional opportunities on Wall Street, or at some for-profit business offering a proven path to financial success.  While that desire to be financially successful has not gone away, MBA graduates are no longer measuring their success merely in terms of currency.  Today, MBA students are graduating with a heightened awareness of their potential to positively impact the communities and environment that surrounds them, and with that awareness they’ve felt a more profound sense of social responsibility.

I saw this trend firsthand when my company was visited this fall by Chicago Road Ventures, a group of four MBA students from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business traveling the country to offer pro-bono consulting services to startups selected by the group.  CRV went heads-down on some of our major internal challenges, and in just one week these students made real impact that will help us scale our business.  They’ve kept in touch with my team and offered further guidance as we’ve explored and implemented their solutions.  Just imagine the benefits to businesses and students if every growing company had the same access to this kind of program.

Elite business schools across the nation are already pushing new entrepreneurial programs that focus on creating both economic and social value.  It’s a big reason why entrepreneurship has become the #1 track to study at University of Chicago, even though the median starting salary for a Booth MBA graduate is considerably more than an entrepreneur’s.  We can also look to Harvard Business School, which has crafted an entire curriculum around the Social Enterprise that emphasizes the unique benefits and opportunities, both economic and cultural, that come with social entrepreneurship.

While MBA students in the past would pursue entrepreneurship only after evaluating its inherent risks against their potential reward in dollars, I think the data shows today’s MBA students are giving social impact more weight in their rewards measurement.  I predict in the next decade, this growing trend will produce some of the more transformative social enterprises the world has ever seen.

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