The Wall Street Journal today has an article about how MBAs are rethinking their plans for employment after graduation. "Many are rethinking ambitions, trading dreams of high-paying careers in hard-hit fields like investment banking for positions in less-battered sectors. Others are returning to former employers or postponing hopes of a career change." But MBAs aren't just rethinking their earning potential. They're also reconsidering their effect on the world.
Max Anderson, a 2009 MBA graduate of Harvard Business School, created the MBA Oath, hoping to get 100 HBS students to sign. In a recent blog post, Anderson writes: "My classmates and I are aware of the low opinion many people have of MBAs, especially in the wake of the financial crisis...Our goal is to begin a widespread movement of MBAs who aim to lead in the interests of the greater good and who have committed to living out the principles articulated in the Oath." So what does it say?
"We hope this will a) make a difference in the lives of the students who take the oath b) challenge other classmates to work with a higher professional standard, whether they sign the oath or not and c) create a public conversation in the press about professionalizing and improving management...
"Our long-term goal is to transform the field of management into a true profession, one in which MBAs are respected for their integrity, professionalism, and leadership. We hope to see hundreds of thousands of MBAs take the MBA oath, or something like it, as a step towards realizing this vision."
Well, he got his 100 HBS signers, and then some. The Oath quickly reached over 25 schools, and has already been signed by more than 400 MBA grads in 115 different countries. It's also been covered by major media outlets like BusinessWeek and The Economist
But despite the MBA Oath's popularity, not everyone believes that the signers' commitment will last. Says The Economist, "It may seem ridiculous that students who have spent over $100,000 on two years of study in an effort to get very rich are now so keen to rebrand themselves as virtuous. Such naivety, if that is what it is, will not survive long beyond the university’s walls." Whether or not the Oath will have a real effect on the MBA careers, it's clear that today's B-school grads want to disassociate themselves from the Gordon Gekko stereotype. And with all the heat MBA programs have taken this year, who can blame them.
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