When Anita Leahy set out to put her MBA degree from USC to work in the music industry, she was not exactly overwhelmed with offers.
"Rejection wouldn't be the right word. Non-response is more like it," she lamented. "In the entertainment business, they don't care if you have an MBA. It's not an entree into anything."
But Leahy, part of a growing number of MBA recipients searching for opportunities outside the traditional corporate finance, consulting and marketing functions, is not discouraged. She eventually landed a job working as an assistant to a recording industry executive and is confident that the training she received in business school will serve her well in the long run.
"I went back to school to round out my capabilities. And I knew full well that it would be tough to get into the music business," she said.
Tracy Trench, an MBA graduate from UCLA, also went to business school with her sights set on the entertainment business. "I'm kind of an anomaly, but I just wanted to learn this stuff," she said, even though she knew it wouldn't advance her career in a direct way. But she found a job working for film director Alan Parker and is sure she gained knowledge that will help her toward her ultimate goal of producing films.
USC graduate Brad Parks freely admits that he didn't have "a super-clear view" of what he would do with his MBA, describing his initial objective as gaining "a liberal arts-type view of organizations." He was not entirely pleased with business school, describing it as "ultimately a trade school, with a tendency to throw formulas at you and expect you to regurgitate those in school and after."
Parks said that, although the MBA curriculum does not encourage interdisciplinary approaches or creative thinking, many potential employers--at least in his chosen field of advertising and publishing--seemed to appreciate his "liberal arts" approach. "They are pleasantly surprised when I talk about wanting to be a generalist. They expect an MBA to be a specialist in finance."