When new students at NYU’s Stern MBA program start, they are asked to complete a career profile. It asks a number of questions about their personality and ambitions. It then spits out likely career directions. Most MBA programs probably have similar tools.
On the version NYU uses it asks if making a positive impact in the world is a priority (or something like that). Good question. The challenge is that the career coaching tool always spits out the same single recommendation if you say yes – work at a nonprofit.
This is a challenge on two fronts.
First, the other outputs are professions (e.g. marketing) not sectors (e.g. nonprofit). The reality is that there are marketing, finance and other professions within nonprofits. This output implies the choice is between a marketing career and the nonprofit sector.
Perhaps more importantly, this model implies that you can’t make a difference working in finance or marketing. The reality is that you can make the world a better place working in nearly any profession. There are jobs in marketing, finance, and other professions that improve the lives of others through critical products, access to capital, and other means.
A new MBA student at NYU told me about this problem and said that we need to change these career coaching models to add the sophistication of the real workplace. Otherwise, people will continue to think that working in a nonprofit is the only way to make a difference. He is right.