The One-Year MBA Is Done. What's Next?

Larry Kao describes what Said students face now that they're nearing the end: "We're almost outta here. Where has the time gone?"

As the Said Business School students near the end of the program, we are faced with one bold reality; the wondrous, gruelling, and tantalizing one-year MBA journey is nearly over for us. The fall Michaelmas term was filled with mystery and excitement as we attended matriculation in the 300-year-old Sheldonian Theater. Not knowing what to expect and dreading the exams a mere 10 weeks away, it felt like a long time before our winter break. However, the second term, Hilary, brought a new set of challenges. Whether it was applying for jobs, attending seminars, or joining case competitions, the fast-paced term catapulted us into exams faster than a blink of an eye. Many students can agree: "We're almost outta here. Where has the time gone?"

With the last term, Trinity, in sight, a slew of options dangles for the class of 2008. Some students are ready to "do their own thing," using contacts established during our first major event: "Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford." This appetite grew as Said brought in successful entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs throughout the year. The ideas were ironed out as student teams were formed to create a business, complete with a business plan and a pitch to venture capitalists. Every student now has a viable business plan, and many of them can be successful. With Said Business School's strong push towards entrepreneurship, the exciting world of startups, angels, and VCs is attractive.

Another major benefit of the Oxford MBA is being a member of a larger university with great schools and departments. Classmates can opt to continue their education in the form of research, PhD degrees, and other Masters programs. Others can use Oxford resources to network for opportunities or help raise money for their new ventures. They also might stay to take more classes to help round out their education. Many students apply to Oxford because of its one-year program but leave wishing it were the standard two years. Our time here has been so valuable, and we've barely begun to explore the wonders the great university has to offer.

Tough Topics

It's events like the "Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship" that constantly remind me why I "gambled" by coming to Said . What other MBA school could host an event where we enjoy the company of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams on Wednesday, former President Jimmy Carter on Thursday, and former Vice-President Al Gore on Friday?

The Skoll World Forum, social entrepreneurship, social enterprise, and corporate social responsibility are why many MBAs are at Oxford. Many of the tough topics that leaders of corporations face in today's business world are shared at the Skoll forum. With an energy that can only be created with hundreds of leaders in the social sector, the world of doing good and doing well are beginning to blend.

Attendees and MBAs see that as nongovernmental organizations are growing, it is ever more important to begin recruiting MBAs to help formulate strategies and action plans. Many social sector companies struggle with similar problems that for-profit companies face. Everyone, for-profit or nonprofit, is fighting for customers, dealing with egos, and struggling to retain talent. The forum is a beginning to help the social space consolidate ideas and resources. If we are the generation that needs to heal the world, then we need to stop fragmenting ourselves and beginning to share ideas for change immediately.

Jobs? Wait a Second

The most popular choice for students will be to continue their careers. Whether that means shifting gears into a different career track or continuing with their original path, either road will be a delicious journey after Oxford. No matter what, the 220-member class will be full of newly minted MBAs, internationally experienced managers, and multifaceted thinkers. That sounds pretty great, but how do I choose?

Said's flexible summer plan affords students several ways to graduate. As I mentioned, students can take courses. And of course with the Oxford tradition, students can opt to choose to write a thesis and push forward the science of management. Finally, following the two-year MBA format, students who aren't ready to make the commitment to a full-time job can test the waters with the summer internship.

Internships are great for the Oxford triple jumpers. Bankers can test careers in microfinance. Consultants can join ventures in social entrepreneurship. Engineers can prove their ability to enter marketing. Anyone who's looking to make a change has an opportunity to take a test drive.

Speaking of driving, many MBA programs offer consulting-type projects for their students, and Oxford is no different. Teams of four place bids to consult for Oxford-sourced projects and will spend two months in the summer tackling a major issue for their assigned company. Top of my list: WilliamsF1, the Formula 1 racing team. What a cool project, right?

Other great projects include working with Coca-Cola (KO), Volkswagen (VOWG.F), IBM (IBM), Man Group (MNGPF), the International Cricket Council, and more. I am thrilled to see a diverse range of projects Oxford was able to source and I am looking forward to testing my game-theory knowledge to bid correctly and land a great opportunity to help solve a project problem for one of these companies.

Will the summer consulting project lead to a job opportunity? Will my new experience offer me insight into a field I never knew I loved? Tons of questions still loom for me personally, but at least my summer plans are clearer than they were one term ago. I'm looking forward to finishing my ultra-busy Trinity Term and working as a consultant in the summer. And who knows where I'll end up, but I am optimistic about my choices.