The (MBA) road less taken: SMEs

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

So concludes the poem "The Road Not Taken," written a century ago by celebrated American poet Robert Frost.  It isn't often that reading Business Week inspires me to recall lines from famous literary works, but as I read Valerie Claude-Gaudillat's article about MBA students working for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), these lines came to mind.

Many MBA students start their studies with visions of six-figure paychecks and corner offices dancing through their minds.  For some, the dream will one day become a reality.  For others, the goal will remain elusive.  But for an increasing number of MBA students, this particular vision is not the goal in the first place.  More and more, MBA students are taking the time to think about what is important to them and seeking out fulfulling opportunities with "non-traditional" MBA employers.

As Claude-Gaudillat mentions in her article, SMEs can actually be an excellent place for ambitious MBA graduates to find the opportunities to influence multiple facets of an organization.  At very large multinational companies, MBA hires are often slotted into specific roles in one functional area.  For a general management graduate, this can feel limiting, as it doesn't afford the opportunity to interact with various departments and have an impact on overall corporate strategy.  An MBA graduate at a 20-employee firm, however, can potentially have great influence on the strategic direction of the company, particularly if he or she is one of few employees (or the only) with an MBA education.

There will always be a need for MBA talent at multinational conglomerates, and many graduates find positions at these organizations challenging, fulfilling, and potentially lucrative.  But if smaller companies, non-profits, or other organizations appeal more to you as an MBA graduate, just remember that there's no reason not to take the road less traveled by.