Amateur anthropology

Another Saturday, another business school Open Day. I’ve been to a lot of these, and it’s amazing just how different the UK’s top b-schools are. They all do the same format for showing prospective students around – a coffee intro, a presentation, a Q&A with current students and a sample lecture – but the personality of each institution so far has been totally different.

And each school, so far, has offered primetime peoplewatching.

(I’m dismissive by nature, and sometimes people have exploded at me saying I have ‘no interest in people’. That’s untrue. I am interested in people, but perhaps only in the way a lepidopterist is interested in termites.)

For instance, this session contained a guy we’ll call ‘Mr Investment Banker’. Every question he asked, every twist in conversation, was about investment banking. At the Q&A: “What investment banks recruit on campus?” At the presentation: “Which electives do investment bankers take?” And when I left, he was there at reception again: “Can I talk to ex-students who went into investment banking?”

Unfortunately – and he’ll probably spend £50K on an MBA before realising it – such people are precisely what investment banks don’t want. Nobody has ‘investment banker’ on their business card; M&A analyst or derivatives dude maybe, but not ‘banker’. This guy had no real knowledge of investment banking; he’d just seen the salary levels and wanted in. He believed an MBA was a shortcut (rather than a base requirement) and because of it he’s never, ever going to get in. Well-paid they may be, but investment bankers get jobs based on their ability to make money for others, not how much they want for themselves.

Then there was ‘Actually Guy’. This guy really, really liked to talk, and was in there on every question during the sample lecture … but he didn’t have the basic decency to construct ideas in his head before uttering them: what came out of his mouth was a steady stream of random thoughts, just letting his tongue flap in the breeze. Every other word was ‘actually’. Such individuals annoy me intensely, because they don’t realise how disrespectful this is to others: it shouldn’t be the rest of humanity’s job to decode your stream of consciousness.

Also, at this Open Day there were noticeably fewer Indians, despite the school’s Midlands location. Surprisingly, that staccato, high-decibel Indian accent – at many schools up to a third of MBA students are Indian professionals – has really started to grate. It’s something I’ll have to get used to as the BRIC economies strengthen.

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