Update VII: Careers Course
June 12, 2006
New course will introduce MBA students to the individual, long-term perspective on careers
Under Yale SOM’s new Core Curriculum, entering students will begin the first year with a six-week segment called Orientation to Management, which will introduce them to basic management concepts and skills. In addition to learning to read balance sheets and lead effective teams, students will take a course called Careers, designed to start them thinking about what they’ll do after they graduate. Indeed, students’ consideration of careers will begin over the summer, as they are being asked to read books about Sam Walton, Warren Buffett, and Gandhi--three fascinating and illustrative careers.
Jonathan Feinstein, a professor of economics who will teach the Careers course and is spearheading its development, explains that this biographical approach is consistent with the aim of the course. “This course is different from other [business school or MBA] courses we’re aware of in that we focus on the individual and the idea that they’re going to have a career over forty or fifty years. That’s the unit of analysis: a person and all the things that develop and build up over that whole period of time.”
The framework to the course is what Feinstein calls “the logic of careers--the idea that there are places you want to get to and then there are steps that you can take to achieve those goals.” Inevitably, this process of development includes periods of stability and periods of transition.
The Careers course will also study the different kinds of capital--such as human capital, social capital, and financial capital--that people build up throughout their careers. These develop at different times throughout a career, and can often be brought to pay dividends long after they are first established. Feinstein points out that it’s important to help students take a long-term perspective, because opportunities often unfold over many years. “So many business people will have an idea or strategy, and it doesn’t bear fruit for twenty years,” he says.
Personal values stand as another pillar of the course. How do students understand their own values? What role do values play in both creating opportunities and ruling out other possibilities in a career? “Pierre Omidyar is a great example of someone who had very well defined values--around community and fairness and equal opportunities,” says Feinstein. “When he set up his website, he truly was guided by his values. He just wanted to build a site that fit with his values, and that was the origin of eBay.”
A final key idea behind the course is that people are capable of tremendous personal transformation over time. Feinstein points to Gandhi as an example of this point. “He was a very ordinary person, and developed ideas about how to transform himself, and then went out and did it.”
The Careers course will dovetail with the Organizational Perspectives segment that follows it, in that it will help illustrate how one individual can manage many different constituencies through the course of a career. “We want to give students the broad picture of what happens in business, in society, and in life,” says Feinstein. “What are all the different elements that you need to know about? The logic of individual careers is obviously one of those pieces.”
The three books mentioned in the first paragraph are: Made in America
, by Sam Walton and John Huey Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist
, by Roger Lowenstein The Story of My Experiments with Truth
, by M.K. Gandhi