It is quite common for the vast majority of MBA grads to take jobs in consulting and finance. Each fall, recruitment kicks off and the games begin to see who can receive the best internship offers. But what about the other students?
Not all of us intend on wielding our degree to pivot to McGoldman and Co, and that is okay! Today, I’m going to discuss one “non-traditional” career path out of business school--entertainment and media!
Admissions Committees Love Uniqueness
If you know you want to pursue a career in entertainment and media (EM), I would encourage you to let your passion be the crux of your deferred MBA application. Only about 3% of MBA graduates pursue this industry, and it will for sure help you stick out from the pack--especially if you already come from an overrepresented demographic.
What you have to focus on is making sure your story makes sense. You need to show the admissions committees that the MBA is the best degree for you and not an MA or MFA. The business side of EM is just as important as the creative and performing sides, and your application needs to indicate your knowledge of that.
Have you started your own production company, led an acting troupe, or done internships at a magazine? These are all valid experiences that you should highlight in your application to stand out. Schools can fill their classes entirely with future consultants and bankers, but they want to round out the student population with people who have diverse sets of skills and backgrounds.
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Post-MBA EM Jobs
The potential roles for an MBA in EM are wide and varied. They include both formal and informal recruitment processes and I will break it down for you.
Most of these roles require students to be quite enterprising in their job search. A lot of the openings will be through word of mouth, referrals, and will lack a formal schedule like the ones in banking and consulting.
For example, large streaming companies like Netflix and Hulu have a department called Content Strategy and Acquisition. They are mainly filled with ex-consultants and bankers with MBAs who execute deals to see what content their platforms should produce and distribute. Roles like these are elusive, highly sought after, and must be discovered through keen networking.
On the other hand, there are roles with more traditional recruitment processes. One example are rotational leadership programs. Large media conglomerates like Comcast and Warner Media hire MBAs for 2-year long programs that set them up to become directors in various parts of the business like Ad Sales Operations, Brand Partnerships, and Consumer Insights.
Overall, students pursuing EM careers are going to have a harder time than others navigating recruitment due to the unconventional recruitment calendar. It’s quite common for students to find summer roles in the final weeks of spring semester! I recommend you get plugged into your peer network to stay on top of what opportunities pop up throughout the school year.
What to tap into once you’re on campus
So how should students spend their time on campus to set them up for success? When researching B-schools, I looked deeply into these areas.
First, the schools that set you up with the best jobs in EM will have an Entertainment and Media Club. Some will even have multiple in niche areas like the Sports Business Club or the Music Business Club. Here, students meet with their peers who may already have experience in this field and may connect you with current industry practitioners. These orgs tend to host club meetings with leading EM companies.
Second, look into what courses are offered at the prospective school. Some will have an entire department dedicated to EM in which you can then research what work the professors are doing and maybe even get a peek at recent syllabi. Some courses I looked for were related to Media M&A, Influencer Marketing, and Film Financing.
Lastly, see what in-semester internships are out there. This is a good hedge against risk in case you can’t decide what you want to pursue post-graduation. Students can recruit for something more traditional for a summer internship while also gaining work experience during the school semester in EM. Companies in large markets like LA and NYC tend to offer these programs.
Who’s the best of the best?
Here are 4 schools that I think are great options for those seeking jobs in EM:
While I may be biased, I do believe Columbia is one of the best institutions for those aspiring to become a leader in the EM space. Being the leading school in one of the largest international markets provides a competitive edge against its peer institutions. The renowned Media & Technology program offers courses like Internet Wars, Media Strategy & Public Policy, and Sports Business.
Students can spend their mornings in class, then hop on a short train ride to an internship, and end their night with a media networking event that the Media Management Association is hosting. Columbia also offers students the opportunity to cross-register at other graduate schools, like taking a directing course at Columbia Film School or a Media Policy course co-taught between journalism and law professors.
Whether you want to start your own influencer management firm or become the next big Hollywood producer, Columbia Business School offers a wide variety of avenues for students to pursue during their time.
If you want to be just an Uber away from Hollywood studios and dine at Nobu for networking dinners, then UCLA Anderson may be the school for you! From hosting A-list guest speakers like Ice Cube to partnering with sports teams like Real Madrid, this school is an EM powerhouse to be reckoned with.
Their curriculum focuses on having distinguished practitioners in the field teach immersive courses, like their Entertainment Marketing class co-taught by a former Paramount Pictures executive. Anderson’s alumni network is topnotch, including people like Susan Wojcicki (CEO of Youtube), Erika Green Swafford (Writer for How To Get Away With Murder), and Mike Hopkins (SVP of Amazon Studios).
Based in one of the busiest, bustling areas of Manhattan, NYU Stern has it all. A school completely tapped into the community, Stern students are afforded the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals in the classroom and are given outlets to apply those learnings with tangible work.
NYU’s curriculum allows for an MBA to take on multiple specializations, one of which is in Entertainment and Media where courses are offered in Independent Film, Sports Marketing, and
Las Vegas Operations. The school connects with Tisch, the world-renowned Film School. At NYU, the possibilities for growth are endless.
While Harvard focuses on a general business curriculum, the brand and alumni network are unbeatable. Despite Boston not being an EM hub, its close proximity to NYC still makes Harvard a great choice.
The school’s most famous professor arguably is Anita Elberse. She teaches the world famous course The Business of Entertainment, Media, and Sports. Guests of the class include Dwayne Wade, Channing Tatum, and LL Cool J. Here, students explore business cases on topics like Beyonce and Jay-Z, the immersion of sports e-gambling, and music label corporate strategy.
As with most industries, any Harvard student could leverage the successful alumni pool and professor networks to land themselves into the best EM jobs on the market.
Need assistance in figuring out which schools you should apply to? We at EarlyAdmit can help you! Just book an appointment with one of our coaches here to get started.
All in all, here are the main things to do to properly wield your MBA to a successful career in EM:
2. Get plugged in. Your school will probably have an organization dedicated to EM. Use it, because these people are the foundation of your personal network.
3. Take advantage of the in-class resources. Your books are great, but your professors are much better. If you put forth the effort in class, your teacher may pass an interesting opportunity your way.
4. Look for in-semester internships. These are a great way to get more experience and double-dip into a traditional summer internship.