This might be the single most used equation for business school satisfaction. Not by everyone obviously. And not necessarily by people ten years after graduation because sometimes their priorities have evolved. But during business school and right after graduation, I propose the idea that a lot of people measure satisfaction by the jobs they get. And then they compare it to what they wanted or expected before business school.
Under the formula, unhappiness means that the difference between the two numbers is quite large. You hope for one job in a competitive industry and don’t get it. In fact, in some cases you don’t even come close. And you end up working in an industry or role where you don’t place nearly as much value on the experience.
On the other hand, happiness thereby must occur when the difference between the numbers is really low . So they aim for a certain job and get it, or at least get something really closely aligned. Whether same industry but different role, or same role but slightly different industry.
But here’s the problem. Theoretically you can adjust the first variable (job you hope for) and aim lower to decrease the risk of the outcome. But the problem with that is that a lot of people wouldn’t be happy. Because smart people don’t just want to be positively surprised, they want really good outcomes and to get really good jobs. Jobs that are not only prestigious but also pay highly. So instead, smart people tend to amplify the first part. A lot. They shoot for the stars and they aim big.
In some ways, business school teaches you not to do that. It teaches you to “hope” for the right things. To segment and target appropriately. And to chase after things that are achievable and that concurrently helps to optimize the school’s recruiting numbers.
On the other hand, eternal optimists would say that business school has it all wrong. They’d propose that you forget targeting appropriately. Target higher. No higher. Go higher than even the highest targeting MBAs in the world. They’d say keep reaching for the stars and figure out how to eventually get there. And to do it despite the risk. Because the greatest riskin life is not taking one.
Eternal optimists then, would have a lot of unhappiness under the formula in business school. That is, unless they hit the jackpot.
So which theory is correct? Which one do you believe in?
What if I told you that you had to only choose one?