Changing Careers: B-School Can Help Only So Much

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No matter how good you are at what you do, sometimes it’s time to change direction. Yao Ming might have had a pretty good run as one of the world’s top basketball players, but he’s now hung up what are very likely an extremely large pair of boots to concentrate on his business investments and managing his beloved home team, the Shanghai Sharks. So far, Yao has shown no sign of considering a business school education to help in this new career, but a number of other sports stars and celebrities have taken this route over the years…

The George Washington University School of Business has decided that dropping former footballers and baseball aces into a class of bankers and businesspeople just won’t get the best results. Consequently it has developed a specialist executive MBA program called STAR—Special Talent, Access, and Responsibility—geared to the needs of athletes and other celebrities. Participants are assigned personal mentors to help them with the transition into the world of business, and spouses are encouraged to take part in courses to help the whole family adjust to a new lifestyle. So far, the program has already attracted the Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes and several former NFL players.

Other sports stars, however, seem to believe that spending more time with fellow athletes would mean missing much of the benefit of going to business school. "I think one of the biggest advantages of the business school experience comes from mixing with people from a wide range of backgrounds," says Craig Buntin, a former Olympic ice skater currently taking his MBA at the Desautels Faculty of Management at Canada’s McGill University. "If you’ve got true diversity of work experience, culture, and nationality in the classroom, you get a whole new set of perspectives. And that’s vital if you want to be part of the next generation of business leaders."

Read full article: Bloomberg Businessweek, August 22, 2011