Are you a disappointed MBA?

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(MoneyWatch) We're near that season again, when thousands of newly minted MBAs wear medieval costumes and colors, get photographed with their classmates and family, hear really boring speeches, and think about their future. Many are wrestling with a deep sense of disappointment, and most don't want to talk about it.

If you're not an MBA, but are feeling let down by a lack of opportunities, please keep reading. The same advice might just solve your problem, too.

This is advice that's evolved over 15 years of teaching. Many have said it's the most valuable thing they've heard, and several have even said it's changed their lives. Give it two minutes and let's see if it can work for you, too.

First, the bad news, then the really bad news, and then the solution.

The bad news: Many MBAs are like horses that spent years training to race, only to end up pulling a dairy cart.

For graduates of the traditional full-time MBA, many have job offers. But they don't have the Great Offer -- the one that they had in mind when they applied, quit their jobs, and starting writing big checks to their university. Some don't have any offers at all, and end up going back to the place they worked before -- often for the same salary they left. For them, they aren't just pulling a dairy cart, but the same dairy cart.

For people who worked through the degree, including fully employed and Executive MBAs -- many are still waiting for the tap on the shoulder from a senior executive and an escort to a new office and a new set of challenges.

Don't think I'm down on the MBA degree. I've taught non-stop in MBA programs since 1996. If I didn't believe in it, and in the people who risk so much to get it, I'd have left in 1997. Check out my LinkedIn account and you'll see most of my network has the cherished degree.

With that endorsement, now the really bad news: no one cares. Not about you, not about your cool new degree, and they really don't want to hear about how much you learned. Really. Not even a little bit. And it's not personal. Do you really care that friends are getting degrees in social work, philosophy, or education? Sure, you're happy for them, but are you going to drop everything and make sure they get connected to great opportunities?

Now the good news. It's that you can use Logan's rule of problem solving: "You're far better at solving other people's problems than you are your own." Because this rule is the key to getting to race at Churchill Downs. Spend just a minute and see this rule at work all around you. The rule is why management consulting is such a big field. People say: "I can hire someone to help me solve my problems, and they'll care about them as much as I do? Wow."

Your challenge, should you decide to accept it, is to find someone with a problem and put your skills to work on solving it. Not talk about solving it, write reports on it, or give free advice about it at Starbucks. Get your backside on the line, and commit to solving it.

The world is filled with problems you now know how to solve, and even bigger ones that seem to defy solutions. Find the biggest, most horrible and awful problems around. That's your racetrack.

Want to train for the Triple Crown? Then focus on solving those problems without any concern to your personal ROI or how this will help you.

Most people now say, "Huh? Isn't this about me?" Actually, it isn't. That's the point. The more you try to solve your problems, the more elusive solutions become. Work on solving someone else's problem and you often solve your own indirectly.

This advice works because of something called the "innovation triangle". The upshot is that when you work to solve a burning need, you end up using "spare parts" -- ideas, contacts, and bits of knowledge you didn't remember you knew. In the process, you and others will come up with something new -- innovation. Some of what you come up with can be repurposed for new products, services, companies, and industries. And with you as the champion for it, you'll end up racing with the best of them for the Triple Crown -- getting a great salary and job title in the process.

If you have trouble with this, read about how Airbnb used this system to scale their business. By focusing on other people's problems, they solved theirs as well. The key is that the payoff for you is already indirect. Try to make it direct and you sabotage any benefit to you.

So here's my bet for all those disappointed MBAs out there. Follow the advice in this blog post exactly, especially the part about not focusing on how this will help you. If you try it, and it doesn't work, I'll recant this one year from today in front of the entire world. Until then, give it a try. You might just find yourself racing.

Are you a frustrated MBA? Have you helped others and reaped the (unexpected) rewards? If so, please share your story the comments section.


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    View all articles by Dave Logan on CBS MoneyWatch »
    Dave Logan is a USC faculty member, management consultant, and the best-selling author of four books including Tribal Leadership and The Three Laws of Performance. He is also Senior Partner of CultureSync, a management consulting firm, which he co-founded in 1997.

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