Although MBA grads are more likely to seek employment in the consulting, finance, health care, and tech industries, a solid base of recruiting options exists for those who wish to work in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry—working for giants such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble, and General Mills.
Professionals from a variety of backgrounds—including finance, consulting, marketing, engineering, operations, and sales—can all make a successful transition into the CPG industry post-MBA. Traditionally, many CPG recruiting opportunities are in product management, which is really a general management role. Product managers are responsible for the profit and loss of the brand as well as everything pertaining to the product including the supply chain, manufacturing, marketing, advertising, consumer insights, and sales. In many ways, product management is the ultimate MBA goal, as product managers must bring their knowledge of all functional business areas into their work.
Here are several tips to keep in mind if you plan to transition into CPG post-MBA:
Build on your prior expertise and fill the gaps with an MBA.
Someone with a finance background can leverage those skills to manage budgets while using an MBA to develop stronger operations and marketing knowledge. A person with consulting knowledge can leverage their strategic background while deepening their CPG industry knowledge and other functional skills through an MBA. Someone with an engineering background can leverage their operations knowledge while using an MBA to gain marketing and finance expertise.
Consider your industry expertise as well. For example, if you worked in a finance role for PepsiCo prior to earning your MBA, your understanding of PepsiCo’s business will be useful as you recruit for a product management role.
Look for MBA programs with strong CPG recruiting relationships and culture.
As a Northwestern Kellogg alum, I can’t help but think of the school for candidates interested in CPG, as I attended the program in the heyday of CPG recruiting. So many of Kellogg’s emeritus marketing professors including Philip Kotler and Lou Stern are marketing legends. Although Kellogg currently sends more people to other industries including consulting and tech, the school continues to have an outstanding marketing department and other resources to prepare students for successful careers in the CPG industry. In addition, there are still so many Kellogg alumni in the top ranks of CPG leadership, which is invaluable in building relationships in the industry.
In Kellogg’s most recent employment report, the school noted that 7.8% of the full-time class worked in the CPG industry post-MBA. Other MBA programs sending a strong contingent of the class into the CPG industry are Michigan Ross (6.6%), UCLA Anderson (6.4%), Cornell Johnson (6.0%), Duke Fuqua (6.0%), and Texas McCombs (5.7%).
Consider program resources and other experiential learning opportunities.
Texas McCombs offers a concentration in brand and product management to help students make a successful transition to the CPG industry, while Michigan Ross’s “Multidisciplinary Action Projects” (MAP) course can help students gain practical experience in their industry of choice, including CPG. Also, look for programs that host career treks to visit CPG employers. Last year, Ross MBA students met with employers in New York City and Chicago to learn about opportunities with CPG leaders including PepsiCo, Tyson Foods, Conagra, and SC Johnson. In addition, UCLA Anderson’s Parker Career Management Center provides extremely helpful marketing guidance for students seeking CPG careers. These resources can be especially helpful for students looking to use their MBA degree to change their industry and/or function. For example, Northwestern Kellogg’s marketing major offers a huge assortment of classes that are useful to professionals transitioning to the CPG industry, including “Strategic Brand Management” and “Launching New Products and Services.”
As you research business schools, remember to look at the details—including employment reports for both full-time and internship recruiting as well as marketing club activity—to ensure that you find the right program to help you successfully transition to CPG.
Our Stratus team has lots of experience helping applicants plan their transition to a new industry such as CPG through an MBA degree. We are available to start the conversation about your profile through a free consultation. Schedule yours here!