Readers Speak Out On Illiterate MBAs and More
By Anne Fisher

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Every now and then, something in this space strikes a real nerve with many hundreds of people who seem to have been waiting for any chance to spout off about it. That's what I'm here for. Spout away. In the past couple of months two topics take the prize for Source of Most Widespread Indignation: the woeful lack of reading and writing skills in companies (Dec. 7 issue) and a regrettable confusion about how--and why--one becomes a professional financial adviser (Jan. 11). You've been weighing in on plenty of other matters too, for which I thank you.

First, on corporate illiteracy, Richard Todd at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis writes, fairly typically, "Good writing is one of two key abilities I focus on when hiring; the other is the ability to read critically. I can train people to do almost anything else, but I don't have time to teach this." Laments a senior manager at a FORTUNE 500 company: "I hire MBAs with five to ten years of work experience. These people are utterly incapable of expressing their research findings and recommendations on paper." Adds a reader named Pam: "Is it any wonder that so many engineers in the U.S. are imported, when American college grads cannot write a simple paragraph? Helloooo!"

Now for anyone out there who is bent on becoming a financial adviser, let's clarify what Susan J. Farmer of the Society of Financial Service Professionals ( calls the "alphabet soup" of credentials in this field. First, the best Website to visit for more information on how to earn the certified financial planner (CFP) designation is A more rigorous credential is that of Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), granted by the American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa. ( Or you might consider becoming a chartered financial analyst (CFA); you can look into this at Compare these credentials and see which best fits your needs and goals--but to reiterate the point of our earlier discussion, don't leap into this harrowing business just because the stock market has been good to you lately. Of the many CFAs, CFPs, and ChFCs who sent comments, here's a typical note from a stockbroker named Brian in upstate New York: "I can't tell you how many of my clients think this job is a piece of cake, until I put the fear of God into them by explaining all that's involved. Anyone can make money in a great market--but great markets are not the only kind there is." Alas.

In response to "Redwood City" (Nov. 9), who was considering quitting his job to pursue an MBA, thanks to all those who pointed out that a great alternative is an executive MBA, which lets you go to school while still working. Notes Merle Giles, who directs the executive MBA program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: "There are at least 130 of these programs in the U.S. specifically designed for people who work for a living. The average participant is 37 years old and has about 15 years of work experience." For a school near you, check out And while we're on the topic of handy Web addresses, a reader named Jeffery chided me for not giving "Suddenly Strapped" (Dec. 7) any way to find hard data on the comparative cost of living in various U.S. cities, and pointed me to two terrifically informative sites. If you're thinking of moving, check out, and Calculators.

Questions keep coming in from women who want to find a mentor, and I've just gotten hold of a great new book that may help spark some ideas. Take a look at Creating Women's Networks: A How-To Guide for Women and Companies (Jossey-Bass, $24). Put together by Catalyst, a New York City nonprofit research group, it's full of fascinating case studies from companies like Kodak, Bausch & Lomb, and 3M.

Finally, for now: The letter from "No Clarence Darrow" (Dec. 21), who has already decided while still in law school that he doesn't want to practice law, brought many a wistful cri de coeur from discontented attorneys. Still, most sensibly suggested that he try practicing before he decides to quit. "As most grownups know," notes a lawyer named Steve, "school and the real world usually turn out to be two very different places."