Business School Graduate Gift Guide - What to Buy for MBAs in 2021

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Graduation is always a special time, regardless of the degree. It is a time to reflect on the past and look towards the future. And after years of team projects, case studies and reports, presentations, and final exams, students deserve to celebrate.

MBA graduates, in particular, have a lot to celebrate. They’ve spent the last few years building strong relationships, learning new concepts, and preparing for a big new role in the business world. So what does one give someone who is about to step into this new role as a business leader?

MBA gifts convey pride in a loved one’s accomplishments and can help them achieve success and adjust to the next chapter in their lives. With that in mind, there are several kinds of gifts MBA grads appreciate most: Gifts that commemorate the last few years, gifts that inspire the road ahead, and gifts that help propel them as they enter—or reenter—the business world.
Explore gift options below.

Small Gifts

A Personalized Etsy Gift
For those looking for creative or personalized gifts, Etsy offers an entire section dedicated to unique MBA graduate gifts. Etsy’s selection is vast, comprising an array of punny T-shirts and coffee mugs, personalized key chains, and college-specific diploma frames. Gift-givers can customize many of these gifts with the graduate’s name and most are affordable.

A Moo Gift Card
Whether your MBA grad snagged the perfect job or is still on the hunt, he or she will need business cards. Moo offers modern custom-designed cards for all types of professionals. From traditional to luxe to bright and fun, there’s a card for every type of grad.

Sentimental Gifts

Shattered Glass Ceiling Necklace
Still today, women only make up one-third of MBA students. Likewise, racial minorities and the LGBT+ community have been historically underrepresented in MBA programs. The business world is not known for its diversity, so any woman or person of minority graduating with an MBA degree has helped to shatter the glass ceiling. This symbolic necklace pays tribute to the accomplishments of these people making a difference in the world.

A Personalized Signed Book
A book can also commemorate a memorable experience. If a graduate loved a particular class, consider buying the professor’s book and asking him or her to sign it with a personal note. This heartfelt gift will surely touch your graduate.

Stock in Their Favorite Company
A popular gift to show you are investing in the graduate’s future is the savings bond or stock. Gift shares of stock in your MBA grad’s favorite company to inspire them to work toward a future there (if they haven’t already scored that perfect job). Take this classic gift a step further by combining it with one of the company’s products, like Amazon stock and an Amazon gift card or Apple stock and AirPods.

Books for MBAs

Books make terrific (and affordable) gifts. Some new graduates might feel unprepared for the future ahead while others might be excited—there are books for every type of graduate as all will appreciate the wise words from some of the business world’s biggest names.

The Infinite Game (Simon Sinek)
This book is perfect for any MBA graduate who is interested in cultivating resilient, high-performing businesses where everyone involved feels safe, inspired, and fulfilled at work, every single day. Sinek’s book provides forward-thinking MBA grads with practical and actionable concepts to build business environments that are better for employees, better for longevity, and better for the world.

Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office (Lois P. Frankel, PhD)
This New York Times bestseller reveals 130 behaviors that women learn as girls, leading to sabotaging behaviors in the business world. Known as “nice girl errors,” this book coaches women to eliminate these behaviors, ask for what they want, and earn the salaries they deserve.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey)
An absolute classic and named the most influential business book of the 20th century, 7 Habits has taught CEOs, presidents, executives, and employees at all levels and across all industries powerful lessons for personal change.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (John Carreyrou)
This hotly anticipated investigative non-fiction novel made its rounds on the best-sellers lists earlier this year when it was first released. The book chronicles the story of Theranos, the Silicon Valley darling that committed the biggest corporate fraud since Enron. Recommended by Barack Obama and Bill Gates, Bad Blood is a must-buy for any MBA graduate with tech or investment ambitions.

The Innovator’s Dilemma (Clayton Christensen)
Written by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, The Innovator’s Dilemma argues that leading companies can become shells of their former selves if they are unwilling to disrupt their operations. This was one of the first widely-read treatises on disruption over the last 20 years and is especially poignant in modern-day business.

The Myth of the Nice Girl (Fran Hauser)
In this instant classic, the author deconstructs the fine line women must balance in the business world—not too nice or you’re weak, not too tough or you’re bossy. In this book, business leaders will learn how to break down stereotypes in the workplace and build a more inclusive space that values male and female perspectives.

Principles (Ray Dalio)
This Ray Dalio classic is both inspirational and practical. In his book, Dalio, one of the world’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs, shares his story, wisdom, and lessons learned in business. Readers will likely find a few concepts they are already familiar with, such as radical truth and transparency, as Principles has laid the foundation for MBA curricula.

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order (Kai-Fu Lee)
It’s no secret that AI is upending the business world as we know it. This book dives deep into the history, current state, and future of AI from a global business perspective by highlighting how the technology being developed in China and the U.S. will completely change the world for better or for worse.

Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy (Martin Lindstrom)
The truth behind what drives purchasing decisions is revealed here in a seven-million-dollar neuromarketing study. Data collected from a three-year study featuring 2,000 volunteers worldwide breaks long-held beliefs around the psychology of brand recognition and what marketing gets people to know, like, and trust a brand before they decide to buy.

Subscriptions & Memberships

Alumni Association Membership
One of the best and most affordable MBA gifts is a membership to their business school’s alumni association. The University of Michigan, for example, only charges new grads $25 a year. It is a worthwhile investment since alumni groups can help recent grads find jobs and create social connections upon moving to a new city.

LinkedIn Premium
Even for an MBA with a job waiting upon graduation, consider giving a few months of a LinkedIn Premium subscription. This LinkedIn membership can help them build connections and relationships with fellow alumni and provides detailed reporting about profile visitors, companies, and jobs that the free version does not offer. At only $30 a month, it’s a bargain, and the first month is free.

Membership to a Professional Association
Although a great deal of learning and networking happens during a student’s time in their MBA program, the work of learning and connecting is never done. By providing a recent graduate with a membership to a professional business association, you can help them continue learning best business practices and expand their business networks.

Office & Travel Necessities

Madewell Leather Card Case
Help your MBA grad keep those new business cards crisp in this versatile business card case. With loads of color options, you can pick one that suits their personality best. You can also personalize this minimalistic leather card holder with their initials.

Everlane Nylon Commuter Backpack
Everlane is a sustainable clothing brand that aims to create stylish apparel with transparent pricing. Not only do supply chain enthusiasts love the brand, but all will appreciate the company’s mission to partner only with ethical factories around the world. This unisex backpack is sleek, practical, and provides commuters with all of the essentials: padded laptop sleeve, side, and front zip pockets, and taped zippers for extra weather protection.

The High-Performance Planner
Anyone graduating from an MBA program is highly motivated. Help them stay on the right track with this performance-enhancing planner-meets-journal. Not only does it help keep track of your activities and meetings, but it also promotes introspection and self-assessment to make sure you stay on track to reach your goals.

The Away Carry-On
Away took travel enthusiasts by storm when it first launched. The company sells top-of-the-line luggage for modern-day travelers. Whether your graduate will be traveling for work or play, they will love the Away carry-on suitcase, which comes equipped with a durable shell, an ejectable battery that charges your phone, a TSA-approved combination lock, and even a hidden laundry bag. Throw in a Signature Garment Bag for the consultant in your life.

Ecosystem Restoration Gifts
Suppose your MBA graduate is going to travel often for work. In that case, their impact on our earth will be unsustainable and destructive—unless they actively work to balance the environmental cost of travel. By giving a one-time carbon offsetting gift or a monthly tree-planting membership, you can help your new MBA graduate to do as much good for our earth as they do for business.

Tech & Gadgets

Fitbit Charge 4
With a cushy new desk job, your MBA grad might need a reminder to get up and move. The Fitbit Charge 4 is Fitbit’s most advanced tracker and offers hourly reminders to move and drink water and offers a vibrating alarm clock option for heavy sleepers. You can also switch bands depending on whether your grad’s at work or hitting the gym.

GlocalMe G4 Pro WIFI Hotspot
For internet access where there’s no WiFi, this GlocalMe G4 Pro global private high-speed mobile pocket WIFI hotspot MiFi device seems essential for grads expecting frequent business travel. While charging devices, the G4 provides Internet connectivity anywhere road warriors can access a cell signal. No sim card is required.

Google Chromecast Ultra
No millennial home is complete without a Google Chromecast. This inexpensive little dongle seems innocuous but plugs into any TV or projector with a USB hole and seamlessly connects your phone or computer, opening up all of the streaming possibilities, including HD content.

Bose QuietComfort 35II Wireless Bluetooth Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Nothing says “Don’t bother me” like a pair of large headphones. With a 20-hour battery life, these Bluetooth headphones block ambient noise while working in an office, on a plane or subway, for a video conference call, in a coworking space, or coffee shop. The Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones are optimized for use with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Douglas Mark
Douglas Mark
Writer

While a partner in a San Francisco marketing and design firm, for over 20 years Douglas Mark wrote online and print content for the world’s biggest brands, including United Airlines, Union Bank, Ziff Davis, Sebastiani, and AT&T. Since his first magazine article appeared in MacUser in 1995, he’s also written on finance and graduate business education in addition to mobile online devices, apps, and technology. Doug graduated in the top 1 percent of his class with a business administration degree from the University of Illinois and studied computer science at Stanford University.

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