What prompts a professional to pursue an MBA or even think about entering B-school? Here are some common motivators: Change careers, entrepreneurship, networking, accelerate existing career and obtain a promotion. Although an MBA degree definitely gives you the platform to follow your passion of learning and advancing your managerial skills it is not a guaranteed key to change your existing career. Even with your new sparkly MBA degree it is extremely difficult to make a 180 degree turn from your existing career. It gets even more difficult for folks pursuing part time MBA as compared to full time students, mainly because of limited internship opportunities and limited bandwidth for networking. Hence if your main purpose to pursue an MBA is to change careers, then following these 4 steps would bring you closer to your desired career path.
1. Tailor your Resume and customize it: As per “Exploration for Human Capital: Evidence from the MBA Labor Market.” a paper released by National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER): the research indicates that employers highly value past performance and expertise in their hiring selection criteria. The paper also highlights that MBAs transitioning to a new career area are considered to be hiring risks. Since your Resume is the first point of touch to the hiring team, it is very important to display the skills from your past experience that would relate to your new desired career path. Example if you were a quality support engineer before your MBA and now you would like to go into CPG industry as a marketing analyst. The key skills you can highlight are your creative skills, innovation skills and data analysis capabilities. These are some of the capabilities needed in a marketing analyst for tracking ROIs on marketing campaigns or recommending new marketing strategies etc. and if you can show specific examples around these skills then the hiring manager would be able to relate to those easily and you will have a higher chance of getting an interview.
2. Focus more on function and less on industry: Picking a clear function of choice from the beginning will help you in building the necessary skills that could be applied to any industry. Considering the macroeconomic situations and global economy we can assume that no industry is safe from the ups and downs of market impact. For example, if you are focusing on market research as your function of interest and building hard skills around it, such as gathering Nielsen insights, cluster analysis, tableau etc., this will help you in getting access to various industries such as CPG, Retail and even Technology. Skills focused around the functions will allow you to take full control of your career irrespective of the market impact on a particular industry. This specific focus on function will also help you to stay organized and focused towards the next career switch that you are aiming for.
3. Take your efforts one step up from internships and capstone projects: Internships as well as capstone projects are a great way to add experience on your Resume for the skills that the hiring managers are looking for. Choosing your internships wisely is the first step towards entering into your desired function. But as you are getting involved in these activities also keep in mind that internships and capstone projects are the standard opportunities that every MBA students receives. Think of creative ways of how you can differentiate yourself from your peers and how to target companies and industries in which you would like to jump post-graduation. One good way is to attend events focused around your desired career. You can pick from big events such as National Retail Federation, ShopTalk, Big Data & Analytics summits, Gartner supply chain summit, SXSW, consulting summits etc. which can provide you exposure and a platform to network with professionals currently working in your desired career area. If you are a part time MBA student you can try to attend these events based on your company’s attendance and get discounted price. Big summits like these also offer group discounts that you can avail if you are a full time student. There are also a number of local events happening which can be found via Eventbrite and Meetup which focus on special skills and also could be great networking opportunity with like-minded professionals and could pave your way to your next career change.
4. Find the right mentor: One last nugget would be mentorship; part time students should pick their mentors wisely if they would like to switch careers. Picking the right mentor within the field you are interested could provide you meaningful insights into their day to day activities, provide you a chance to ask any questions around that field and ultimately could be your advocate in supporting you in your career switch. For full time students a mentor could be their peer who worked in the desired career field before MBA, could be an Executive MBA student who has several years of work experience and is willing to share his wisdom, and could be a mentor via LinkedIn. Utilizing the mentorship time effectively to learn about the career field, how your strengths would fit in to your desired career fields could also help you in identifying your strengths and weaknesses and you can focus effectively on those improvement areas to move closer to your dream job post MBA.