How to Use your MBA for Career Change in 2021

MBA Career Change

Find out how you can use an MBA to drive a career change

MBA jobs are booming 

Employers consistently agree that graduates with an MBA are desirable candidates who have valuable skills to offer. Congratulations to MBA graduates. You are already pushing your career goals ahead.

According to a recent survey by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), 90% of employers surveyed plan on hiring MBA graduates in 2021, as they gear up for a post-COVID economic recovery. 

The same survey indicates that the biggest employers of MBA graduates this year will be consulting firms, with a quarter of these planning on increasing their MBA hiring this year. Other international companies commonly known for hiring MBA graduates include Microsoft, Accenture, Deloitte and Google. 

As an MBA graduate, you understand the broad application of an MBA. You could end up working for any of these diverse companies, or you start your own consulting firm. 

Your MBA is really what you make of it. So the first step is to decide what future you want for yourself. 

If you don’t have your MBA, read this article to learn how getting your MBA can help you change your career, job prospects and where it may take you.

How to leverage your MBA for a career change

Many MBA graduates take their first job out of business school in roles, such as finance, management or consulting to get some valuable experience. 

Perhaps you’re a few years into one of these roles, and you’ve decided it’s time to move toward a job that gives you more satisfaction. If you already have an MBA qualification and you’re ready to make a change, here are a few suggestions on how to make that MBA work for you.  

1. Research, evaluate and take stock

A good starting place is to take stock and identify whether you want a new role or function that requires new skills, or you simply want to try working in a different industry or company but in a similar function. 

If you want to change your function completely, this is going to require more upskilling. If you want to move sideways into a similar role but somewhere else, this is more a matter of personal branding and research. 

You may be dissatisfied with your current position, but is your unhappiness caused by the daily tasks you’re doing, the values or actions of your company, or the lack of opportunities you may have for promotion or development? Understanding the complex reasons for your current dissatisfaction will help you identify your path forward. 

1. Assessing your needs and values is an essential first step that will ensure your career change has a clear strategy and direction. Talk to a mentor, coach or trusted friend, or contact your business school alumni services for advice.

2. Research the industry, company or role you think you want to step into, to see what the working reality may be like. Look at the resume of someone in your dream job to see how they got there, or even reach out to them via LinkedIn for advice. 

3. Evaluate the transferable skills you’ve already gained through your MBA education and work experience, and to assess how these can be applied to your new career. 

Once you have an idea of where you need to be, you can leverage the skills and training you gained during your MBA to develop your own career change strategy. You’ve got the skills you need to run a business, you can apply these skills to run your own personal rebranding campaign

2. Commit to a long process and take some more small steps

Joseph Liu, contributor to Forbes Magazine and expert on personal branding, outlines this advice for professionals hoping to make a change in their careers: 

“Prepare yourself to run a marathon rather than a sprint, because although shortcuts are handy, in reality, few exist when you’re trying to create a meaningful career change… Commit to a consistent, steady march to overcome the roadblocks and challenges that inevitably arise when you step off the beaten career path.”

We may think in terms of big life changes, but in reality, career changes consist of small decisions that eventually lead to a new path. 

The decision to enrol in an MBA may have been one important step on your journey, but your progress towards change may need several more subsequent decisions and small steps from you in order to continue, particularly if you feel it has stalled. 

Consider some small decisions that you can make right now:
Contact your MBA alumni services to explore whatever opportunities they offer
Explore new pathways in your current role
Enrol in some training or a course
Research new opportunities
Sign up for a conference, talk or event and chat to other participants

3. Short courses and upskilling for in-demand roles

Your MBA will have already equipped you with essential, broad business and leadership skills, such as problem-solving abilities, teamwork and collaboration, interpersonal communication, leadership, adaptability, business analysis, strategy, planning, finance and management. 

Many of these skills are already in high demand by recruiters, and will continue to be in demand in future. 

However, if you are looking to specialise in something specific that will give you a competitive edge or to upskill for a new function, then you should consider further training or short courses in some of the skills that are most in demand at present. 

Digital skills and soft skills are the in-demand skill sets of 2021 and with a growing digital skills gap that trend is here to stay. In particular, gaining digital skills will put you at the top of the resume pile for years to come. 

Online short courses have boomed during pandemic lockdowns, and there are now many diverse programs teaching the most up to date and in-demand skills on offer. 

Justin Pierce, Associate Professor, Business at Torrens University Australia (TUA)
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