What are your post-MBA career plans?
For some students this is an easy question. Many start their MBA with a clear idea of where they want to be at the end of it – whether that’s a specific function, industry, sector or company. For others however, the prospect of deciding on a post-MBA career is much more daunting. They may have started their MBA knowing that they wanted ‘something different’, but not being quite able to put their finger on exactly what. This can be even more true for those from less traditional industries and sectors – when your background and experience is different to that of your peers, it can be harder to see where your skills fit in and you may not even be aware of the many roles and sectors which could be a great fit for you.
However, studying for an MBA is the perfect opportunity to explore new career options, consider what you really want out of work and life, and ultimately end up on the post-MBA career trajectory you want. Below are some tips for identifying the right path for you when you don’t have a job title or industry in mind.
Identify what is most important to you
You have probably been encouraged throughout your MBA to reflect on your values and priorities. Now is the time to put this into practice. Writing down what is important to you in a job helps clarify what you need to be happy and identify aspects you may not have considered yet. For example, autonomy, reasonable work life balance, scope for creativity etc. Once you have done this, you can give each item on your list two separate scores out of five – one based on how important it is to you right now, and one based on how much it matters in the long term.
Think about your long term ideal
This allows you to build up a picture of what your ideal career might look like in 5 years’ time post-MBA, as well as highlighting the short term compromises you are not prepared to make. You can then use this information to create a statement about your ideal long term position as opposed to focusing on a particular role or sector at this stage. For example, “I would like to be working in a role which allows lots of face to face interaction, opportunity for creativity, and autonomy, in a large multinational organisation which prioritises sustainability and corporate social responsibility and promotes employee wellness and a good work life balance”.
Discover the paths for getting there
Now you can articulate your long term priorities, it’s time to start researching roles and industries which match these. You almost certainly have at least a rough idea of some areas you are considering – write these down now, but don’t stop there. Talk to your network, attend careers presentations, read as much as you can – essentially do everything possible to identify roles and sectors that appeal. As you discover them, keep referring back to that ideal career statement you made– how will they help to get you there, can you see a clear path for yourself? Again, your network can help you to gather this information.
Assessing your options
There are almost always multiple routes to the same goal and so you are likely to end up with a list of anywhere between 4-10 industries and/or functions. Now that you have a shortlist to work with, it’s time to deep dive into the data. For each category, ask yourself what further information you need to understand if it’s the right fit you – including how much you would enjoy it, whether it meets your material needs, and whether it’s a realistic career transition for you. Then set about gathering this information from industry publications, conversations with classmates, and again most importantly, your network, who will be in the best position to provide on the ground insights into the daily realities of the sector or role. This process may well help you to eliminate some options as well as raise your interest in others. Keep in mind throughout the values you highlighted as being important at the start of this process and test your options to see how they fit in with them – e.g. if international mobility is really important to you, is this the kind of industry which routinely offers overseas opportunities for employees?
It’s important to recognise that this isn’t always a linear process, that your thoughts and motivations may change throughout your MBA and beyond and that new ideas and opportunities will constantly present themselves. Nevertheless, having a good idea of what you want and where you are hoping to go is the first vital step on the road to a happy and successful post MBA career.