Plenty of statistics are available about the return on investment (ROI) of MBA studies. ROI is one of the key selling points on MBA studies. You can track MBA alumni's salary increase in the Financial Times rankings, for example. Employment rates of MBA graduates three months after graduation are normally reported by business schools, but are also published in media MBA rankings as well. The trends have stayed on the bright side in the recent years.
However, there other developments that affect your post-MBA job prospects in a positive way. Let’s take a look at the major ones, so that you can consider them in your career planning.
The MBA has conquered new territories
An MBA degree can now be applied in many different sectors outside of the typical corporate career paths. We are witnessing an amazing growth in the diversity of MBA programmes. You can now choose between the “classical” general management MBA curriculum and programmes with differing levels of specialisation.
There are MBA programmes offering elective course, concentrations, specialisations or a focus on a functional area or industry such as an MBA with a concentration in business strategy, an MBA focused on industries such as aviation, wine production, luxury goods and services, oil and gas, health care, etc. Business schools have addressed the demand for entrepreneurial education – both business and social. You can even find an MBA specialising in how to run a family business.
Benefit from more diverse MBA networks
Business schools aim to build a nurturing learning environment in their MBA classrooms. That is why they welcome applicants with diverse profiles, academic and professional backgrounds and geographical representation and cultures.
Even though the MBA used to be the territory of people coming from business and finance, this is no longer the case. Just the opposite – it has become considerably harder for professionals with “traditional” backgrounds to compete for admission to MBA programmes. You will have to make a really outstanding application if you have a background in business, economics, finance, accounting or even engineering. MBA application pools are overcrowded with people who have such profiles.
Currently, MBA classrooms are the meeting points of professionals from almost any field of study including architects, medical doctors, educators, artists, etc. There are business schools which attract students from over 90 nationalities and, if you add the diversity of the faculty members, the cultural mix is simply amazing.
Born in North America, MBA education is now thriving all over the world. Business schools from the East have found their place at the top on MBA rankings, along with their much better established Western counterparts.
The positive consequence of this trend is that an MBA programme now enables you to connect to more diverse networks. You will learn from people from different backgrounds and you will have access to alumni in more diverse sectors and regions.
Break career stereotypes
Clearly the MBA is now applicable to a broader variety of career paths, industries, sectors and continents. So, the time has come to get rid of MBA career stereotypes and not to think of it just as a springboard to climb the ladder to a senior management role in the corporate world.
An MBA degree now has a lot to offer to business and social entrepreneurs, and to career changers seeking new opportunities in different industries, countries or very specific sectors. Now more than ever before MBA studies bring value to those aspiring to leadership, rather than just management.
Aim at your dream career
Just like you, most professionals start considering MBA studies when they are at a crossroads or on the verge of change. A ‘once-in-a-lifetime experience’, a ‘transformational experience’ or a ‘turning point’ are the most common attributes that MBA alumni use to describe the personal value of an MBA.
Considering MBA studies calls for some soul searching and following your dreams. This is indeed the right time to make a decision about what you really want to achieve in your professional life. MBA studies are undertaken after some time spent out of school and in the real world of business. So, you certainly have experience and preferences about the changes you want to make, and the occupations and life-style you want to stick to. The amazing diversity of MBA programmes can accommodate any dream career. But the starting point is to clarify what you really want.
Start from the end
Long-term vision should be your starting point. Imagine what you want to achieve in the long run, what your ultimate professional and personal goal is. Think of industries, countries, positions, results. Be specific.
Your short-term goals and immediate post-MBA goals are a consequence of your desired final destination. They are the stepping stones that will take you there. The MBA will provide you with the network, knowledge, perspectives, approaches and new ideas that will guide you to your ultimate career goal.
Select MBA programmes with a career plan in mind
Only when you have a clear career goal in mind can you select the right MBA programmes. Then you will know which factors can boost your career and how to check whether an MBA provides what you need. This strategy will help you read between the lines of B-school marketing presentations and uncover the facts and stats that will help you rate the value of each programme on your own scale.
Some of the major aspects of a programme that you have to review in order to ensure career success are:
- Reputation in the industry
Reputation is how highly a programme is valued within the industry and the region where you want to develop your career. There are B-school brands that are known world-wide, but you have to identify those which are really well-respected in your targeted field and geographic region.
Dive deeply into the curriculum and its teaching methods to make sure it will provide exactly what you need. Each of us has strengths and ample experience in some business, management or leadership areas, but we all have areas we want to improve. That is why we consider going back to school – to learn what we don’t know and to master skills we need in order to progress. So, make sure that the MBA curriculum focuses on what you need.
- Learning environment and network
A great part of the learning in an MBA classroom is from peers. Professors’ profiles and background are important of course, but equally important is the profile of your MBA class. This is your learning environment and your immediate and closest network or prospective partners, competitors and friends. Take the time to get to know the class profile and make sure these are the type of professionals and personalities that can help your career growth.
- Regional focus
Even if the sky is your limit; even if you want to be a really global business leader, there are regions that you would like to particularly focus on. For globally minded aspiring leaders there are a growing number of MBA programmes that can physically take you to different continents in addition to the fact that they can bring over 90 nationalities to your MBA class. However, if you really have a specific regional focus, make sure that you gain maximum knowledge and experience of it during the MBA studies. Check out the geographical representation of the students and alumni, any regional focus reflected in the curriculum and, finally, consider studying in a country where you want to start your immediate post-MBA job.
Make the most of MBA Career Services
Business schools are increasingly aware that career satisfaction is what matters in the long run for their alumni. So, many have developed really comprehensive MBA career services at which you have to look carefully when selecting an MBA.
At some B-schools you can get personal coaching to identify what you can really be great at, and discover or fine tune your own leadership style; you can work with career counsellors specialised in different sectors of industry who are in constant contact with recruiters and discuss not just the current needs, but the skills and profiles that will be needed in each industry in the future. Having access to individual coaching and recruitment expertise in B-school really makes a difference.
Check out: MBA Career Services Make the Difference
The more technical aspects of job searching are also on the menu of each career centre. You can get advice on how to network, how to craft your CV/resume, how to perform at the interview. But this is really step two of the career development process.
Internships and practical projects
Most MBA programmes have practical projects for real clients on the curriculum. They are important for the learning process, but also for your career development. During such a project or internship you can clearly understand what you enjoy doing and what you are really good at and what you’d rather not do.
The practical projects and internships are very demanding because they can be a perfect chance to connect to prospective employers. So, you should aim to perform at your best and reveal your personal style.
At some B-schools, students can select or arrange for the internships themselves, so planning this part of your education can start well in advance, with your career goal in mind. In case these projects are taken care of by the B-school, check them out in advance to see how they fit your career aspirations.
Perform at your best during the programme
MBA classrooms replicate the real professional environment with all the tight deadlines, team work and innovation challenges. This is part of the learning environment. However, the MBA classroom is also a place for you to make an impression on prospective partners, investors, competitors and recommenders. Your peers, professors and the alumni network are a great resource for achieving your long-term career success. Make sure that you inspire them with your performance and ideas.
Knowing what you want, finding the right place and performing at your best during your MBA can be the smart formula to your long-term career satisfaction.