Millions of professionals across the world are stuck in the wrong careers, doing work they were never meant to do.
No wonder so many enroll in MBA programs, hoping it’ll get them out of misery. But unless you know what’s the right career after an MBA, there’s always the possibility of getting stuck in another bad career (this time with crippling debt).
There are a multitude of career choices before you, if you’re a new MBA graduate. Apart from the traditional industries such as consulting, investment banking, and financial services, there is retail, manufacturing, and technology.
There are also various functions that a new MBA may want to try out, such as strategy, operations management, human resources (HR), finance, and accounting. Then there are geographical choices: you could work almost anywhere you want.
But there are some points to keep in mind before you decide. We take a look at how you can select the right career after an MBA degree.
The first step is introspection. Find out what you like through deep and honest reflection.
Which industry and function do your educational background, skillset, and personality fit the best?
It’s a good idea to mull these questions before and even while you are doing your MBA, as you will be alert to the industries and functions that may or may not be suitable.
To find out whether you are on the correct route to your career destination, do a self-assessment to unveil your weaknesses and your strengths. Try to remove the weaknesses and develop your strength further.
Don’t feel overwhelmed by the job search to come. Remember and relish the achievement you have made already, such as having been able to get into a good b-school and do well in your MBA program.
Find answers to questions such as
Find out what help is available to you for your preparation. Second-year students and alumni are good resources.
Read all the MBA recruitment tips from your campus career office, classmates, and student clubs.
Try to transform a hobby into a sustainable business.
Go, travel, or find a non-profit or charity you can help out.
Mentor students who want to do MBA or work as a freelance consultant.
This will help you improve your resume and make you more recruitable.
The next step is to research the fields, not only those you feel inclined to choose, but also those that don’t seem to match your interests and aspirations upfront, to give them a second look.
Google your questions, but also line up a few informational interviews with professionals who have done an MBA and are in a good position in an industry that you are interested in. How about setting up an informal chat with a couple of professionals, perhaps your school alumni?
To identify someone who could help, use LinkedIn and alumni directories. If your resource-persons can’t spare the time, try to meet them at seminars or conferences with prior notice.
If you manage to speak to a couple of people, you may be able to spot industries and functions you may like and not like.
You should also speak to career guides and coaches. Find out their experiences. Their stories will put you on an aspect of your job hunt or career that you may have missed. Also speak to your peers. How are they doing in their job search?
It’s never too early to start your search for an “ideal” sector and function, but be a little flexible.
However, don’t get stressed out going after the “perfect” job.
These are days when MBAs have multiple jobs and multiple careers. The first job may or may not set the foundation for a long-term career. New experiences may lead you to a better career path.
However, being flexible doesn’t mean that you wander around without direction or an idea or a destination. Every step that you take should ideally bring you closer to your end goal.
Throughout your career, make sure to study the reasons why you’re taking each step: it should have a firm rationale.
Your knowledge and skillset are certainly the most important factors behind career-building, but there is another ingredient: a passion for your favorite field.
You can take your career forward only if you’ve deep interest in your chosen industry and function.
Your first job will likely be only the beginning of a long journey that will take years or even decades to take you to your career destination.
You should accept the reality that you may fail to get a job right after b-school, and that the first job that you find may not be “perfect.”
Your goal at the start should never be to bag the best job possible but to find one that allows you to use what you have learned, that teaches you something new, and that lets you go forward.
The direction of your career, and not the destination, is important at this stage. Perseverance is known to bring success.
Keep in mind that often your first job sets the route for your career journey. Changing your route becomes more difficult as you spent more time in your first job.
So it is important that your first job firmly lays the foundation of your career, which means it should provide you with the right colleagues, opportunities, and training.
Suppose your career goal is to become an entrepreneur, there is no point in trying to build a career in finance.
Instead, look for a job that equips you to launch your own business sometime. You may change jobs, but you should never lose sight of long-term goals.
There will likely come a time to consider leaving your first job. Why should you?
The most important reasons should be for opportunities to grow and build new competencies or learn new skills, but also to know about new customers, new colleagues, new business models, new systems, or a new company culture.
In such situations, after studying your own reasons for leaving, and convincing yourself that the pluses outnumber the minuses, take a calculated risk. Don’t dither once you’ve decided.
However, don’t quit for the sake of quitting. If you do, you will soon have many entries in your resume under “employment,” which would indicate that you can’t hold on to a job, something that recruiters are not going to appreciate.
Taking a calculated risk implies that you already know where you fit. That may not be the case. You may not know where you fit even after two or three years in a job.
If you feel you’ve not made the correct decision changing jobs, admit it to yourself quickly. Don’t hide the fact from yourself and stall your career progress.
For example, you may not be able to adjust to the work or organizational culture of a company. Bide your time before looking for a new position or organization.
Networking is not something that you start in the final weeks before leaving b-school and conclude the moment you land your first job.
Networking is identifying mentors and advisors but also alumni and others who could provide you valuable resources to develop your career. Sustain it by all means.
Keeping in touch can often be a chore when you think you already have good job and nice colleagues; you may fail to maintain your old network. But when you are in a spot and back in the job market, you will feel the need to look up old friends.
That is easier said than done: it’s a better idea not to let go of your network and to take the trouble to maintain it.
Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to send an email to a former colleague or classmate that says something like “We have not spoken in years, but I hear that you are looking to fill a position in your organization…”
Better not to forget your mentors, advisors, sponsors, and friends. They are invaluable assets.
Understand that MBA recruiting takes time. Don’t expect to be grabbed by your favorite company a few weeks after completing your MBA.
Even at the top b-schools, the last MBA candidate is often recruited only within three months after graduation. Use the time to learn and improve your candidature.
A few continue in their pre-MBA job with higher position and salary, while many others look for a career or function change after b-school.
As we mentioned in our blog “How to choose a post-MBA career goal”, check out industries such as technology, consulting, banking, retail, manufacturing, financial services, and media.
Do an in-depth research into job functions in IT project management, analytics, strategy consulting, operations consulting, HR consulting, operations management, project management, investment banking, private equity, venture capital, account management, product marketing, and business development. Or how about planning to become an entrepreneur and launching your own dream venture?
Finally, where do you want to work? In the United States, Canada, UK, Germany, Singapore, or your home country? Which cities provide with you the best opportunities in your favorite industry and for your job function?
It all depends on your skills, knowledge, and interest. Some painstaking research can give you the answers.
The best time to address the topic of choosing the right career after an MBA, is before you start the application process.
By the time you start the MBA program, it’s already too late to tackle such a complex question. You’ll be overwhelmed with all the workload you’ll have to juggle while dealing with sleepless nights, low stamina and FOMO.
At MBA Crystal Ball, while working with business school aspirants, the maximum time we spend is on helping applicants choose the best career based on their experience, profile strengths and personal aspirations. We bring in external perspectives that help candidates understand and overcome their blind spots and biases.
Once this aspect is clear, it becomes relatively easy to sort out the other dependent aspects – such as choosing the right MBA program, creating the right positioning in the application and finally writing the MBA essays.
After you’ve explored all the tips we’ve shared in this article, if you’re still confused about choosing the right career after an MBA, it may be helpful to take up professional help. Check out our MBA MAP (Mock Application Process) and Career MAP (career counselling) services.