Five golden rules for MBA career planning

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 7am

Preparing for your future

QS Global-Workplace has built a community now exceeding 85,000+ business professionals from 100+ leading business schools world-wide looking to take their careers to the next level following their MBA.

Members are able to raise their profile with actively hiring employers as well as enjoy unlimited access to over 40,000 MBA and business masters’ jobs, leadership programs and key recruitment trends.

Letting employers know that you’re ready to be found or looking for a new challenge is no easy feat, and your success is very much built on planning your career and building personal and professional development into your studies as early as possible

We take your future career prospects very seriously and we know how important a well-rounded portfolio of achievement is in today’s competitive job market. Letting employers know that you’re ready to be found or looking for a new challenge is no easy feat and experience tells us that the most successful graduates are the ones who start planning for their career and building personal and professional development into their studies as early as possible.

Amanda Singleton, MBA Executive Development Manager at University of Edinburgh Business School, one of our partner schools, shares some nuggets that could help pave your way to a successful career.

Five golden rules for MBA career planning

An MBA presents a unique opportunity to reflect on your career and set yourself up for your next challenge, says University of Edinburgh Business School MBA Executive Development Manager, Amanda Singleton. Here are her five golden rules for career planning…

Adjusting from full-time work to full-time study can be a challenge for many MBA candidates at first. But one settled into the learning environment, it’s all too easy to get caught-up in the “MBA bubble”. 

The reality is you always need to stay one step ahead and keep looking for your next move. Use this time to do some heavy thinking about yourself and your career and how you’ll get out of the starting blocks.

Students need to be reminding themselves of what brought them here in the first place – for many people, career progression or change are big drivers behind an MBA. So, what does that mean and how do you expect to get there? It is crucial to remain focused on those goals and keep asking; what’s next?

Finding the right job isn’t a fast process. And MBA’s need to dedicate time to making their job searches strategic.

It’s not the same for everyone – some people will come to that ‘ahah moment’ earlier on in the MBA than others. That’s why it’s crucial to be putting in the ground work, researching preferred sectors, target companies and hiring cycles and maximising opportunities while you can.  

Here are my five golden rules for candidates planning careers, post programme:  

1. Take the time to reflect

Within the context of a busy work life we don’t often have the luxury of taking time to reflect. In a learning environment you can take advantage of the chance to step outside and understand what makes you tick.

Developing your own self-awareness and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is really important. It’s proven to account for up to 45 per cent of job success and increasingly, research shows effective leaders can be distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence.

Sign up for coaching, leadership treks, guest speaker event and clubs to tune-up your EQ.

2. Set clear targets

Work out what you actually want versus what you ‘feel’ you should be doing. Many come into the MBA programme with a vision of what they think they’re going to do but sometimes peoples’ minds change – and that’s OK. Leaving an element of flexibility is wise – you need to accept that you’re undergoing a period of growth and change – but it can be unnerving.

Manage anxieties by developing a career ‘game plan’. But be realistic – you may have to play the long game to reach your ultimate goal.

3. Cultivate your networks

An MBA is a chance to do a ‘networks audit’. Think about who you know and who can help you. Map out your existing networks and begin to create opportunities for yourself, post-MBA, while you’re still on the programme. 

It might mean taking a few risks and reaching out for advice. But don’t be afraid to approach people who can help you break into the sectors or jobs you’re interested in. Be daring – the worst thing someone can say is no.

4. Develop your narrative

With every decision you make in the programme – be it choosing electives, clubs, treks, or internships – you need to think about how these ultimately relate to your future employability. It’s often these extra opportunities and experiences which help you build your narrative.

Exposure to working in intercultural working environments, team and/or event management, advisory or consulting experience gained through projects, all look great on your CV and help you develop your interview narrative.

5. Always be ‘interviewing’

It’s easy to sit back in class and think nobody is watching. But we, as MBAs, need to be clear on what we want to consistently project in terms of our personal brand. And that does not switch off when you go back to university. Self-awareness of what you are communicating and projecting is very important.

It’s not just about being mindful of your social media presence – you need to consider your day-to-day interactions with people. You never know where the right career opportunity might present itself.

Be clear on the brand you want to present and, above all, be authentic.

An MBA is an opportunity to take accountability for your career development. Draw on the advice on offer but remember, you alone are in the driving seat. Don’t leave anything to chance or the last minute – start planning your future now.

A version of this post originally appeared on the Financial Times


Amanda Singleton is MBA Executive Development Manager at University of Edinburgh Business School. With a background in global recruitment and executive search, she is responsible for leading the design, development and delivery of the MBA and Executive MBA Leadership and Professional Development programmes.

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