Planning Your Post-MBA Career

Monday, September 10, 2018 at 1am

There was a time when the MBA was a specialist program that attracted a rarified set of focused managerial hopefuls, ready to make the jump into the C-suite. These days, there’s no doubt that the sheer scale of the MBA world is one of the biggest challenges facing candidates. This is not only due to the growing number of students, but also the variety of post-MBA options out there.

Your peers are talking about CEO aspirations, entrepreneurship, academia and a host of other career paths, it’s easy to feel a bit lost as to exactly where you’re going next. But that doesn’t make it any less important. If anything, the level of competition makes it more vital than ever to have a clear post-MBA plan in mind.

Plan of action

Ploughing ahead with an MBA and without a plan can have several unwelcome consequences. For a start, it can take a lot longer to find a post-graduation job if you’re not sure what it is you might want to do – today’s business world rewards proactivity, and opportunities are unlikely to come the way of those who aren’t actively seeking them.

Related to this is the financial danger – the longer it takes you to find a job, the harder it will be to pay off your MBA fees and loans. Going in without a plan also risks reducing the overall value you get from the course, as you’re likely to pick an ill-considered spread of electives that you may regret, and it’s unlikely you’ll take advantage of career services and other added-value extras.

The most important aspect of your post-MBA career plan should be flexibility. You need to ask yourself where you want to be after the course, but without being too specific. For example, ‘working for a multinational firm with a clear path to the C-suite’ makes sense, whereas ‘working as CFO for Unilever’ is far too ambitious. Similarly, ‘running my own business, with some seed investment’ is good goal for entrepreneurs, but ‘looking at exit strategies from my unicorn startup’ is a goal likely to end in failure.

Missed targets are a real downer, so be kind to yourself and avoid making this an inevitability. That said, vague goals don’t need to stay vague. The idea is that if you have a general career direction in mind, you’ll focus your energy on making connections and utilising services to that end.

Maximising opportunities

Place yourself in the shoes of an entrepreneurially-minded MBA candidate, you could be working with anything towards a startup, for example, or meet investors and take the entrepreneurship elective to learn technical skills.

Through these means, you could develop a clearer idea of what type of industry you want to enter, what product you may want to sell or other business leadership career paths. Elective courses in financial and strategic management can help students identify their key talents and learn practical skills.

Clearly, it’s vital to strike the right balance between a sense of direction and open-minded flexibility. Of course, there are other things to consider too, such as achieving the right ROI to make sure the MBA was a progressive choice, and making sure to network broadly in spite of your chosen career path.

At the end of the day, the key is to maintain a sense of perspective. You might not end up in your dream job straight after the MBA, and you might end up making a radical career switch a few years after graduation – what matters is that you do everything you

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