Most MBA holders, myself included, took career and financial risks in deciding to take a two-year, full-time programme because they were unsatisfied with the path they were on. Some yearned for a better career in a different industry. Others were driven more by the prospect of pay rises and promotions in their current sector.
For the “career switcher”, an MBA seems to offer the best chance of starting somewhere else with a clean slate – but not at the bottom of the ladder. After all, many schools brag about their success in placing career switchers with leading corporations, consulting firms and investment banks. Every year, there are probably thousands of such stories of top business schools helping students achieve this goal - and I have heard quite a few of them in person.
A few of my classmates are now management consultants with the best known firms. Before the MBA, they were high school teachers, specialising in mathematics, science and English. They had no prior background in business, but are now advising senior executives and board-level directors of some of the world’s most successful multinationals. Their career switch has been dramatic and successful, showing just what a good business degree can help you achieve. The MBA has transformed their careers, but my own encounters with them showed that it takes something extra to actually do it.
Following the curriculum and duly completing your assignments will, at best, only get you an average grade at a leading business school. In the first two terms, the distinctions and accolades usually go to those with prior business experience. So, if your main goal is to switch career, a relevant summer internship is generally a pre-requisite. Since preparations and applications for these usually begin during the first term, there is little time to play catch-up. And the truth is that students with business experience and top grades have a much better chance of getting the best internships and – later – the best jobs.
For my friends to win through, it took diligence. Before accepting their MBA offers, they did extensive research on each school’s student profiles and were well aware of the competition among classmates for each type of job. Some rejected offers from higher-ranked schools on the grounds that their chances of getting into a dream job from there would be so small. Long before classes started, they read the leading financial journals to familiarise themselves with the latest business trends and concepts. They also networked with alumni in their preferred industry and learned how best to prepare for job interviews. These individuals also took the time to study consulting cases and see how they worked. Then, when it came to recruitment season, they knew all about the analytical frameworks and were able to ace their interviews with a show of real confidence.
Their success can be put down to the Boy Scout motto: be prepared. You would be surprised to learn how many people at highly rated universities miss out on opportunities because of complacency and over-confidence. By being proactive and preparing well, you will end up ahead of them and ahead of the curve.
Originally posted on Education Post.