NEWS | Will an MBA really make a difference to my career? - David Falzani, SMF President
Published On: Monday, 1st Feb 2016
To a large extent, that’s up to you. An MBA (Masters in Business Administration) is much more than qualifications and getting the most out of the experience requires the right mindset and purposeful action.
Pursuing an MBA programme is likely to be one of the biggest development challenges you will face. Certainly, for full-time programmes, the time commitment, the temporary loss of a regular income when you leave your job to study, and the fact that so many MBA graduates are filling the market each year, leads prospective candidates to question whether an MBA degree is worthwhile.
An MBA programme with a great reputation at an internationally renowned business school is invaluable for those looking to advance quickly to senior management roles. If you reach your full potential, it can be a genuine stepping stone for getting ahead in your current sector, or starting up successfully in an alternative sector. An MBA not only opens up opportunities in terms of experience and contacts, it also gives you an excellent practical and academic background in essential areas of business including finance and marketing.
The MBA will stretch your mind, not only through academic rigor, but also by enabling you to work with a diverse range of people with differing views and perspectives. You will also benefit by pursuing new interests through specialisation and developing long-term goals that help your personal growth.
A map for the future
Where do you want to be in the next five years? To ensure an MBA makes a difference to your career trajectory, you should ideally have some clarity about your future career path. At the outset, this doesn’t have to be as specific as working in a defined sector or industry, but it should cover factors such as time-bound career progression (eg when you want to be in a senior management role in a blue-chip company or set up your own business) and a strategy for using the MBA programme as a springboard to achieve your goal.
A roadmap will help you to decide which business school to apply to and in which country, the length of programme and electives. Your roadmap doesn’t have to be set in stone; it can be continually updated as opportunities arise and your interests develop throughout the course of your MBA.
Your MBA gives you access to a wide range of elective course modules both within and outside of your current programme. This might be anything from life sciences, property, environmental studies to digital media and computer science.
The MBA allows you to contextualise your studies within a business perspective. You might spot a new opportunity within a sector for a start-up. You could use that elective in ‘big data’ to work out new, broad strategies for your current company. Alternatively, you might be looking to move from a technical expertise-oriented position towards management, and require new skills and knowledge.
One of the most powerful things about an MBA is that it enables technical specialisation and growth of expertise in the context of a strong, business-oriented education. By making the most of your options on your course, you’re ultimately enhancing employability – boosting your expertise, opportunities, and potential salary.
Many people, rightly in my view, place a high value on the people they connect with during the course of their MBA programme. You are in a diverse, international environment full of very talented people with vastly different experiences and aspirations who enrich the learning experience. But do be careful not to see this as an enhanced networking opportunity. Your MBA represents a major opportunity for developing new expertise and specialisation.
Many MBA programmes involve a company placement period where you will gain real-life experience in management on major projects, often at big brand companies. This is a powerful element of the MBA: it throws you into the deep-end of the management world and demands rapid learning and quality work. This experience will not only enhance your cachet and boost your CV but provides a valuable insight into what’s to come when you complete your studies. The lessons you learn during your placement will come in handy in your later career. Often placements turn into real jobs.
Different business schools have different teaching styles and cultures so naturally, produce different kinds of managers and entrepreneurs. How you fit into the programme or a school’s environment will have a large impact on the outcome of your MBA – not least because the best schools are often recruiting grounds for big companies.
The impact an MBA will have on your career prospects and personal development will most likely change the course of your future. This is a major chance to study, develop your expertise and personal skills, make new contacts and collaborators, and even travel. How you approach it that will determine whether your MBA fast-tracks you into your dream career, or whether you’ll end up having to learn on the job regardless.