Post-MBA Career Advice: 7 Ways to Jump-Start Your Professional Journey
For many individuals, getting an MBA is a goal in and of itself. It’s a great goal, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. An MBA is a stepping-stone and so is your first post-MBA job. Both your MBA and first job should be seen not as a final destination but as the beginning of a very long journey.
Your career is, and should be, an ever-changing and evolving piece of your life. As you gain experience, complete projects, and develop your personal brand, your career should grow in conjunction with your expertise.
To understand how you should think about your post-MBA career, we’ve collected some of our favorite pieces of advice from MBA experts.
Post-MBA Career Guidance
Think of Your Career as a Journey
Your first job after your MBA is not the job you’ll be in for the rest of your life. An MBA student from Harvard Business School admitted that at least half of his classmates had a different job 18 months after they left school.
The first job is a great starting point, but it doesn’t have to be your final destination.
However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take care to get the best possible job after graduation. Be intentional about your choice and make sure you choose a job that will help you move forward towards your ultimate goal, whatever that may be.
Stop Stressing About the “Right” Path
The truth of the matter is that there is never just one path to achieve your goals. In fact, there are multiple paths you can take to get you where you want to be. The worst thing you can do post-MBA is freeze-up because you’re so worried about making the “right” choice. You don’t have to decide the rest of your life upon graduation.
Instead, it’s important to make purposeful choices and allow yourself to change directions and make different decisions on your journey. Use strong rationale when you choose your jobs but stop putting so much pressure on yourself. As long as you have an end destination and continue to move forward, you’ll get there. Don’t stress over the pace of your gait, just keep moving!
Make Moves in the Right Direction
Ideally, everything you do post-MBA should be in the direction you want. Yes, there are many different paths to get you to your end point, but every path should still take you in the general direction of your destination. For example, don’t jump into a career in finance if your dream is to eventually start your own business. Make career decisions that provide you with the skills, training, reputation and contacts to reach the end of your journey.
“Understand that your MBA is an important step towards your ongoing education but not the final one,” said Huma Gruaz, president and CEO of Alpaytac Marketing Communications and an MBA graduate of Northwestern’s Kellogg School.
“To excel in what you do or to be an outstanding leader, you need to have the ongoing thirst for learning – not only from written or spoken material but from daily life experiences, your supervisors, subordinates, successes but most importantly mistakes. Having this mind-set will enable you to grow professionally in an exponential way while having a wiser attitude towards any challenge that may come your way.”
Stay Open to New Ideas and Options
Just because you got an MBA doesn’t mean that you don’t need to keep your eyes open for new opportunities and ways to develop. One of the best reasons to get your MBA is because you’re looking to grow, learn, and develop your skills. That shouldn’t end when you graduate.
Lisa Arthur, a contributor to Forbes, recommends learning to embrace the change. “These days, if you want to climb the ladder, you must recognize that change is happening around you every day,” she said. “Embrace it. And learn to drive the change required to improve the customer experience and deliver business growth.”
Don’t Be Afraid of Risks
Staying safe might be easy, but it won’t help you on your post-MBA career path. Taking a calculated risk to leave your current company and jump to a job that will allow you to expand your skill set is necessary for your career. Taking risks is also about thinking outside the box. You don’t have to start a career at Goldman Sachs post-MBA. Instead, you can explore a variety of career options until you find what suits you.
“Stretching your comfort zone and doing something that is different is the first step towards playing bigger in your career and making your career happy,” said Christi Mims in Forbes.
Pay Attention to Your Path
When you’re not on the right track, you need to know it and call it quickly. One of the worst things you can do is stay on the wrong career path because you’re not paying attention. Risk-taking means that you won’t always make the right decision, and that’s okay, as long as you recognize your mistakes quickly and work to get back on track.
There will be some parts of your journey that don’t fit your grand plans. Part of the learning process is figuring out when you’re in a position that doesn’t work for you and assessing how to get out of it and move forward. Over time, you’ll get better at making the right choices and avoiding the wrong ones.
Keep in Touch with Your Network
“Network before you need to. It’s always awkward to write the ‘Hi, we haven’t spoken in 10 years, but I saw you had a job opportunity…’ email,” said Lisa Chen, the director of marketing at Forté Foundation and a Wharton MBA. “So challenge yourself to stay in touch with your network, even when you don’t need to. In addition to staying connected to your fellow alumni, engage with them. Be vocal. Tell people that you are looking for a new opportunity.”
Your mentors, sponsors, advocates, and classmates are vital to your journey. Make sure you always make connections and build a highly-valued network of individuals who will be your helpers along your career journey. They’ll be worth your time.