How an MBA Can Help You Switch Your Career

change of seasons signifying desire to switch your career

Here’s a scenario for you to consider: You’re fresh out of undergrad school with the degree you’ve coveted since high school and land a dream job working for an awesome company that pitched you on “upward mobility.” You start your new job and work hard at it, only to realize that you’re not really going in the direction you like with your current career.

Sound familiar?

Well, you’re not alone. According to The Muse, more than 50 percent of incoming students at top tier business schools say that they are interested in career switching. Another survey taken in 2011 by Veritas Prep, a provider of GMAT prep services, found that 70 percent of MBA applicants are aiming to change careers.

These are some serious statistics.

A big reason for this is because graduate business programs pitch MBA degrees as something that can help you switch your career, as every industry has a need for business minds and talent.

So is this actually the case?

Business schools aren’t blowing smoke up anyone’s rear end when they say that having an MBA can certainly help you switch careers. Of course having an MBA on your resume will be a positive thing for any employer to see. But with that said, you need to make sure that you’re diligent in your internship, interview and job searching process. The extra two years spent in b-school earning your MBA can be a great time to beef up your business acumen and plan out your next move, but it’s on you to execute once you get your degree.

Looking for pointers? We got you covered.

The first thing to consider when deciding whether to go for an MBA in order to switch careers are the components of every job: industry and function. It’s a tall order to switch both industry and function simultaneously because despite your MBA, you may not have enough transferable skills to get a hiring manager’s attention. Transferable skills are ones that you can take with you from one situation to another, from one job to another. If you want to make a change, decide on whether it’s a new industry you want to enter, or a new function you wish to execute within that industry.

An example of this is given in an article by Leslie Moser for The Muse:

For example, if you were working in the finance sector and you want to try out a tech company, consider applying for roles in tech companies’ finance departments so that you can get your foot in the door.

Once you’ve chosen one, you can focus in a number of different ways: Take a bunch of finance classes if you want to move to the finance industry, join relevant professional clubs, attend conferences, read blogs that are widely read by people in your new function, or make friends with the people on campus who used to hold the job you’re interested in.

Moser also advises that time management is absolutely vital anytime you’re pursuing an MBA, especially when switching gears (or careers!):

There’s no way around it: It takes a lot more time and energy to switch careers than it does to find an internship or a job that’s more aligned with your past experience. You’ll have to really put in a lot of hours to learn about your new sector or function, network to cultivate contacts, conduct informational interviews to get a sense of available positions, and hone your resume so that it is appealing to recruiters. There are only so many hours in a day, which means that prioritizing a career switch will give you less time to focus on other things you might be interested in. As long as you’re prepared for the trade off, however, you should be able to carve the necessary time out of your busy schedule.

Lastly — and it always seems to come down to this — the internship you get while completing your MBA degree will be pivotal to your ultimate career path. While you may want to pursue an exciting internship with an awesome company, it’s important that MBA candidates seeking to switch career use their summer internships as a way to get as much work experience in the industry they wish to enter as possible.

Relevant work experience is the one thing working against MBAs using their degree to switch careers, so you’ll want to get as much of it as possible during your internship. That experience will come in handy next time you’re sitting in front of a hiring manager during an interview for your next dream job. Only this time, it’ll be for real.

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About the Author

Max Pulcini

Max Pulcini is a Philadelphia-based writer and reporter. He has an affinity for Philly sports teams, Super Smash Bros. and cured meats and cheeses. Max has written for Philadelphia-based publications such as Spirit News, Philadelphia City Paper, and Billy Penn, as well as national news outlets like The Daily Beast.

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