When professionals consider going to business school, they look at the typical benefits: an MBA from a top-tier school will position you for a great six-figure job, the opportunity to learn critical skills can help transform organizations, an alumni network will ensure that someone will have our backs if things get tough and a transition is necessary.
But there are other realities we face after we earn our MBAs, namely, many of us leave these coveted roles within three years of graduation. While there are many reasons for it, the overarching one seems to be lack of fulfillment. We say things like, “I feel like I’m not adding value,” or “I realize that I’m not a salesperson, and I don’t want to be something I’m not.”
While these things may be true, it could also be because we didn’t do what we all learned in business school – leverage our strengths. Perhaps we were so enamored with the signing bonus and pride of saying, “I work at [prestigious company x],” and we didn’t fully embrace our values and how they aligned with the organization. Or, maybe we didn’t fully leverage our powerful alumni networks to find the best opportunities out there.
Looking ahead, how can we ensure that we are moving in the right direction professionally? Here are a few things that my mentor taught me, as well as some insights from fellow MBA peers:
Know thyself is only two words, but packs a powerful punch. It’s important for us to understand our values, as well as our passions and strengths — before, during, and after our education. Remember, knowing what you want and applying that to things such as your job search (active or passive), will ultimately help you in the future.
“Remember what you want to do, and to stay true to that. As long as you do that, you are going to be successful,” says Chirag Saraiya, Principal at TrainingtheStreet and graduate of the Kellogg School of Management.Leveraging your strengths is something you do your entire life, and it is crucial you continue this course of action AFTER receiving your MBA degree. It’s tempting to be attracted to a certain title or big name companies, but don’t let that be the only reason for taking a job.
“While most MBAs are driven by the company’s name or the title of the position, this should not be the leading factor. Finding a good fit, where you are happy and will do well, is much more beneficial over the long-term and will make you more successful,” explains Max Dufour, Principal of SunGardGlobalServices and Fuqua School of Business alum.
Engaging with your network on a regular basis ensures you are not missing out on any potential opportunities. Although it’s not advisable to blindly reach out to your network for your own agenda, know that your MBA network can be a valuable asset in anything from a job search to connecting with the right people.
“When in doubt, reach out. If there’s someone you think would be interesting to talk to, shoot them an email. I was shocked at how much my hit rate improved just by putting ‘Harvard Business School student/alum reaching out’ in the subject line,” said Alan Ginsberg, manager at L.E.K. Consulting and graduate of Harvard Business School.
In closing, I remember some advice one of my mentors offered. He said to continue to make investments in yourself today, tomorrow, and every day after that. Earning an MBA is a huge accomplishment. However, remember that it’s important to keep learning, even after graduation. By continuing to learn about yourself and how you can reach your highest level, you can positively affect how your career is shaped in the future.
“To continue growing professionally with your MBA, do not become too specialized. Constantly challenge yourself with new industries and functions. This varied experience will best prepare you to land in the C-suite someday,” said Shawn O’Connor, Founder and CEO of StratusPrep / StratusCareers and Harvard Business School alum.
What do you think? What advice has your mentor(s) given you regarding your MBA career path?
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Photo courtesy eric.beasley (Flickr)