Four Steps To Changing Careers For MBAs

An MBA can be the ideal pathway to a new career.

“I think the MBA is a great way to get an introduction generally to business,” Idie Kesner, Dean of the Kelley School of Business, tells P&Q. “You get a chance to explore a variety of different functional areas, sometimes without the deep dive that you would necessarily get in an MS program, a customized or specialized MS program. And when you’re changing your career, you need that breadth of perspective.”

However, for many, career switching can be scary experience. Where exactly does one even begin? Dorie Clark, marketing strategist and keynote speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, recently offered four concrete ways to build a career path in a new industry.

STEP ONE: MAP THE TERRAIN

To start out, it’s helpful to do some preliminary research on what your career roadmap looks like and how it aligns to professionals currently in the field.

“Conduct informational interviews and don’t be afraid to ask your manager or colleagues what traits the most successful people in your company or your industry share,” Clark says. “You can also read the bios and LinkedIn profiles of senior leaders or fast-rising colleagues and reverse-engineer the path they followed. This will enable you to craft a similar roadmap if you wish.”

STEP TWO: TAKE CHARGE

Traditionally, career paths were more clear-cut. Employees knew what the next step in their career was and how to get there. Now, Clark says, things are very different.

“For better and worse, that uniform, standardized experience has almost entirely disappeared from contemporary corporate life — though many employees don’t quite realize this,” Clark says. “As a new entrant in a field, you’ll be ahead of the competition if you recognize from the outset that you’ll have to plan for, and work for, your advancement, rather than having things proceed in lockstep without your active participation.”

STEP THREE: NETWORK

Networking is a cornerstone experience of B-school. If you’re intent on switch careers, you’ll want to double down on making connections and learn important lessons.

“Networking widely enables you to discover facets of your new field you may not even have been aware of — and where you might ultimately excel,” Clark says.

Another important aspect of networking, Clark says, is making connections both inside and outside your company.

“As a new entrant in your field, it’s possible you may have landed at a suboptimal company (for instance, one with a toxic work environment or declining fortunes) without realizing it, because it’s likely easier for outsiders to break into an industry at a firm that insiders are avoiding,” Clark says. “So network widely, because if your initial landing pad isn’t a fit, you’ll want to change quickly.”

STEP FOUR: SEEK OPPORTUNITIES

Often times the biggest opportunities are the ones that nobody else recognizes yet. Staying on top of emerging trends, Clark says, will help you build a fulfilling career that you want.

“One of the best ways to build a career path for yourself is to invent one,” Clark says. “If you can become the ‘go-to’ person around an area that’s growing in importance, you can often build a career path around it.”

Sources: Harvard Business Review, P&Q

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Four Steps To Changing Careers For MBAs