I got into B-School almost a decade back, which other than making me feel really old now, has given me some perspective of how careers can evolve during and after an MBA. My hope is that this write-up will help those of you preparing for an MBA to get some pointers on managing your career better, through your MBA and beyond.
Be clear about your goals and remain focused
Clichéd as it may sound I cannot reiterate this point enough. A good business school will keep you on your toes, both within and outside the classroom. There will be case studies to be done, student clubs to be run, career events to be attended and of course a fair degree of socializing to be done. It is quite possible to get overwhelmed by it all and lose track of what you wanted to achieve from the MBA in the first place. In my experience, people who came in with a clear focus of their career aim viz. summer internship at a Big-3 management consulting firm, and worked at it diligently, were the ones able to realize their goals. They are also the ones who have been able to sustain their careers the best, through good and bad business cycles. As the great Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors only the prepared mind”; you will be better positioned to grab the opportunities that come by if you are focused.
… However be open to new things
While this holds particularly true for B-School where you are likely to get exposure to more subjects, career options, people (both students and teachers) and philosophies than you might have in the past, an ability to look objectively at fresh opportunities can be quite rewarding in your post-MBA career as well. I would like to cite the example of a classmate, who after a couple of years of a not-too-happy investment banking career jumped to join a then up-and-coming gaming startup and stayed on past their billion dollar IPO.
Everything will not always go according to plan
You might have ticked all the boxes and done all the hard work to get to your dream job. There will however always be certain events that will be beyond your control which could alter your career and life in a massive way. These could be macro / industry level events like the Dot-com bubble of the early 2000s to the financial crisis of 2008, company specific events like a merger or reorganization leading to retrenchment or even individual issues like not being to get the required work permit in a foreign country. In my opinion, there is no “correct” way to handle these situations as their impact could vary significantly from person to person. As long as you are able to land on your feet and are able to use points 1&2 mentioned above, things should turn out positively in the long run.
Maximize your chances of success
Your chances of success are higher when you work on something that you are good at. Yes, there’s no shortcut to success and whatever stage of your career you are in you will have to work hard to succeed. That said, it is a lot easier to work harder and be good at, doing things that you really like doing. This does not mean that you should all quit the high-flying corporate gig that you worked so hard to get to make your hobby your career. This also does not mean that just working hard will guarantee success. What it does imply though is that if you are able to recognize an opportunity in an area that you are passionate about and more capable than others, then you should not be afraid to take it up because you will work harder to succeed. Mark Cuban addresses this in a slightly different way here.
All the best!
Navin Sharma is the founder of Eventraveler.com.