How Three Letters Can Change Your Career

M-B-A. Separately, these letters are trivial, but placed together on a resume, they can change a person’s life.

Many professionals return to business school in pursuit of MBAs to ease transitions into new careers. Changing careers is a maneuver that is incredibly difficult to pull off successfully without extensive education or interminable years in entry-level positions. Even with an MBA, changing careers isn’t easy — but it is possible. This guide will help you use an MBA to transition to another career with success.

Plan Your Career Change Appropriately

MBAs are powerful career-changing tools, but they aren’t magic. It’s important to note that whenever you decide to hop to a new career path, you must have a smart and sound plan. The basis of your plan should consider your work and education history, your skills and interests, and the state of the job market.

For every job, there are two primary components: function and industry. For example, you might provide IT support (function) for a bank (industry), or you might field customer service queries (function) at a nonprofit organization (industry). Whenever you change careers, you should strongly consider switching your function or your industry — not both. Even with an MBA, it’s unlikely you’ll have enough skills and experience to start fresh in somewhere totally new. Therefore, as you are applying to MBA programs and evaluating your interests and ambitions, you should try to direct your new career along the lines you’ve already laid within your industry or function.

Consider Internships and Externships

Internships can be exceedingly enlightening in helping you pin down which industry or function you would like to pivot toward. Plus, most business schools, including online MBA programs, expect students to secure at least one internship during the summer between their first and second years. Fortunately, even if you complete just one internship, the experience you gain could be enough to ensure you find a worthwhile position after you graduate with your MBA.

If your goal is to discover your passion through internships, you might try to find externships, instead. Externships are shorter and typically require you to shadow a professional within a specific field. The briefness of an externship is advantageous because it allows you to try out more options before you change careers, and the professionals you follow might become mentors or career allies when you begin your job hunt.

Prepare to Invest Time and Effort

Even without an MBA, you would likely find it easier to continue down your current career path than to switch careers. Though an MBA certainly makes the task of changing careers easier, it will still take time and effort to learn about your new industry or function, cultivate contacts, find available positions, and develop an appealing resume. You should prepare yourself for the grueling months ahead before you start, so you won’t be surprised when you encounter obstacles between you and your ambition.

Cultivate Passion and Skills for Your New Career

Before you start hunting for a job in your new career, you should soak up as much as you can during your program. MBAs are wide-ranging degrees that introduce and train students in a vast array of business topics. While you are in school, you have the rare opportunity to experiment to determine your interests and passions. You might discover that entrepreneurship is your calling or that finance is endlessly fascinating. Your self-realization should lead you toward lessons that will be useful in the career you choose — like leadership abilities or financial knowledge. Stories abound of students attending business school with little direction and leading with a brand-new path and excitement for their careers ahead.

Rely Heavily on Your Network

Finally, there will always be one truth to getting a job in business: It’s who you know. While you are in your MBA program, you should save time and energy for making connections with peers, professors, and any professionals you encounter related to your desired field. Additionally, you should stay in touch with your bosses, co-workers, and other business contacts from your old jobs. Combined with the power of your three letters — M-B-A — your network should secure you a starting point for your new career.

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