Career Changers and the MBA

Originally published via

You may be sitting at your desk or cubicle thinking about returning to school for your MBA yet worried about your employability. Thinking about a career change?  Your current job not the right fit for your interests?

Less experienced career changers are especially hesitant about whether they will be competitive without what the professional world calls relevant work experience. My first piece of advice is to remember that many people change careers at least twice and sometimes three times before retirement and do so successfully. Those who choose to return to school for an MBA and change careers are no exception. It can be and is done every day.

In the job search, your responsibility is to be able answer two questions for a prospective employer: 1. Can you help business make or save money?  2. Can you successfully work in the organization?

How do you successfully do this you ask? Marketing! In the job search, you are not just a job candidate—you are a marketing manager. Your job is to identify your target audience and market your skills and abilities. You will identify and connect with this audience through…you are correct—networking.

Anyone seeking employment in 2010 has heard the importance of networking.  Everywhere you look, you see the corporate buzzword “networking” used when discussing a successful job search. Over 80% of MBA graduates from our program at Texas A&M in the last few years have secured their employment through networking.

I know what you are thinking: “How does a career changer build a network with no relevant experience?”  My answer is that you start the same way everyone else does—start with what you know. List who you know in the functional area of your interest, industries of interest including the industry where you have experience, companies of interest and finally geographical locations of interest.

Let’s use an example of an engineer seeking to transition into finance and walk through the steps.

Functional Area of Interest:  Who do you know who works in finance? Family, friends, classmates from your undergraduate program or those in your graduate program, faculty, etc.

Companies of Interest:  Who do you know who works for companies that interest you? It doesn’t matter in which department they work because the goal is to network to the correct person.

Industries of Interest: If you are interested in the energy industry, ask yourself who you know who works in this industry. The key is to find out where industry professionals congregate such as associations or LinkedIn groups. Wherever they are, you want to be there as well.

Geographical Locations of Interest: If you are interested in moving to Charlotte, NC, ask yourself who you know in the area. Find out where to go to research the top businesses and industries in the area. What are the employment trends?

By creating an initial list, your A list, of people you know in each of these four areas or their contacts who fit into these buckets, you have taken a major step in networking your way to employment. Career changers should focus on transferrable skills when proving value to potential employers. Networking contacts are the best people to offer advice on exactly what you should do to market yourself in order to be successful.

Your goal in the job search is to market your product, YOU, to business and prove you can add value to the organization.


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