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4 golden rules for MBA career planning

Though the prospect of thinking about the future may fill you with dread, planning for a career after your MBA doesn’t have to be an arduous task.

On the contrary, it can be a liberating experience to witness the culmination of your academic efforts come to fruition as you achieve your dream career. There are a multitude of jobs for MBA graduates available in the employment market and following these four golden rules could help carve out the right career path for you.

Start early

To take advantage of the many potential career options after your MBA, it is useful to think about your long term goals before you begin the course. Many students make the error of focusing exclusively on their studies and, while this dedication is admirable, a blinkered outlook can hurt future career prospects. When you graduate, it is important to have a strategy in place and thinking a few moves ahead can make all the difference between a post-degree lull and hitting the ground running in a new career. Before your course starts, assess your skillset, analyse your strengths and weaknesses, outline personal preferences, and create a five-year plan. Also, while you’re studying, make a note of the modules or topics you enjoy and/or excel at. There may be gaps in the job market you can plan for and exploit.

What you like vs. what you should do

In many instances in life, you are told what to do without people considering what you actually want to do. Obviously there are times when this is necessary (like when your parents encouraged you to eat your vegetables!) but when it comes to planning your future, you are the boss. Sit down and ask yourself ‘what do I like to do?’ Many people have preconceptions about what they should use their MBA for, but, avoid having a narrow perspective and find a career that matches your desires. Exploring with hobbies and leisure activities may be a good indicator of your future career path. Try not to fall into the trap of thinking a pastime can’t be a career; some of the most successful business leaders and entrepreneurs in the world pursued their hobbies to reach the top. For example, Top Rank Founder & CEO Bob Arum, used his business and Harvard law degrees to enter the boxing world and in the process become one of the most successful boxing promoters of all time.

Networking

Creating and nurturing long term relationships with other students, groups and institutions will pay dividends in the long run and having a diverse network can expand your potential career prospects. The business world is built on an intricate web of connections and the more friends you have in this web, means more job leads, recommendations and opportunities that are likely to come your way. Fostering relationships with contacts in person at industry events, or online via sites like LinkedIn, is invaluable and will give you a step up on the competition. But it is important to remember that this is a two-way street; showing your associates what you can offer and facilitating their requests will prove your worth and show that you’re also a reliable asset.

Identify your hidden worth

Take a step away from the minor details and think in a more general sense about the skills you possess and what career they can work best in. When people think of MBA distance learning programmes, they may only recognise business knowledge as the only valuable skilled attained. But in reality, studying online requires a lot of self-motivation as well as organisational, time-management and communication skills; all of which are traits employers will look for, regardless of the industry. Reviewing past work and educational accomplishments may also highlight forgotten skills and aid your career planning process.

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