Saturday, December 3, 2011

4 keys to a successful career switch during MBA (From Pre-MBA field to Post-MBA field)

As per an research found online, about 80% of MBA graduates change career paths after MBA. How do they do this? In 4 steps:
  1. Identify the gaps
  2. Get the right network
  3. Build up soft skills
  4. Be focused and prepared
This is a case study at the link:

Roy Zhang
Class of 2012
Pre-MBA: Project Manager, IBM
Post-MBA: Associate, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Roy Zhang used to work as a project manager at IBM, but what he really wanted to do was getting into equity research. It was a dream made possible by adhering to the following principles.

1. Identify the gap

It is one thing to think of switching careers and quite another to achieve it, according to Roy Zhang who started out in industrial engineering and now works as an Associate at Merrill Lynch. His own career switch began with the decision to take an MBA and he knew he had an uphill effort ahead of him.

"There was a gap between my past experiences and my plans to go into equity research. To close that gap, I had to have the attitude to learn and also to work harder to convince my employer that I could be a good investment for them," he says.

He was based in Singapore at the time and looked around the region. HKUST MBA became his top choice because of location, ranking and flexibility of the program so that he had room to look for jobs and internships.

2. Get the right network

The networking started early in his MBA studies, when senior executives from the investment field were invited to attend events organized by the Finance Club and the Career Office. He seized the opportunities to talk to them and find out what they were looking for.

"This helped me to prepare for my interviews later on since I had a better idea of how to bridge the gap between my past experience and their requirements," he says. "It is also a good way to get insider insights into that particular company or industry, things you won't know from reading books."

During his internship, several HKUST Business School graduates happened to be working at Merrill Lynch. They introduced Zhang to senior management in the firm and helped him adapt to the company culture. His performance and network within the company finally allowed him to turn his summer internship into a full-time employment.

3. Build up soft skills

"It is easy for people to have the hard knowledge required of a job, what differentiate them are the soft skills. The cross-cultural and cross-functional learning environment at my school is very effective in developing our teamwork and interpersonal skills. My company, Merrill Lynch, pays a lot of attention to these skills when they recruit," he says.

HKUST MBA has a relatively small class size of only 100 to 120 students. Unlike other large scale MBAs, HKUST students know each other's background and strengths very well. This helps to cultivate a friendly and helpful culture in the class so when students work together, they learn from rather than compete with each other.

These transferable skills are particularly important for companies which emphasize team achievement in today's global business setting.

4. Be focused and prepared

Zhang's advice for others planning a career switch is to be prepared and not take it for granted that they can make the switch.

Having a back-up plan and classmates interested in the same field to support each other helped him maintain a positive mindset and confidence, which is important since recruiters will not be impressed by desperate job applicants.

"You need to have an objective, put in a lot of effort, get to know what the job requires and think about how to convince employers you are the better candidate. You also need to demonstrate your motivation, commitment and interest in that job. Employers don't want to hire people who are just motivated by money," he says.

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