Advice for Recent MBAs

  1. Be realistic about what your MBA does for you

  2. Decide where you want to go:
    (see career planning)

  3. Work on your marketability

    1. Thoughts on CV
    2. Interview technique
    3. Unique selling points and avoiding classic pitfalls

  4. Asia Pacific opportunities

1. What does your MBA do for you?

It is up to you to answer this.

The market sees it as:

  1. Branding. You met the school's selection criteria and succeeded in a demanding environment.
    Read: High Potential

  2. Actual knowledge and experience accrued on course be it technical analysis working in cross cultural teams or whatever.

  3. Networking opportunity. What can you add to this list? Have you thought about this in detail?

2. Career Planning

Some people are sponsored by their employing organization to do an MBA as part of their development programs with the intention of returning to his/her employing organization.

Others pursue an MBA with the specific objective of reorienting their careers. Wherever you sit on this continuum, now is a really good time to engage in some serious career planning as:

  • The market accepts MBA holders' efforts to redefine themselves

  • In the main you are early enough in your careers for the opportunity cost of change not to be excessive

  • The economy is buoyant allowing even more latitude than is normally the case

Two years from now, 2 and possibly 3 of these conditions will have evaporated for you.

What to do?

Start with a blank sheet of paper. Assume as little as possible.

Work from the "Who am I" question…fundamental analysis if you will…rather than the "I am my CV" position which more or less dictates a linear development.

In the perfect world, this self analysis might result in you concluding that you are on the right path already. If that is the case…congratulations, you can now focus on meeting your objectives without engaging in too many unproductive, unstructured "Am I doing the right thing?" moments.

On the other hand, you may conclude that you really do want to use the energy and space that your MBA confers on you to realign your career.

The "Who am I?" analysis will of course only get you so far. I liken it to reducing your range of options from 360° to a frontal arc of say 45°.

frontal arc of say 45°

Thereafter you will need to start focussing on the art of the possible. There are no perfect markets and the labour market is if anything more imperfect than most. As a consequence, I would advise against becoming overly focussed on one objective. Near equivalents abound so just make sure that you are going 90% in the right direction rather than holding out for the perfect role in the perfect organization… Something which frankly doesn't exist.

To translate this very general advice into practical activity you need to:

  1. Talk to your career advisors and friends and THINK

  2. Talk to alumni and THINK

  3. Read at least two career advice books and THINK

  4. Pick the brains of headhunters…. the labour market intermediaries and once again THINK

The great news is that many of the strategic planning methodologies you have encountered on your course can also be applied to your personal situation.

3. Work on your marketability

Thoughts on CV

Fortunately there is endless reference material on the web. You may wish to have long and short form versions and indeed tailoring one's CV for a particular opportunity is certainly wise. In all cases, the golden rule is that a CV should virtually "read itself".

  • Less is more
  • Bullet Points
  • Contextual Information
  • Absolute accuracy
  • In Asia…comprehensive personal data

Succinct, accurate, user friendly answering all the obvious questions thus allowing you to:

  • Obtain an interview
  • Focus on marketing yourself in the meeting rather than answering background questions and filling in blanks

On a related note, the cover letter is very important. Again brevity, grammatical correctness and the avoidance of excessive hyperbolae are thoughts to be kept in mind.

Interview technique & unique selling points.

Preparation:

  • General. Ask yourself all the obvious questions and know your "CV"
  • Focus on the specific organization and role
  • Consider the big picture. What combination of factors about me as a human being (my unique selling points) makes me eminently suitable for this organization and role? Remember you are a person not a qualification repository. You are your character, intelligence, communication skills, integrity, drive, interests and only later "5 years strategic marketing experience in leading FMCG" or MBA or whatever. People hire people.

Execution:

  • Show up on time!

  • Prepare lists of questions to be utilized at will. Insightful but not too challenging. Understand the background of your interviewer.

  • Every question is an opportunity for you to:

    1. Answer it directly and succinctly.

    2. Add a rider highlighting something of your background.

    3. Question yourself if you end up talking for more than one or two minutes without pause.

    4. Remember people in general don’t like to listen so if you can gently get your interviewer to wax lyrical about a topic dear to her/his heart….you are doing very well.

    5. Avoid the stereotypical "fresh MBA" pitfalls. Can you think of any?

      • Might include:

      • Excessive belief in own propaganda. Esprit de corps is good. Overconfidence is not.

      • Focus on theory rather than practice. To counter this you should emphasize your practical, hands on nature. Refer to your pre MBA career history if this is reinforcing.

    6. Remember to shape your approach to take account of the nature of your meeting:
      • General or role specific
      • With hiring organization or headhunter
      • If the former is your interviewer from "the line" or human resources?

4. Opportunities in the Asia Pacific

Very briefly, the "upsides" of working in the region include:

  • It is a high growth situation. For people with energy, vision and the capacity to "step up to the plate", opportunities abound

  • Roles in APAC tend (very generally) to be more autonomous, broader and more rapidly changing than in established markets particularly Europe

  • As a consequence, if you see yourself as being someone who thrives on "wide open spaces" and as more a "Ferrari than a tractor" APAC must be considered.
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