How To Make An MBA Career Switch Successful

Kelley MBA career switchers

Livestream discussion on MBA career switching at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University

Byrne: So let’s talk a bit about things that don’t go right immediately. Ashley, did you bomb any of your interviewers?

Emerole: Sure. Yeah.

Byrne: Who do you confer with to help shape the story and get support? 

Emerole: It was my academy director, so actually Rebecca Cook at the time. She was in finance, had worked as managing director for different firms, and was really well versed in the industry. So being able to turn to her and say, “Oh my gosh, I’m just not smart enough or not good enough. Or what could it be?” And she would just remind me, just go and try again. It’s a matter of odds in some cases or maybe it wasn’t the right place for you.

Byrne: Or just chemistry with one person. It can come down to that. James, what have you most learned about yourself so far in the MBA program?

Morris: There are so many things that I’ve learned about myself, but I think the thing that I’ve realized is that I can really work hard to prioritize my time to endure more than I ever thought I could. My wife keeps saying, “You said it was going to get easier after the first year,” and that has not proven to be the case, but I’m able to fit things into certain places, be creative with my time and really try to make the most of it. And there’s only so much time you have here in your MBA program. Being able to take full advantage of it is important. You have two years to, like you said, re-invent yourself completely. It’s a time that you will never get back. 

Byrne: Prachee, what about you? What have you learned most about yourself through this process so far?

Kaushal: I think prior to Kelley, I wasn’t giving much importance to introspection and Kelley, helped me in creating a checkpoint for self-awareness. So I have these monthly checkpoints where I just stop and reflect: am I heading toward the direction I wanted or not. Do I need to redirect myself? Do I need to have these conversations with Josh or with my coach, Christina? I think that’s something that has come with practice over the last year and that’s given me the maximum value so far. 

Byrne: Ashley, what have you learned?

Emerole:  Initially, I was not great at receiving feedback. The thing I really enjoy about it is that it comes not just from professors or academy directors, but from peers. If we’re going to be working on teams and your teammates don’t like you or they’ve offered you feedback that you haven’t accepted, they’re never going to want to work with you again. 

Gildea: Actually John, I love what Ashley said here because you think of a career switch as being a transition in one point of time. I’m in my late twenties, my early thirties and this is the one time in my career when I’m really going to make a big switch. And that’s true for some people. But I think what we’re really doing is modeling a way to make transitions throughout our careers.

This is not the only time that they will make a transition. That didn’t work out that way for me. And not for Eric. And so learning these skills about introspection, how to get good feedback from peers and communicate well is modeling something that in five years or 10 years, you may need for another change. You’ll have the skill set to do that again.

Byrne: That’s a good point because what the data shows that professionals will have many jobs and transitions over their careers.  

Johnson: The average depending is somewhere between 10 and 15. People stay at a company somewhere between three and five years. So yeah, I think that’s an excellent point. It’s how does this process work? How does introspection play a role in that re-invention so you can do it repeatedly over the course of your career.

John Byrne: What advice do you have for someone who is applying to MBA programs and wants to make a career switch? 

Gildea: I think the culture of the program is really important. It’s easy just to look at sort of a single ranking or something and say that this is the program for me. Prospective students should think hard about whether they want to take the time out to do this? They should really take the time to visit programs and talk to current students.

Johnson: I think the big one is to stop and ask yourself, “Why am I leaving this job?” Because I think that there are a lot of really important insights. When I leave this position, what are going to be the things that I miss? What is the organization going to miss about me? And then what are the things I’m absolutely not going to miss and really don’t ever want to do again? And what are maybe some things that the organization will be able to do better once I’m gone?

Those questions get to your strengths and weaknesses, but they’re deeper than that because they also in reveal your values and interests. Those answers can really help us begin that pivot, that re-invention where the introspection plays a role, and we can figure out what here is transferable, where do we have momentum and what are the hurdles that we’re trying to avoid the next time around?

Byrne: Great. Well, thank all of you for a really interesting and fascinating discussion.

The Entire MBA Career Switching Series

Why The MBA Is The Right Choice For Career Switchers

How To Make An MBA Career Switch Successful

What Success Looks Like For An MBA Career Changer

VIDEO: The Ultimate MBA Career Switches In New York

VIDEO: The Ultimate MBA Career Switches In San Francisco


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.